Published: 29th November 2017
What made you choose a career in HR?
There is a big overlap between my work as a HR professional and my work as a yoga teacher in that both are about people exploring their potential. I chose a career in people and culture change because I realised early on in my career that I could understand myself better by seeking to understand others. This is partly about retaining a curiousity with how different people deal with change.
What have been the biggest lessons you have learned from your past employers?
As a graduate entrant with BT, I worked as part of a small team designing and implementing collaborative working solutions. We had to work hard to get buy in from senior leaders and this taught me lots about how to effect change in business. I also learned that you have to be consistently creative in order to be heard through the noise of day to day work.
One of my biggest lessons whilst working as People Director at Fulcrum was the value of treating everyone as adults. I believe that you can only do this effectively if you set aside status differentials and work from an assumption that people want to do the best by their employer. There may be a minority that don’t, but businesses and HR teams shouldn’t allow this minority to suck up their time and energy.
Who have been the most influential people in your career?
There was a guy at BT called Mike O’Dell who offered me an opportunity to move into employee reward. At the time I was hesitant because I didn’t have reward on my ‘career plan’. However, I decided to take the opportunity and spent a couple of years doing interesting work on reward strategy which has given me one of the foundations on which I have built a generalist career. When I moved from specialist HR roles into my first generalist role as a business partner with O2, I was mentored by an experienced generalist. Lesley taught me that who you know and how you relate to them is just as important as what you bring to the table as a HR professional.
More recently, I worked very closely with Martin Donnachie who was CEO during our turnaround journey at Fulcrum in Sheffield. Martin taught me the value of taking a principles and values based approach. We tackled a number of complex people issues and Martin was great at bringing our thinking back to key principles. This shifts the focus on to the ‘shared task’ and away from noise, drama and individual agendas.
Having left the corporate world, what lead you to set up on your own?
Well, I have left the corporate world in the sense of committing all my energy to one business but I very much maintain my passion for supporting organisations to deliver their values through their people. The turnaround journey at Fulcrum was very ‘full on’ and I am very honest in my Rest Bandit workshops about the toll that this took on me personally. I left Fulcrum because I had been there for several years and we had successfully turned the business from loss to profit. My intuition was telling me that it was time to do something different. I therefore made a conscious decision to reduce my workload in order to create space in my head and to find inspiration for the next stage of my career.
I could have jumped straight to another full time HR role but my intuition told me create some space in my head. My intuition took me into a course of study to become a yoga teacher which I did alongside my HR consultancy. All of this has led me to Rest Bandit.
What is Rest Bandit all about?
Rest Bandit is about reclaiming the role of rest in our lives as a cornerstone of high energy, creative living. The most effective and creative people that I have worked with during my career knew how and when to rest and recharge in a high quality way. They were then able to use their energy and attention in an effective and focussed manner in their work. I believe that great work is dependent on great rest and vice versa. The two go hand in hand, yet we place a far greater emphasis on work than we do on rest; and the balance is tipping further towards work every day.
Resting well, both during and outside of the working day, is a skill like any other. At precisely the time when we need to cultivate this skill the most, we are choosing to be always on and always available. So, I support people and teams to get out of the ‘busy trap’ and to create more time in their work and non-working lives for deliberate, high quality rest.
What do you see as being the main issues in the HR world for the rest of the year?
If you work in a leadership capacity it’s likely that you will be feeling a heavier burden in 2018. We are living in a time when trust in leaders is at an all time low. Leadership is a privilege but too many people are abusing this privilege. Combine this with out dated command and control style management which treats people like children and we have a recipe for the biggest leadership credibility gap in a generation. HR professionals can play a valuable role in supporting leaders with bringing their personalities to work and with giving people loose ‘values led’ frameworks in which they can exercise their own judgment and creativity.
I believe that we are also going to see a productivity squeeze as Brexit kicks in. For many years in the UK we have been masking poor productivity with cheap labour from Eastern Europe. When this supply begins to dwindle, UK businesses will face higher costs but with the same old productivity models. Progressive businesses which emphasise flexibility, trust and which make room for creativity will thrive in the post Brexit world.
To find out more about Paul's Rest Bandit brand, visit his website at restbandit.com