Business Growth Club Podcast – Oliver Hill – you can listen to the full podcast here Focus on people’s strengths

February 2018

Neil Foley:                           Well, good afternoon everybody, it’s Neil Foley from the Business Growth Club, here again today. I’m really fortunate today to be with an old friend of mine, Oliver Hill. How are you Oliver?

Oliver Hill:                            I’m very good, thank you. And thanks for having me on for a podcast. I’m looking forward to it.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, well, we’ll see how much you enjoyed it by the end, but hopefully, you will.

So Oliver’s got a company called Hill Coaching Company, which is fundamentally different than most coaching companies I’ve ever come across, and that will come across over, hopefully, in the next 30 minutes or so, as we talk through.

So should we kick off with just that open question then Oliver, what is Hill Coaching Company, and how is that different than any other form of business coaching?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, I suppose Hill Coaching Company took a lot of thinking around the fact that my surname is Hill, and I’m running a coaching company. So in terms of brand awareness, I was really trying to round that one home. But in terms of what we offer, that’s the crux.

I have a mix sort of experience in direct project management. And also having been heavily involved in a family run business. And there’s sort of a few businesses tied to that. And they’ve all been reasonably successful.

What I’ve also realised, though, is the value of people. And I know that sounds absolutely obvious. But in my early days as a project manager, and certainly, in the family business I don’t think we ever took any time to find anything out about the people we employed. We very much saw them as numbers. We had expectations of them, whether I’ve been in a project management role, or in the family business. And if they didn’t perform, they’d be out on their ear or we’d be having a difficult conversation. Very rarely did we compliment them. Very rarely was I personally, or the businesses, aware of what they needed.

Neil Foley:                           So very driven in terms of just, this is your job, just do it.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, and I would look back on it and say I wasn’t unsuccessful in the businesses that I’ve been involved in and the teams I managed weren’t unsuccessful. Targets that were set were hit more often than not.

The issue would be, looking back, was that done efficiently? Not sure. Was it done pleasantly? Definitely not. But did I miss opportunities within the teams that I was managing or the companies that we had. And the answer is, definitely, because we spent absolutely no time at all getting to know the people. But we didn’t immediately want to.

If someone didn’t toe the line or they just clicked with us personality-wise, I had no reason to know why that happened. But you know, you’d warm to them and you’d gravitate towards those individuals. And the people that perhaps were, in for my case one of my pet peeves are people who argued or disagreed with my tyrannical reign and way of thinking. I would see them as irritating people. And wouldn’t want to spend anymore time with them.

And they would be in the management roles. You can imagine I bring people in to a project team, say I had five people in it, to very much clearly give them my vision for the way forward, allocate tasks, get them to understand how we would do my will. Anybody who had a question around that was not on the same page as me. They weren’t on my team. So, they’re clearly negative. They were clearly people that I needed to push to the outside and get rid of as quickly as I could, in my mind.

What I began to realise when I came across a particular tool, which I’ll refer to in a little bit more detail later. I began to realise that there are reasons for peoples behaviours. Not many people set out in the morning to deliberately annoy you, piss you off, oh excuse me. Language apologies for that. I’ll try to not get cute like that.

But yeah, ultimately, most people do intend to do well. And there are reasons why people behave in the way they are. Why some people are good at things and good at others. But that seems so blooming obvious. But it wasn’t to me until I came across something called Clifton’s Strength finder, which really, first of all, RAM timed what my natural talents are. And when I began to read the information that came out of this information to myself, recognised certain traits of myself. And then began to apply that to other people. I began to realise something … that I was quite ineffective.

And not only that, I was quite unpleasant to work for and was certainly not getting the most out of people. And I began to realise that this was a really effective way of getting to find out the needs of individuals. So, how to first of all, communicate my needs. But more importantly here, how these people needed to be communicated with. How they were most effective.

And no greater example of that is the sets of people that historically annoyed me. The ones who had come to the meeting and asked questions, potentially argue with me. The exact reason they did that was because I wasn’t provided with information in advance, because they aren’t the people who could blindly follow. They need to understand. They needed to investigate.

Neil Foley:                           So you’re not just telling to build widgets.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           That there’s more to their role than just press button B.

Oliver Hill:                            Exactly. Yeah, so it wouldn’t necessarily be quite so relevant to a front line service in an operative way to clearly follow these procedures.

Most of my teams I managed were in fairly creative roles.

Neil Foley:                           Okay.

