EPISODE 014
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Listen to this conversation with Julian Roberts, an Executive Leadership coach who threw in the towel for Corporate work to focus on unlocking another’s potential while unlocking his own at the same time.  
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Host - Monique Mills:   

[00:00]          So Julian, are you an entrepreneur or a corporate employee?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[00:05]        I have been both, and I'm now an entrepreneur. So yes, I’ve transitioned from the world of corporate to entrepreneur.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[00:14]          Okay. Are you an MBA or no MBA?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[00:18]        No MBA.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[00:19]          Okay. You know, you just mentioned that you just transitioned into entrepreneurship. This is one question I'm always curious to know with everyone is, would you ever consider going back into Corporate?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[00:32]        Absolutely not at all.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[00:34]          Never? Why is that?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[00:35]        Never, ever.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[00:41]          Welcome to the Unpolished MBA podcast. On this podcast, we have conversations with tech startup founders and entrepreneurs and traditional corporate MBAs. Many say that startups equal the unpolished MBA because those without the formal business education are scrappy and do many things untraditionally to achieve business success. But anyone who has built a business from an idea can attest to the fact that the experience is another level MBA, and there's nothing quite like it. The candid conversations shared here is helpful to both sides of the fence. One is not better than the other, just different. Let's jump in.

                      [01:32]       Hi, I'm your host Monique Mills, and in my work, I get to have great conversations with a lot of smart and interesting people. Some are tech startup founders and entrepreneurs in various industries, and others are corporate employees. In this episode, I'm sharing a conversation I had with Julian Roberts, an Executive Leadership coach who threw in the towel for Corporate work to focus on unlocking another's potential while unlocking his own at the same time. He says, “Inevitably, there will be challenges as you stretch yourself but that's just feedback.” He says, “Reframe it and keep moving.” Listen in as he shares more insights on his journey from corporate to coaching.


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[02:19]        Do you know what? I think I've always been an entrepreneur really. Even working in the corporate world, I think moments when I found it really difficult in certain organizations I worked in that were quite centralized, quite controlling, I struggled and probably didn't thrive as I could do, compared to other organizations that were more naturally empowering, giving you freedom and allowing you to sort of just go for it really in an entrepreneurial way, and I've always thrived. And I guess I've always had that thing in my belly of wanting to be a bit more in control of my own destiny, having more freedom. And I guess it took a courage moment because it does take courage to take that step, and I took that sort of just over three and a half years ago now.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[03:20]          So what were you doing before you were an entrepreneur?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[03:24]        I've been in the world of working for mainly food manufacturing companies, people like Heinz, Kraft, General Mills, Yoplait. So some big brands to also smaller brands as well. And I headed up sales teams. I was commercial director for the UK for Yoplait for a number of years, and so I've always been in that sort of sales, business development, leading teams scenario and enjoyed it and loved it and that's what I like doing - interacting with people, developing strategies, engaging customers, seeing clients. So that's always been and always on the premise of developing business. Yeah, so that was my corporate world.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[04:10]          So what are you doing now as an entrepreneur?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[04:13]        What I do now is I am an Executive and Leadership coach. I coach senior executives, leaders, I do training, I do resilience training, I help organizations effectively develop their people.


(music)


Host - Monique Mills:   

[04:35]          Julian thinks it’s important to know your why in order to unlock your potential and gain clarity, but I was curious to know what took him so long to find his own clarity in order to make the switch to coaching. Listen in as he explains his story.

                      [04:55]       Some people feel like as long as I can pay the bills, I'm okay. It doesn't have to be my purpose, you know?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[05:02]        Simon Sinek talks about the whole knowing your why, the same thing as your purpose, your mission, however you term it. I think you've got to know your reason. You're here in a sense of what gets you excited, what gets you motivated. I struck on that four or five years ago, and through a process of me exploring next steps and exploring through coaching, I started to realize what my why was, which ultimately is encased in unlocking someone's potential. And then I've expanded that to a mission of going for 100,000 leaders, and that's where I'm going to go for however that may be. It feels ridiculous the amount of people, but you have to do things that are big and that will expand you and push you out and make you feel uncomfortable. But a lot of my clients, even from the corporate clients to the one on one clients or more entrepreneur type clients, it all boils down to a lot of it is people getting clarity on that purpose because it's almost like the cornerstone of all what you do. And if you get clarity, you know what you're why is, you know what resonates, what makes you excited, what your purpose is, then making decisions on what you should do becomes a lot easier.

