Chris Roebuck, The Speaker Show

Episode 233

Chris Roebuck, One of the most influential Human Resource thinkers and Transformational Leadership expert

Episode 233

Chris Roebuck, One of the most influential Human Resource thinkers and Transformational Leadership expert

Chris Roebuck – Is the Great Resignation a People Time Bomb

In this episode of #TheSpeakerShow, Maria Franzoni interviews Chris Roebuck

Chris has personal experience as a leader in military, business and government where his roles focused on developing leaders to deliver success.  The depth and breadth of his experience gives him unique insights to help leaders and their organisations. His interactive keynotes help audiences unleash the potential of their own experience, realise its power via hard data, fine tune it with practical neuroscience, develop it with success stories from around the world and then plan specific actions to make it happen. Voted HR Most Influential Thinker for the last 10 years and Honorary Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership he uses leading edge thinking to help leaders and organisations become leading edge performers, with the potential to get 30% more effort from 60% of people and adding 10% to the bottom line.

In this fascinating episode, we discuss:

  • The Future of Leadership
  • The Great Resignation
  • Attracting Talent
  • Unleashing Potential

Episode audio & transcript

Connect with Speakers Associates

Maria Franzoni

00:00:10 – 00:01:06

Hello and welcome back to the Speaker Show with me your host, Maria Franzoni. Today we are asking if the Great Resignation is a people time bomb. The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organisations providing keynote speakers for events, conferences and summits. My guest this week has personal experience as a leader in military, business and government, where his roles focused on developing leaders to deliver success. The depth and breadth of his experience gives him unique insights to help leaders and their organisations. His interactive keynotes help audiences unleash the potential of their own experience, realise its power with hard data, fine tune it with practical neuroscience, help it with success stories from around the world and then plan specific actions to make it happen.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:06 – 00:01:32

Voted HR Most Influential Thinker of the last 10 years and an Honorary Visiting Professor of Transformational Leadership, he uses leading edge thinking to help leaders and organisations become leading edge performers with the potential to get 30% more effort from 60% of people adding 10% of the bottom line. Please welcome my guest this week, Chris Roebuck. Hello, Chris. It’s lovely to see you. How are you today?

Chris Roebuck

00:01:32 – 00:01:34

I’m great. Thank you, Maria.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:34 – 00:01:53

Fantastic. Brilliant. Listen, I’m going to get straight to it. There are not many speakers, let’s be honest, who have held leadership positions in business, government and the military, which is fantastic. So I’m really happy to be talking to you about leadership. What do all of these have in common? And how do they differ?

Chris Roebuck

00:01:53 – 00:02:42

Everybody thinks they are completely different. But I thought they were different while I was on the journey. And so I’m in the military and I’m looking at this is what makes leaders successful in the military. And then I end up in the commercial world. London underground, UBS, HSBC, KPMG. And I’m looking at what leaders doing there. And they’re doing A B and C and I’m suddenly thinking, hang on, those are slightly looks the same as the people in the military. And then I go into local government, Department of Health and that sort of thing, and I think leaders do this and then it suddenly dawns on me. Actually, leaders that are successful do the same things in all of those environments and my brain system. Maybe, just maybe, no matter where you are, no matter what organisation you’re in, if you’re a leader,

Chris Roebuck

00:02:42 – 00:02:54

there are things that you can do to be successful that are consistent. Actually, not because of the job you’re in, but because, surprisingly, you’re dealing with human beings and that was my revelation.

Maria Franzoni

00:02:54 – 00:03:05

That is a revelation and is that, has that breadth of experience helped you as well, because people may resist and say, well, you’ve only got experience in this sort of experience and that you won’t understand us. I suppose you can cut through all that.

Chris Roebuck

00:03:05 – 00:03:44

Always. There’s always that. No, no, no, in construction, we are really different, in retail we’re really different and everybody says, no, no, we’re really different. We are 90% different and 10% the same as those people in that other industry. No, you’re not. The reality is it’s probably 80% the same and 20% a little bit of difference. And it’s most basic, you know, you have people. What you have to do is to get the best from your people and focus that on to what delivers success in your world, but they’re getting the best for people is the same anywhere.

Maria Franzoni

00:03:44 – 00:03:58

Yeah, love it, love it, love it. So we, you say. And in fact, you’re proving it here already. You say that we overcomplicate leadership and actually, it’s incredibly simple. What would you say are the critical things that a leader needs to remember?

Chris Roebuck

00:03:58 – 00:04:40

There are just two things a leader needs or three things. Really, a leader needs to do. One, be able to manage tasks, two, get the best from people, and three, then focus that best onto what the organisation needs to do, to be successful. That’s it. It really is that simple. And the actual getting the best from people is what I love when I’m speaking because everybody says, oh, no, no, that’s all very complicated. But when I’m speaking, what delivers the best from people is up here. We know it, we’ve experienced it. So all I do is I get people to delve into their memories, and then suddenly

Chris Roebuck

00:04:40 – 00:05:15

their memories produce the answers for them. And within two minutes I’ve got a list from the audience of 10 or 12 things that everybody knows makes them and everybody else to live a super performance because it’s that up here is a jigsaw of all my experiences and everybody goes. It’s like a 1000 piece jigsaw thrown on the table and everyone’s I don’t understand this. This is bonkers. What I do is I help them put the edges around first, and then we put the sky in, and then we put the ground, and suddenly the chaos becomes a road map that they can go and do something with.