Oliver Hill:                            Certainly in the public sector. But a lot of them on the statutory. And yet, they would have thoughts that were different than mine. And not something I was comfortable with.

But when I began to realise that if I gave them the time they needed, and at least control that time, but I would maybe give them a few days notice about what I was going to be talking to them about the meeting. And I knew they would feel more comfortable. They would also go off and research what I was thinking. And they would come back with no arguments against, but ideas to enhance what I was doing.

Neil Foley:                           Interesting.

Oliver Hill:                            I began to realise, bloomy, this is gold because, no I hadn’t thought about that. And suddenly, instead of being reluctant, I would seek these people out and say, “In a couple of weeks, or a month or whatever, I’m thinking of this. Here’s a little bit of an idea, a bit of scope around what we’re looking to do, and really appreciate your input.”

Neil Foley:                           So formal collaborative.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           Approach relies on, “I’m the boss and …”

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. And realising that I actually knew very little. I was just very good and comfortable at making decisions. I was pretty good at recognising who would be good at certain things, in a proactive way. But I hadn’t realised the skillsets other people in the room had, because I wasn’t allowing them. I wasn’t enabling them.

And all of our projects and all of our business and focus, it had success in spite of my approach.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            But actually, could have been far more effective, far more efficient if I had also involved these people, because we made a lot of mistakes and a lot of things, I had to wing it. And the only reason that we succeeded was because I like talking and I could talk my way out of any situation, most of the time. But wouldn’t it be nice to not have to do that?

And the more and more I looked at setting up teams. And I reorganised and restructured teams, making sure that we had a complimentary set of talents and skills in the room. Help them understand what these people needed versus what those people needed. And suddenly, my natural skillset, my own talents were being put to good use because that’s what I’m good at. I’m not always effective complete finisher. I’m not a great doer. But I am good at working out the needs of people and to get the most out of them. So it is a sort of selfish set of talents there. But I was able to rechannel them and refine them to get the most out of people.

And they had a lot of, lot of success. And people were a lot happier. The retention rate and staff-

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, so there’s a real direct correlation, presumably, to their potential.

Oliver Hill:                            Absolutely. And this is where I began to realise that there’s a genuine business model here. And there is a uniqueness in my approach to coaching, because it’s a very congested market out there.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And my USP is that I’ve been involved in a family-run business. And I’m very aware of the pitfalls that come with working with your father and other relatives. But I’ve also managed a lot of people and equally badly.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            But I’m quite comfortable admitting that, which not so many people are. But I can talk to people at a level that they relate to and understand. But my personal experience is, we don’t even need to confront the fact that, that might be how they are. But they can hear things that they would recognise. I can also stop when we’re go into more detail, explaining how we fix that.

But most importantly, I can actually see a value added interest in this. Your bottom line increases. Your staff retention, and obviously new staff recruitment is blooming expensive, will that reduces massively. In fact, in some places it stops. Recruiting effective people. I’ve got a client at the moment who is securing people from a competitor on a regular basis because it’s such a great place to work.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Because they’ve spent two years working with me instilling what I call strength-based culture, which looks at what people are naturally talented at. And gets them to spend as much time as possible doing the things they’re good at, every day. Well, it makes it a really pleasant place to work. And that, I can see, is a huge value added.

Neil Foley:                           So it’s not just fluffy, is it?

Oliver Hill:                            No.

Neil Foley:                           … in terms of nice to do. There is a business angle here.

Oliver Hill:                            This is the big thing for me, I come at it from a very corporate perspective, very commercially driven. I’m not in it purely for the basis of health and well-being. I’m not in it and saying that we should be making everybody’s lives lovely. And everybody should work a 20 hour week. And it’s all about the staff.

What I’m saying is, if you look after your staff, the bottom line improves. It just naturally happens. It’s organic. So I come at it, well being is a way of getting the most out of people, while still in it from trying to make profits. Baseline is still very … While, your profit line is still very important, but I realise that some are really, really important and anyone who isn’t investing in their staff and recognising that, that’s where most of the value comes from, are making a mistake. They’re being inefficient. They’re not giving their company the full potential. They’re probably unaware of talents they already pay for that are in the company because the job description says someone must do this. Well, we never thought about other talents that they might have. Things they might be able to bring to the table, because we simply don’t communicate. We don’t ask.