                      [06:28]       It's like in a company, it’s the same principle. You have a vision to do XYZ and somebody comes along with an idea, does it align to this vision? Does it take us closer to that? Then yeah, let’s do it. If it doesn't, then we don't do it, or we put it on pause, or we just put it on the backburner. And the same thing for our own clarity of purpose. It makes decision making far easier. It makes the sense of motivation as well when things are tough because things always going to be tough. Reality is, things won't go right. Things will always be hard, but if you know your purpose, it keeps you going, and it makes you resourceful. It makes you look for opportunities because you've got this purpose and my purpose is to do this. I'm just not finding it quite right, the how bit. The what still stays the same as in your purpose; the how might be slightly different. You might have been impacted by COVID-19, but you still have the same purpose. It's still valid. And it's all about how, it’s the how bit, and that's the bit that's changeable; it’s the strategy piece. And I think it gives you that focus.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[07:31]          So it took you a while to discover your own purpose. And why would you say it took you a while? Why did it take so long?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[07:43]        I guess I got into the sort of treadmill of the corporate world. Went to university, got into the world of getting a job, and then just working my way up. And I thought that's what I wanted to do. And then along the way where I had frustrations or I wasn’t quite happy with whether it was an organization or just what I was doing, I didn't really know what it was and I didn't have people around me that could help me. Coaching 20 odd years ago, certainly in the UK was quite not really a thing, and I guess I didn't have the opportunity to sort of explore that with somebody and thinking, “I just don't feel I'm fitting here.” It was just this thing - I just don't fit in this context and I didn't know why. And it was only when I started to explore it, read about it and understand actually, this is why.  And so that's why it took a little bit longer, I guess.

                      [08:38]       I think now we've got a lot more information out there. There's a lot more readiness about coaching. I know in my last corporate world job, I had a coach that the company paid for and that was really helpful. And that started to open my eyes up to actually just talking to somebody and even just reflecting. There's real power in that. And the reason I got to that point is about four years ago, I reflected on my career, and often these things you have to reflect on and I realized actually I've got more excited when I was helping a direct report or a pair unlock some behavior that will make the better potential, then I got more excited with the people side. And I started to realize actually, that's what really resonates with me. I love unlocking people's potential.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[09:33]          So tell me a bit about your journey from being in Corporate to where you are now. So was it one day you were like, “Hey, I'm out of here”, or was it progressive?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[09:44]        Well, there [were] two things. There was this realization of what I really enjoyed doing which was the-- Well it was really the entrepreneurial piece but also this unlocking somebody’s potential, but it didn't push me over the line enough from that perspective at that point four or five years ago. The other strand to this is a personal thing. And what it is, is about four or five years ago, my wife and I decided to foster a child. So we set out to do that, and making those decisions-- I've already got three daughters, and so adding another one-- But to do that, I wanted to create that flexibility to be involved, and just be around and everything else. So along with the freedom, the unlocking somebody’s potential, and also by fostering as well, it’s the same sort of thing, I then took the courage and the step to go for it. And initially, I went more on the commercial stuff, advising companies, more consultancy side of things as I was starting to do my training and started to build up my coaching practice. And I still do a little bit of the business strategy stuff for companies because that's what I've been doing for the last 20 years, so I bring that in. So yes, it was the desire to sort of explore the whole fostering, and now we are fostering; have been for just over 18 months now, so yeah.

                      [11:15]       Example, the other day, it was a Monday. It was a beautiful sunny day. I had some things to do, but it's stuff I could do another day. And my daughter, who's my second eldest, goes off to university in a few weeks’ time, and she was around and I said, “Why don't we go for a walk and go for a drink?” - she's 20. And so we did. So I took out three hours I could do. There was nothing impacted from a client perspective at the time. I just moved some stuff around in terms of my own stuff, and I could do that. In a work context, in a corporate world, you couldn't do that in the moment. You could do in a few days ahead, but not-- So it's things like that, and just being around. And so yes, hence when you said would I ever go back to it, never, not at all. And I love what I do. I love it. It's so fulfilling and so exciting.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[12:11]          So I noticed on your LinkedIn profile, even though we were talking about MBA or no MBA in the beginning, but I noticed on your LinkedIn profile, you're still pursuing a higher education, a master's degree right now.


