Job security or your values: the choice we all have to make #LeadersWithValues

Terry Webster explains why he ditched the 9-5 and went back to university

  I recently managed to pin down Terry Webster, founder and director of Lindis Consulting, to find out why he chose to leave employment and start his own business. I first met Terry at a dinner and was impressed with his genuine interest in what other people had to say. His active listening is a trait that’s often overlooked. I was also intrigued as to why he’d chosen to do an MBA at the age of 45, so I asked him if he’d be profiled for this blog.   SM: Can you explain what you do in fewer than 20 words? TW: My skills and experience in business, pensions and as an actuary help company directors work more efficiently and robustly. SM: Ok, so what does your typical client look like? TW: I work with clients in various industries and sectors. That’s one of the things I like most about my job: the variety and learning how different ways of thinking and culture impacts how problems are approached. The people that come to me are usually the FDs of SMEs. But they’re quite often not only FD, as they’re also wearing the hat of IT Manager, HR Manager, Pensions and Employee Benefit Manager, and others. That’s quite an ask, so it’s no surprise that they often need some help and support. The clients that I work with best are usually values-driven, self-aware, open-minded and collaborative, confident, trusting but not naïve. Self-awareness is a particularly valuable attribute, as for me to function effectively, the FD needs to understand the gaps I can fill and think of me in that context. SW: When did you get your big break? TW: It was probably my first job at London & Manchester, a relatively small UK-based pensions and life assurance company. The actuarial training I received, resulted in me working in several roles. The first two of which involved supporting the client services team and marketing department. This meant dealing closely with clients, potential clients, and those directly in contact with them. It was these experiences that helped me understand the importance of being able to meet others’ needs and to explain issues, sometimes of a complex nature, in ways that your audience can understand and relate. SM: Some would say it was lucky to get your break with your first job. Has it always been plain sailing? TW: No, not at all. In early 2016, I chose to leave the security of a full-time job for a new and unknown world. In my final months there, I got comfortable with the fact that I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole and the reality was that neither of us were going to change enough to make it work: I just didn’t fit within the business, so I decided to leave. Quite a few of my prior clients wanted to carry on working with me, and I came to a mutual arrangement with my former employer that allowed me to do so. As a result, instead of spending my summer out on my boat as I had intended, I was setting up a new business. I had to learn a lot of stuff I’d never done before: accounting, IT, all the kinds of things that are done for you within a big organisation. Again, in hindsight, it was refreshing. I was invigorated by the new challenges, and by my clients valuing me enough to go to great lengths to employ me. By July, I had enough clients with contracts and the infrastructure to run a skeleton business. SM: It sounds like you were on to something, so what made you go on to do an MBA? TW: A friend who worked at the university sent me a text out of the blue. It said, “Do you fancy doing an MBA?”. I didn’t know what to make of it really, so I ignored him. He phoned me the next day to talk about it, and that afternoon I had an interview with the course leader. Three days later I was sitting in an economics lecture. I felt like a fish out of water. I was 45, surrounded by people much younger and probably much brighter than me. It was a new subject matter and I’d had no preparation, but I believe in things happening for a reason. It’s not very often you get an opportunity like that, so I went with it. The fact that I was able to keep my head above water and then actually start swimming, despite not having any preparation, improved my self-confidence no end. SM: What do you think older business people can learn from younger business people? And vice versa? I’m going to give the opposite answer to most in that older people should stop thinking they know it all! I’m often blown away with how intelligent, enthusiastic, and talented young people are. I fear we don’t generally benefit from their perspectives, insights, and technical know-how as much as we should. Conversely, and building on some of my experiences above, young people would in my view benefit from considering who has the power and who they need to influence (whether they like it or not), and tailor their communications and actions accordingly. SW: What’s topical in your world right now? And what would you like your clients to take action on? TW: I’m very interested, concerned and passionate, in equal measure, about redefining business practices and society, with a greater focus on sustainability and wellbeing. In this respect I’m pleased we’re starting to have meaningful conversations about climate change, mental illness, and plastic waste, for example. The One-Planet MBA I graduated from in 2017 had a strong focus in these areas, and accountability in its widest sense, which was a major factor in my decision to do it. People are drawn to things that resonate with their values. I’d encourage clients to think more long-term, more strategically, and do more to identify and mitigate risks; while at the same time being aware of and taking advantage of market changes and their business strengths. SM: And finally, what gives you the greatest buzz? TW: Knowing I’ve done a good job and made a positive difference. If my client values that and expresses their appreciation too, and especially if they say they’ve enjoyed our interaction, that’s really the icing on the cake.   Reflecting both on what I learned about Terry the first time we met, and during this interview, I’d say that:

  • If you’re unhappy with where you are, take a calculated risk and try something different
  • It’s often worth accepting the opportunities that arise, even if they’re outside of your comfort zone
  • It takes guts to be genuinely driven by your values, but it usually pays off in the end.

 

Terry in a nutshell

He’s a sports enthusiast, currently training for the 110-mile, 10,00 feet Dartmoor classic bike ride and repairing his ageing wooden yacht, Lindis. His favourite restaurant is Casa Velha on Maderia, where he enjoys the occasional round of golf. Being a Spurs fan, he admires Mauricio Pochettino, but more surprisingly Arsene Wenger. You can find out more about Terry and Lindis Consulting on LinkedIn.  


Like this article? Sign up for the TBD newsletter.

Is it possible for lawyers to live their values? #LeadersWithValues

Nir Golan shares his vision for a more open and collaborative legal industry. 