And I’m beginning to realise that this is a very serious value for money offer that’s on the table. It’s may have been free coaching, generically, but I think I can start a conversation, at a level that more and more business owners, leaders and management teams will relate to. But I can also have that conversation with people in the front, I mean. And I can get that two-way conversation going, because I’ve done. I’ve seen it.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            And I’ve been at the point where I didn’t mind doing that. And now, I would never do anything other than make sure there’s healthy two-way conversation.

Neil Foley:                           That does give you quite a unique perspective on working for a successful family business and then the public sector. Being very self-aware as you clearly now are, where there was a time, I guess, that wouldn’t have been a description people would give to you.

Oliver Hill:                            No. I think they have plenty of descriptions for me. None of them were particularly polite. And yeah, I thought I had self-awareness, because I did think that I was a bit special. And I think one of the big transformations to myself, is realising that I’m really not in that context.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            I don’t have all the knowledge. I don’t have all the answers. I do like being in charge. And I have still got some issues around control. But realising that the only way that, that can be effective is if I engage everybody fully in the process. Get them onboard. Then I’m much more likely to influence them to do what’s necessary. And by transferring style and that knowledge, however suitable, into organisations, businesses, no matter how small or large they are, is going to be effective.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And yeah, it’s still early days. I mean I’ve only been running the company a year and a half. And I’m very lucky to have some existing clients that I work with. And we’re growing the new client base organically, quite slowly, but at a pace that I can handle.

But 2018, I’ve got the confidence behind the business now. We’re really going out there to try and say to people that we’ve got something to show you. And yes, there’s a cost associated to it. But actually, there’s a value to it.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Rather than focus on how much a mailing will cost, look at the value.

And the company behind the tool alias is Gallup. And a lot of people know them from the work they do in statistics and research. And they can put a value on a strength-based culture seeing an increase of up to 8% on productivity.

Neil Foley:                           Right.

Oliver Hill:                            I like to say that MDs, financial directors, put that into whatever machine there is the process as you’re forecasting for sales income, what have you. And look at the difference that makes. And the only way, what you’ve got to do is just effectively being nice and considerate to your staff. Talk to them effectively. Make things clear for them. Make sure that it’s okay for them to communicate. And find out a bit more about them. And it really is only going to take maybe a months to see the benefits of this.

Neil Foley:                           For nice percent improvement in the productivity.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. Why on earth wouldn’t you explore this possibility? And the thing goes into recruitment, as well. You wouldn’t use the tools and techniques I have to directly recruit. But you would use it to add value to the recruitment process to make sure you’re aware of what you have in your organisation, already. But also when you’re interviewing people, let’s find out where their natural talents lie. Let’s steer an interview process to ensure that they can perform their best in the interview so we can see how they are likely to perform, and also gel with the existing culture and team.

Now I realise it. It’s a no brainer.

Neil Foley:                           But it’s all the interesting points, isn’t it, because I know in talking to you in the past where, and we’ll come on to this bit about how you focus on peoples’ strengths, actually it just seems so friggin’ obvious.

Oliver Hill:                            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Foley:                           How can something be so smack before and think, “Oh, good grief.”

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           It seems amazing, doesn’t it?

Oliver Hill:                            It is fascinating. And it’s frustrating on equal measure. But at the same time, I think we all get a little hung up on processes.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And there’s a lot of potentially poor advice out there that is also seems quite outcome driven, which we invest in a training programme for our staff. Maybe a six figure sum. And you can say to your staff, we’ve invested heavily in you.

Really, what’s potentially being created is a way and a behaviour that’s expected to be seen. So the management team sold this package and they’re told that your staff should start looking like this. And it really can be used for is a stick to beat them with when it comes to performance review time.

You know, they’re saying, “Oh, but you’re not being like this. We’re not seeing it.” And the staff, I think will, either I have to try and use language that’s never been taught to me. Or I don’t. And that becomes quite a bit of an issue for conflict. But more importantly, they hone into a workshop and maybe the information in there is gold. But whose there to help them implement this new knowledge?

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            … without direct coaching support or managers, you’re being given coaching support training so that they can be a proper manager, it tends to fall flat. And management teams are frustrated because it’s not quite worked. And staff are frustrated because they think they’re still performing well, but suddenly, they’re not manifesting the behaviours they’re supposed to. It’s just wholly ineffective on the main, not always. And I think there’s some training, which is really complimentary.

But without this coaching style, which I think you would aim to get in as a cultural shift so it becomes part of the management process.

Neil Foley:                           Yep.