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[12:23]        Absolutely, yeah. Well, it's ever since I've got into coaching, ever since I've gotten into the whole personal development, I've really increasingly valued I guess, the investment in myself. I just wanted to, and I got more ingrained in the whole behavior and how the brain works and psychology. So then yes, I'm now pursuing a master's in psychology, a distance learning, a lot of Zoom, a lot of interaction, but it's something I'm just fascinated by. I love it. And I just know it will add a lot more value to me and to my clients as well as I learn. So, yes, it's not an MBA, but I guess in some ways, you could say it's heading towards that level, I guess.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[13:05]          Yeah. You know, psychology, I was also always fascinated by it, and I actually took kind of like a minor in it in undergrad. And so it taught me so much just about people - how they think, why they behave certain ways - and to me, that's extremely powerful in business. I would say it's probably more powerful than knowing the financial model. You can hire somebody for the financial model, but understanding the psychology gives you a certain level of discernment as well, and an understanding as well as an empathy. And that combination is an extremely powerful tool to have in your belt.

                      [13:55]       Next, I asked Julian, how does he help clients handle challenges and failure, and then we also talked about how some coaches are getting it entirely wrong when it comes to this. I liked the way he described failure is just feedback, and how you can reframe it and continue to move forward. Keep listening.

                      [14:17]       One of the things that they are sure to encounter, of course, is some challenges. And so when they come into those bumps in the road, what is it that you help them see to keep going?


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[14:34]        Yeah, I think we all get that. I mean, my premise of any challenge is it's ultimately - I don't say this glibly - it is just feedback. And it's not--


Host - Monique Mills:  

[14:46]          Oh, that's a good way to put it. Yeah, look at it as feedback.


Guest - Julian Roberts:   

[14:52]        And people say a lot failure is just feedback. In reality, it is. And if you have that perspective, that reframe, when you see something go wrong or not quite as it is, it's feedback, either you didn't do it the right way, or the timing was wrong, or you didn’t have the right resource, whatever it may be. So it's then exploring that. And I always believe there is always a possibility. And if you've set yourself a goal to do something, and as long as that goal has come from you, and is future-focused and positive, I believe that you have created it, therefore your system knows how to deliver on it. So if you do come across some challenges along the way because you no doubt will, you will know ways to get around that. And I allow my clients even though sometimes I can see it absolutely obviously what it is, but allow I them to get to that place where they go-- And I go, “Thank goodness for that, they got there.” So yeah.

                 [16:05]        Yeah. I mean, that's what a good coach does. So I'm so happy to hear that that's the way you do things because some folks will call themselves coaches and spend the entire time telling people what they should do, instead of letting people kind of work through it. And of course, it takes time, and they may not get it as fast as you want them to or you think they should, but everyone gets there at their own pace.

                 [16:27]        Often, I find I come up with some ideas of what they could do, and when we go through the questions and reflection, they often come up with things I’d never even thought. That's why I allow them to do it because it's about them and they'll come up with better solutions and ideas and options. Obviously, sometimes it comes up where they go, “Do you have any ideas?”, and I'll go, “With your permission, I'll share something. You can dismiss it.” And I will share in a context that they've explored and felt they've exhausted all the options. But yeah, definitely.


Host - Monique Mills:   

[17:05]          Okay, that's it. Julian talked about how he struggled in corporate environments that were controlling. He talked about something that many people start to think about themselves when they experience that over and over again at different companies. You start to ask yourself, “Is it me or what?” You just have this feeling that you don't fit in. Perhaps you too don't fit into the corporate environment because you are an entrepreneur that's taking a little while longer to figure out your why, and if so, that's okay. But like Julian, you'll have to gain clarity on your purpose, and then muster up the courage to unlock the potential once you've done so.

The Unpolished MBA conversation continues, and you can be a part of it by going to unpolishedmba.com. Thank you for listening.


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