  I recently sat down for a chat with Nir Golan, General Counsel for a multinational company, to talk about driving change in legal services. I’ve met thousands of lawyers over the past two decades and, I think it’s fair to say that Nir stands out as markedly different to others. I wanted to get to know him, find out what drives him and how his core values of kindness, compassion, integrity, and humaneness have impacted on his career choices.   SM: It’s funny to think that just a few years ago, this conversation simply wouldn’t be happening. We met on Twitter, I’m calling you on FaceTime and you’re sat in Israel in the middle of your working day and I’m sat in Bristol today. NG: I know. It’s amazing to think how we’re beginning to start conversations in very different ways now. It’s exciting and interesting and I think that there’s a lot of potential for it improving. SM: So, you’ve not long started at new role… Tell me a little bit about that. NG: It’s very, very different to anything I’ve ever done before, but I’ve settled in well and am loving it so far! I gave up partnership offers to go in-house, so it was important to me that I went to the right company. I wanted to go somewhere I thought I could really help drive change and make an impact. Where the people would be onboard with my ideas and vision. I’ve come to realize that change in legal will be driven by the clients and so I decided to go in-house. When I met the leadership team for the first time, they were totally open to and up for creating a different kind of legal operations role, and that’s the main reason I find myself here today. So, I coordinate our function from our headquarters in Israel. We have legal teams helping in numerous countries around the world. One of my roles is to manage and collaborate with legal counsel teams in all the various countries that we operate in. SM: Has it lived up to its promise so far? NG: Yes, it really has. The level of collaboration is incredible; people are exchanging ideas all the time. I’m naturally a people person, so I’m completely open to this way of working, but there are still elements that are genuinely new to me. For example, every morning we have teams here that gather to share their experiences from the previous day. It’s such a great way to work. My job is essentially to help clients find legal solutions to their business problems, by focusing on what the client needs and not bogging them down with the technical stuff. I can only do that by listening, collaborating with my clients, and focusing on the human side of legal services, which I also believe to be the key to the industry evolving. I’m lucky because our organisation is about people and communication: I spend time with internal and external clients and we’re much more into face-to-face meetings than we are into phone calls. It all stacks up to being the right place for me. SM: I guess that leads well into my next question: if you could have everyone in your industry understand one major change that’s happening and take action, what would it be? NG: To not be afraid of being accessible, approachable, or vulnerable. It’s the only way you can connect with people to allow them to see you as a human. It’s the only way to gain their trust. I want to drive the change from within. I want to collaborate with firms and other lawyers to show them that there’s a different way of doing things. A more human-centered way of conveying legal knowledge and expertise. I’m talking about taking really complex stuff and being able to convey it in a manner that can be easily understood and applied by the client. They want to take the solution and apply it to their business without having to spend hours having it explained to them. All of that requires a connection and an understanding on a human level. SM: I’ve been talking about the need for a high level of EQ for a while now. It seems like that’s a natural inclination of yours? NG: Yes, I think so. When I was at law school, I worked in customer service for four years. Part of the training we received was emotional service training. I loved that. The whole customer-facing thing has always been a major focus for me. I recently Tweeted that I think law students should take on a customer-facing role while at university. It helps you get a feel of how to serve people, to understand their needs. Once you have that, it’s so much easier to work together with them to create and find solutions around those needs. We need to get away from this idea that these are soft skills: the human empathy, interaction, listening those are the main skills in your job. Sure, it has to be underpinned with technical legal excellence, but that’s not enough on its own. I call them human skills. SM: Who do you most admire in the legal industry? Is there anyone that shares your values? NG: The first person that comes to mind is Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. He’s not in legal services, but I admire how he has transformed Microsoft into a more empathetic, collaborative, open organisation. Simply by just bringing in empathy, listening, and collaboration with customers. It’s a wonderful example of what the legal industry could look like. He changed Microsoft’s culture from being a “know-it-all” organization to being a “learn-it-all” organization. I had a recent example of a firm refusing to approach delivering some training in the manner I requested it: using visuals. A tip to anyone who works with us: you’re going to need to convey complex matters in a way that can be easily understood and easily applied by the client. That’s what this client needs. That’s probably what every client needs. What they don’t need is to spend another five hours with the lawyers trying to explain it to me. This is about understanding needs. It’s about seeing things from my eyes and not seeing things from your, the lawyer’s eyes. There’s a lot of talk about lawyers using that approach but it needs matching with more action. SM: How do you live that personable, empathic approach yourself? NG: I brought my kids in to work recently, which seemed like a natural thing for me to do. But even here, even at a great environment like this, it was not something that they thought a lawyer would do. Doing that alone created so many new connections here with people because they see you in the company, they say, “Wow. It’s so humanizing to see you with your kids.” SM: I remember the same when we did that at Osborne Clarke during the Olympics. Plus your kids don’t find it such a foreign idea as to who you hang out with at work or what you get up to. I think that that’s good for all law firms and office businesses to consider. Right, final question, what’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given? NG: “Never enter into a business transaction with your ego.” One of my clients said this to me once and it’s stuck with me ever since. I also like “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Albert Einstein obviously didn’t tell me that himself though.   And with that, our time is up. Reflecting on our chat, I’d say that: 

  • Nir is one of the most emotionally intelligent lawyers I’ve ever spoken to. He seems to be genuinely passionate about putting his clients first. He’s not just talking the talk either;
  • More lawyers could benefit from opening up and collaborating with other people from both inside and outside their industry;
  • To live by your values often means making different career choices; and
  • When he says ‘let’s do coffee’ he means it. He names a date and comes back to me by email within minutes of the call ending. Now that’s service.

  You can find Nir on LinkedIn and spreading the word on the need for transformation in the legal industry on Twitter.  


Like this article? Sign up for the TBD newsletter.

Contact us