Oliver Hill:                            The idea isn’t to make myself solely indispensable. It’s actually to try and bring this culture into an organisation so I can leave it there and leave the organisation to run happily, because they know what they’re doing. Well, that’s a hell of a lot more effective.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            Because it’s direct, daily communication. And it runs back to this whole point. It’s basically communication.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And I’ll talk a few times to Miliee Bramley, who talks about conflict resolution. And all these conflicts can be so easily avoided if we just think about what we say. How we say it. Why we say it. And be more aware of how these people would probably prefer to receive information.

Neil Foley:                           And is that where you’re using the tools that you use, as well as your own experience? Because this idea of focusing on peoples’ strengths, is that how they want to communicate? And how they communicate with other people? Is that part of that?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           That concept?

Oliver Hill:                            The whole drive behind it, the guru, the Godfather of Strength, as we call him. Sadly passed away in 2003 a chap called Don Clifton. He set up the Clifton Strength Finder. He just basically, deals with imagine what would happen if we start fixating on what is wrong with people …

Neil Foley:                           Yep.

Oliver Hill:                            … worrying about that. And we start concentrating what is right with people?

And actually, if you look at the old fashioned appraisal systems that reflect on the year’s performance. And okay, what went well as far as you’re concerned. What didn’t go so well? So what are we going to focus on training you and doing?

Well if we step back and think, maybe that person is never going to be that good at that particular area, and that’s why they need the training in it. And actually encourage them to go train on something that they’re just going to find disengaging.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Well then, you can start to see where Gallup’s statistics behind the number of disengaged employees come from. So just in those, you don’t know it, only 13% of employees are working at what we’d describe as actively engaged in the workplace.

Neil Foley:                           Thirteen?

Oliver Hill:                            Thirteen. One and three.

Neil Foley:                           Oh my goodness.

Oliver Hill:                            Sixty percent of them are engaged, which means they come and do the job that’s expected of them. But it’s only fulfilling the role maybe of a 9 to 5 job. So they do okay. They don’t do much wrong, but they don’t do much above and beyond.

The one that I love, though, is roughly 20%. And the figures change every time that they report. But roughly 20%. So let’s put that in context. One in five staff are actively disengaged, which means that they dislike their job. And they are very happy to share that with the group around them.

Neil Foley:                           Of course. And that can become a key influence.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, well, I call them terrorists, because that’s effectively what they do.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, under the radar.

Oliver Hill:                            But the reason is that they are disengaged because they’re not getting fed what they need to be effective. And when you sit there and have the conversation and go that thing that I explained. The realisation that actually a large part of it is the fault of the employer not the employee, because the employer just hasn’t effectively, for want of a better word bothered, to find out why. They just accuse them of not being effective, or they never listen to their ideas. They’re just not engaged. Or the best I could do, is some people communicate from the bottom up an idea that does get implemented, but it never gets fed back to that person that it was considered or implemented. Or it was considered a good idea, but we weren’t able to do. There just is none of that conversation. So they feel frustrated. But in actual fact, something has happened, but no one thought to mention it to the person. And they become really, really upset.

We’re not going into those conversations, “Oh but the widget team are working on X, Y, Z.” And I’m being joking.[00:18:33] So for a year I thought they haven’t listened, but then they have. But no one thought to tell me. You know, there’s some simple stuff that you can do.

Neil Foley:                           Actually, it’s quite … It is. I agree with you, it’s simple. But actually, it’s quite complex, isn’t it, because if I’m an employer and I’ve operated in a sense of you’re just doing your job and we’ll all be happy.

Oliver Hill:                            Hm.

Neil Foley:                           To suddenly have this, what if I suddenly talk to you and say, “Yes, how are you doing there today, Oliver?”

Oliver Hill:                            Absolutely.

Neil Foley:                           Any ideas for the business? So with that more structure, or some form of external, because people listen to the external advisor, actually it’s quite tricky isn’t it?

Oliver Hill:                            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Foley:                           It’s quite brave, but actually quite tricky.

Oliver Hill:                            And to do it cold turkey, I can give you a prime example. When I first came across this tool and I sort of used it a little bit for myself for my own personal development, and got so far, because I’m fully certified in using the tools. But I got so far in my own understanding, I decided to use it in one of my management, one of my projects I was using it. And I invite all the members of the team to a meeting, having made them do the assessment and use the word “made” at that particular point. I didn’t make it optional. I told them I want them to do it. And they, as I learned later, they didn’t confide in me at that particular time, but they were all crapping themselves, because suddenly, out of the blue I ask them to do an assessment.

Neil Foley:                           Oh.

Oliver Hill:                            And I invite them to a one to one. And they’re thinking, “Well, meetings with Oliver are never, normally, a good thing.” So they are absolutely terrified.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            So if you imagine, suddenly, you try and be this completely different leader or management team, people are immediately going to be what’s the ulterior motive there? So it does need to be done. And the nicest way, it’s ideal in that in the long-term of the culture, you embed an idea within your organisation.

But the nice thing about having an external individual coming in, is that you can see it for what it is. The company runs in a certain way. And there are certain behaviours that just become established. And it’s very hard to see, so the wood from the trees.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Whereas someone like myself can come in and challenge some things a little bit. And also, give individual, or a staff or teams the confidence that they have someone that they can actually just pour their heart out to in the early days, because there is something a bit of bloodletting that needs to go on. And then there is all of that, they gain confidence because they see it as confidential. It doesn’t go anywhere.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            I made that very clear to the ownership and the management team in the early days that, “Oh, here’s stuff that you wouldn’t get to know about that is quite serious.”

There’s always a disclaimer if there’s anything particular, you know, and we may have to stop the sessions. But it gives them the opportunity. And that’s really useful for me, because I hear stuff that I can style my coaching around, though I can’t give the specific information out. But I can start to work. They’re all variables of coaching, whether it be a front line staff, team leaders, middle management, senior management, ultimate leadership teams. I hear stuff, which is really insightful for me, that doesn’t need to involve any betrayal of confidence, but will form how I will coach.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And makes it very, very clear what’s needed in their organisation. So the benefits and changes are really impactful and very, very, very quick. That’s the thing, the turnarounds that you’ll see can be as quick as six months.

Neil Foley:                           Really?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, really. And it’s-

Neil Foley:                           Which in changing behaviours and culture is pretty astonishing.

Oliver Hill:                            I think it is. But it’s also, we talk about it not being easy, but once you’ve been through it and everybody understands this effective that I try and establish. And it is pretty straightforward.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah,

Oliver Hill:                            And once you’ve gotten over the questioning. And some people are a bit more sceptical than others, once we’ve overcome that and everybody’s gotten to the point where actually, what your sets of talents are. And the tool that we use becomes almost irrelevant, because it’s just an established part of the language.

It’s actually what you do with it.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            And the results that you get, that’s where the confidence comes, because you try certain things and they work. And dabble and suddenly you wake up 6 months, 12 months down the line and it’s a different place.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And you can’t actually pinpoint when that happened, but to just see that happen.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah, it must be very satisfying.

Oliver Hill:                            It is nice.

Neil Foley:                           And presumably, you get people who are just in the wrong jobs.

Oliver Hill:                            Yes.

Neil Foley:                           Something that, what are you doing? You’ve got so many other. If you’re focusing on strengths you’ve got so many other, so much more to give. What are you doing in this bit?

Oliver Hill:                            But everything is, again, I can articulate examples are things that I live for, because I’ve had exactly that. I went into one of our family businesses, did this coaching with a manager of ours who, it would turn out, was a single point of failure. And they were in a business that sold the equipment around a hobby they thoroughly enjoyed. But they realised that the business had become a cage because they were surrounded by all these lovely things that they weren’t able to use.

And what they really wanted to do is be out there showing people how you use this equipment. And on taking the assessment and having some coaching with me, handed in their notice.

Neil Foley:                           Really?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. And quite quickly. And when I learnt our contract in common was bonkers because they had been in the business for 18 years and they didn’t have to give much notice. And my father, his business partner, basically, turned to him and said, “Well, you caused this mess. You fix it.”

So the good for him, he set up a wonderful business on his own. And he’s doing really, really well. I’m really proud of him. In the short-term it caused me a massive headache.

Neil Foley:                           Sure.

Oliver Hill:                            But it gave me an opportunity to really apply this in a serious way. Where a business has now lost its main member of staff, the huge knowledge base, can it survive having someone who doesn’t know anything about the business come in and make it work? And the answer is yes, because over 18 months we fixed this business, and it’s now turning a profit.

The other manager, we realised, wasn’t quite as effective as he could have been, because he wasn’t really doing what he wanted. He’s happy. The business has moved on. It survived and now got this culture in the organisation. And it’s turning a tidy profit. So I can, when instructed by clients, I can give a bit more specific detail on what that looks like. How it happened.

But I’ve got actual examples of how this works. And ultimately, I’ll put my money where my mouth is because I’ve invested a lot of money setting up this company when I have a whole host of other options I could have taken, but none of them appealed to me. So this way you’re able-

Neil Foley:                           I know it’s a trite thing to say, and I don’t mean it that way, but it can be. But this way, you can actually make a difference, can’t you?

Oliver Hill:                            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Foley:                           To people’s lives and well-being.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           And you’re pushing on an open door in some ways, because I think, Aviva, it’s obviously the biggest employer. One of the biggest employers in our area. And they have really embraced well-being, which this is part of. And I think they really have, for the moment, in a big way.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           And Aviva, they’ve always been a decent company, but they’re doing it because of the bottom line.

Oliver Hill:                            Yes. Yes, it’s not more about the givers that they are.

Neil Foley:                           No. It’s bottom line.

Oliver Hill:                            They see the benefit of it, yeah.

Neil Foley:                           And in particular, in our area, because I … I think it was at Price Bailey who did some surveys or whatever, where the big problem is attracting the right calibre of stuff, isn’t it?

Oliver Hill:                            Yes. Especially in this location.

Neil Foley:                           In this location, we’re struggling with that. Whereas, what you’re doing, if it stops the attrition rate and helps with retention.

Oliver Hill:                            Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Foley:                           And presumably you can have a company where it becomes, as you were saying with your client, that it actually becomes a good place to work. So it becomes something where people will aspire to belong to.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. Well, you do. You end up, without realising it, poaching, because you don’t have to target them necessarily. You don’t even to go and ask them. A job comes up at your organisation and people in your competitors are looking for them.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            Whereas, you may not be on that list and they’re quite comfortable. And they’ve heard about you. So there’s nothing that makes them standout from them they wouldn’t. Suddenly, a role comes up at your organisation and there is, you have a plethora of options. And the headache becomes who do we recruit?

Neil Foley:                           Yes. Nice headache to have.

Oliver Hill:                            You have a bit of a waiting list, you what I mean. It seems simplistic to suggest that comes from purely engaging someone like myself, but it is ultimately changing the cultural, because as a coach you come in. And you do what you do. But the individuals are still going to own it.

So I get a lot of thanks for the work I do in the relatively small number of clients I have, but the transition and transformation have been key. But I remind them, it’s not me.

Neil Foley:                           No.

Oliver Hill:                            It’s a tool.

Neil Foley:                           You’ve given-

Oliver Hill:                            I’ll show you how to use the tool. But it’s you.

Neil Foley:                           I know it’s hard being the external consultant.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           It helps everybody, doesn’t it, to refer them?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           I heard a great phrase yesterday, which sums up some of the things you’re talking about, which just comes to mind. If you’re in an abusive relationship, but they buy you presents, how do you feel? And actually, it’s still an abusive relationship.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           And the presents don’t have a lot of value.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           And that’s really- Yeah, I’m a good employer. And what’s your problem? I pay them well.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. Absolutely. But you begin to realise, and especially now with the younger generation in particular, but the money it still has a point. But ultimately, it’s the added value.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            It’s the fact that it fits with their sort of morals and is far change. But it’s not just for young people.

Neil Foley:                           No.

Oliver Hill:                            That’s-

Neil Foley:                           There’s a difference.

Oliver Hill:                            I come very, very clear.

Neil Foley:                           There’s a difference.

Oliver Hill:                            When that sort of younger generation is coming through, and it’s interesting as well though, the clash that’s also coming in, because a lot more younger companies are very open to my style of coaching.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            And they’re far more receptive, whereas, you get the sort of the older generations who are still fairly sceptical.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            And I have to change my style of communication, based on the audience that I’m engaging with.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Because, as you rightly point out, the bottom line is the driver.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Even for the companies who are a bit more morally and environmentally conscious, we still got to make enough money to keep doing what they do.

I’ll give you a prime example one of the major clients who use the style of coaching that I do. I wish they were my client, but they’re just someone who uses the Gallup tool is Facebook.

Neil Foley:                           Really.

Oliver Hill:                            And I look at, there couldn’t be a better applicant for if someone like Facebook is doing it. And ultimately, the way they work with it, every single member of staff … Because they know the total nightmare. At the end of the day, they know everybody on this earth using gaming or social media. So they know who they want to employ.

Neil Foley:                           Yep.

Oliver Hill:                            Because, your talent’s not difficult. But making sure that that person is as effective as possible. The day they start they get them to do the assessment tool that I use. And from that they structure their contract of employment.

Neil Foley:                           Great.

Oliver Hill:                            They work at what time to float them in, all based around that individual strengths and how effectively they will work with other sets of people.

If, ultimately, an organisation like that is doing it, then I think, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for anybody, isn’t it?

Neil Foley:                           Wow.

Oliver Hill:                            And then, I’m not a personal fan of Eric Schmidt. He was the president, I believe, of Technology at Google. He just basically, swears by, “Everyone needs a coach.”

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            And what I instil in organisations is coach sayings like, I’ve set of my own coaching company. No that’s not it. Every person has an interaction with a person who’s a coach, because they’re manifesting behaviours that may be adopted by the person. But every manager, they’re not really a manager, they’re a coach. And when you begin to realise that.

Neil Foley:                           It’s a better term isn’t it?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, it’s a better term. It is because I’m a big believer that managers shouldn’t get too involved in the day to day doing, because they’re there to get the most out of the people that they’re managing.

So employers who set their managers up to manage people and do a full time job, that’s not really effective.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            You’re making their lives very, very difficult. And when do they get a chance to manage people? So part of what we do is people begin to realise the structure of their organisation needs a change.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And everything.

Neil Foley:                           It’s a mind wrecker.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, it is.

Neil Foley:                           Can I imagine in some ways, it’s quite liberating, isn’t it, to be able to think, actually I haven’t got to have all the answers. I’ve got to see things through. But actually, the team collectively working to their strengths, we’re stronger as a team than we are as a group of individuals.

Oliver Hill:                            The word that often comes up is trust. And for me personally, to trust that people can do the things that I’ve asked them to do.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            Or they say they can do. Well, I’ve got to actually let them have a go.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            But I’ve got to set the environment up, as well, to make it conducive. You can’t just blindly let them go.

Neil Foley:                           No.

Oliver Hill:                            The more little things you can try them with, the more faith you’re getting that they can do it.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And the more confident they become, the more I do. Honestly, yes, the liberating feeling is something I thoroughly enjoyed. And therefore, I know other people like me will enjoy it as well.

Neil Foley:                           Yes. Well, your passion comes through without. What sort of businesses do you want to work with? You talked about the family business that you understand better than the vast majority, because you’ve been in it.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, I mean, I get asked this a lot, to be a bit more specific about it. I mean, there isn’t a business that I would necessarily turn down if they were open minded to this. I have, I work in the finance sector. I work in the retail sector. I have direct experience in them. I’m starting to work in the tech sector. And sort of publishing and media. So there are areas I have special experience in. So a bit more knowledge.

But ultimately, what I really want to hear about is people who may be having a bit of a high turnover of staff.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            Or an organisation that seems to be performing quite well in terms of profitability or growth. But they can’t keep their key staff or they’ve lost one or two. If that’s a recurring issue, they’re the sorts of people that I would definitely be interested in speaking to, because I know where that will be coming from. And there may be some uncomfortable things that you may need to hear. But I think I can caveat that in a way that they will be more receptive to, because I don’t come at it is that you need to just be nice to your staff.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            How can you be so mean?

I come out to you saying that this is the benefits that you will see in trying to look after your staff in this way. And I can think of a few companies I’m hearing noises about who have grown, because they have a great idea. They have a wonderful entrepreneur who has a wonderful mind, but perhaps isn’t used to managing people and a business. And there’s nothing wrong with that. They may never want to admit that. But ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with it.

They’re the people that I can come in and help and say, “Well, actually now, we need to look at the structure of your organisation.” And so, one of the really interesting things that comes out of this is that I’m beginning to grow a real network of knowledge and support around me. And through the coaching conversations, we realise other needs within the business. And I have a growing list of people who can come in and deliver that sort of support, as well.

So I’m not going to come in and try and be the answer to all your problems.

Neil Foley:                           No.

Oliver Hill:                            But equally, I can highlight things at management level and say actually, “Not only have I seen this problem, but I have a couple of people who might be able to aid you in the solution.”

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            And I always remember one of my CEOs saying to me, “Don’t come to me with problems.”

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            “Come to me with a solution.” And I thought that that was just a little bit a managing jargon, but actually, no. Having it received it now, when people just say, “That’s wrong. That’s wrong. That’s wrong.” It’s draining. But to actually come and say, “I’ve noticed this. And I noticed that we have a few issues. But actually, if you did X, Y or Z and you go oh, it’s no a longer a stress, because you know I’ll …”

Neil Foley:                           You’ve got a solution.

Oliver Hill:                            I’ve got a solution.

Neil Foley:                           Which is what we care about, ultimately, isn’t it?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. So it’s good that you’ve seen the problem, but you’ve actually researched it. You care enough to fix it. And I’m saying, in my network, which I’m a big believer in thrive, but I have some business outside of that, as well, a real growing base of people that I can refer and trust.

Neil Foley:                           And trust.

Oliver Hill:                            Who can deliver a huge amount of extra support that, perhaps, wasn’t obvious to the staff. It’s great.

Neil Foley:                           So, I know you’re very open to having conversations with anybody who is intrigued and wants to find out more, all no obligation. How do people get in touch with you?

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, so I’ve got various mediums. You can get hold of me at my website and I’m on social media.

Neil Foley:                           What’s the website address?

Oliver Hill:                            The website is

Neil Foley:                           Rolls of the tongue.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah, having done that now and I realise having had the website for a year, it needs to change because explaining that is strengths with an “s” wasn’t quite so smart as it sounded at the time I’m trying to get people my emails, which is also So it’s, that’s much more difficult than it should be.

That aside, they can obviously get in contact with me via that email. I’m on social media. LinkedIn is often a good way to start, as well. I’d love to make a connection on there. Tend to really connect with people that I can then followup with the ones that wanted a coffee. And that’s how it would start.

Neil Foley:                           Okay.

Oliver Hill:                            If someone would like to just give me a call, actually on website you got all the various different ways to get hold of me. And I’ll come in and have a look, have a no obligation chat. Talk to people. I’ll happily do a presentation to their management, boards, whoever.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            I’m just interested in getting the idea out there. And I’m not to be coming in with a hard pushy sales. I’m not going to be expecting to walk away with a contract.

Neil Foley:                           Yes.

Oliver Hill:                            I have an idea. I know it works. And I want more opportunities to show you how. And yeah, grow the client base, grow the cultures.

Neil Foley:                           Make a difference.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah. Make a difference.

Neil Foley:                           Finally, you haven’t had any warning of this question.

Oliver Hill:                            Uh oh.

Neil Foley:                           But just finding …

Oliver Hill:                            He’s got that look in his eyes.

Neil Foley:                           If you were taking yourself back to a young man, maybe 18 or 19 years old, whatever, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

Oliver Hill:                            Oh, well, I’d tell myself, first of all, you’re only 18, 19. Shockingly you don’t know very much at all. Be nice to people.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            One, because that sort of borders on arrogance, your approach to things. And just listen. Just listen to them a little more. And I suppose as a young person, I was told a lot by my father who is a very successful businessman, and therefore thought, well I’m not getting told what to do all my life. So, I wanted to make myself my own man. And really, that was not a sensible approach. Hit my 20s fighting against everything I possibly could. And almost going against the grain because I thought I should. And that’s a very draining experience.

And also, to realise that a lot of what goes up in your head is made up. And I have some fascinating insights recently with some people I’ve started working with. Big shout out to Gary Burton who I’ve known only the last few months and he’s had a big impact on me, along with also yourself Neil , and then also John Burroughes. Listen to people. Listen to people. You do not have to do what they say. Just listen. And it’s the one thing I know I never did in my early, most formative years from the age of probably 14 to 24.

Neil Foley:                           Yeah.

Oliver Hill:                            I never listened. I thought I knew it all. And I do hear that in a lot of young people in particular. They feel self belief and confidence, which is great. But there’s nothing wrong with considering, you don’t even have to admit you’re listening, but just try to let it absorb, because some of it sinks in. And even though you may not use it then, you may find that actually you come to it at a later point in life. And you will be meeting some fantastic people. And if you don’t go with your ears open, you’re going to be missing some really good advice.

Neil Foley:                           That is very true.

Oliver Hill:                            Learn from their mistakes, because everybody’s made them. So why don’t you try to avoid them.

Neil Foley:                           Try listening. Yeah, that’s a good one, because and the reality is, you know we haven’t learned anything by talking.

Oliver Hill:                            No.

Neil Foley:                           It’s going to be two ears and one mouth, isn’t it.

Oliver Hill:                            Yeah.

Neil Foley:                           Well, that’s been fascinating, Oliver. And I really appreciate your time. I hope everybody’s enjoyed that. So get in touch with Oliver. Just have a talk. Have this conversation that we were talking about just now. So thanks very much, everybody. And goodbye.