Maria Franzoni

00:05:15 – 00:05:28

Fantastic. For anybody listening on the podcast and not watching the video. Of course, up here, Chris is pointing to his head. So we’ve got it all in our heads, right in our brains. Fantastic. In our experience in our memory. Fantastic, Brilliant. So okay, you know, we’ve been

Chris Roebuck

00:05:28 – 00:06:08

If you then take that to the organisation, what the organisation has to do using what each leader is doing, is again simple, and we don’t need to overcomplicate it. It’s one, beat the objectives you have for this year. Two, beat any other challenges that happen to be around like you know, we need to do better customer service. We need to build brand more effectively through our employees. We need to empower our employees. Those are the challenges. And then it’s just finally about building the future. So, build brick your objectives. Beat your challenges. Build your future. How much more simple could you get?

Maria Franzoni

00:06:08 – 00:06:29

No, it’s great. It’s great. Super. So, okay, we’ve gone through and we’re still sort of coming out the other end of Covid. And so, what about the future of leadership post Covid? How can leaders and organisations keep up with the changes that they need to be making to, you know, to get beyond this and to go forward?

Chris Roebuck

00:06:29 – 00:07:38

For everybody listening, Um, you will in some way, shape or form through the experience of Covid, whether you’ve had tragedy, whether you’ve been ill, whether, you know, the experience of remote working is positive or negative, everybody listening to this will have significantly changed their perspectives, particularly in terms of what they think is important in their lives. It’s been a reprioritisation, and what that’s meant is that’s also meant people have reevaluated how important they think workers versus their home life, what they are expecting from their job. So, my analysis is that all the evidence is showing that, what people wanted from their job. What people were prepared to tolerate in their job, pre-Covid is not the same as it is post-Covid and as a result of that, people are, I am, you are. We’re just more focused on having

Chris Roebuck

00:07:38 – 00:08:38

those important things in life, our spare time, our family and we want, because of Covid, we want to get more out of life and that means getting more out of our jobs as well. So everything I’ve seen from my own experience, from the evidence I’ve seen from around the world is saying people want more from their jobs. They want to be respected more. They want to get effectively. Leaders have to be better because if leaders continue to be to lead in the way that they did pre-Covid, which is effectively employees and everybody tolerating their job because they needed the money, they thought they shouldn’t leave their job and they were prepared to put up with it. Post-Covid, they are not prepared to put up with it anymore, and good leaders will still be fine. But those leaders who were on

Chris Roebuck

00:08:38 – 00:09:00

the line where employees were thinking of leaving are now in a position where those employees probably didn’t even go back. And that’s the challenge the organisations face because organisations need to get all of their leaders up to the level where everybody wants to stay in their jobs.

Maria Franzoni

00:09:00 – 00:09:14

Yeah, absolutely. And what you’re talking about, I think people are talking about, they’re calling it the great resignation, aren’t they? Is that the main challenge that you would say that organisations are facing now? Is it the great resignation or is it something else?

Chris Roebuck

00:09:14 – 00:10:01

Right. I don’t think the great resignation is the great resignation. I mean, given what I’ve just said, I think the great resignation is the great, if you think I’m going back you’re nuts. It’s the, seriously. Do you think I’m going back to that boss? No way. But then it’s also about, I’m calling it’s the great I want more out of my job. I want to be treated with respect. And so it’s not just the people who have gone back, suddenly realised they don’t really like the job anymore and gone elsewhere. It’s this whole thing about the fundamental cost-benefit analysis that people have to stay in a job.

Chris Roebuck

00:10:01 – 00:10:42

Do I enjoy my work? Do I believe in what the organisation is doing? Do I have great colleagues? But the fundamental driver in that is the boss. An employee’s decision to give high performance is 60% rational, 40% emotional. Of that emotional 80% is down to the boss. Now, I’m talking about neuroscience, neuroscience for the day to day. The neuroscience for the day to day says what we all know. People join organisations and leave bosses. And it’s true, organisations have to get their bosses to the level that people aren’t saying, I want to leave.

Maria Franzoni

00:10:42 – 00:10:51

I guess I’ve left many bosses, actually. So it’s absolutely true and I ended up becoming my own boss. So I can’t leave myself because who’ll says bad things about me, right?

Chris Roebuck

00:10:51 – 00:10:52

Exactly, you know.

Maria Franzoni

00:10:52 – 00:10:58

It’s a bit more challenging, is I have to have a word of myself on a regular basis. And Chris, have you got a solution to this?

Chris Roebuck

00:10:58 – 00:11:43

Yeah, absolutely. You see, we go back to this point about getting the best focusing on to what delivers success. Because if you can do that, people aren’t going to want to leave. If you create an environment, where they give their best. They’re going to stay. If you create an environment, the stats are that if bosses create an environment where people want to stay, you can reduce the risk of talent loss by 87%. Why would they want to go elsewhere? So that’s the challenge for the organisation. And I think the solution I put together is a set of leadership elements that each boss has to have

Chris Roebuck

00:11:43 – 00:12:26

to be able to make people want to stay. First of all, it’s about task leadership being able to get things done slickly on time without a problem. So that is what creates your foundation for success. Then it’s about every leader being an inspirational leader, to get the best and focus that best onto what deliver success that’s going to deliver your key objectives. Then it’s about leaders being entrepreneurial, looking for opportunity, looking for innovation, disruptive thinking, all of that stuff. That is going to help you solve your challenges that are facing you. Then it’s about finally, it’s about transformational leadership, because when all of that is happening,

Chris Roebuck

00:12:26 – 00:13:19

then you’re moving into the future. That’s when you need to even more focus on diversity for the future, you need to focus on attracting the best talent. You need to have employees who are brand ambassadors who are going out there and finding talent for you so you don’t even have to look for it. And it’s all about diversity and that builds your future. So it’s about those simple principles before build the foundation, beat your objectives, beat your challenges and build your future. And that’s what is encapsulated in what I’m speaking that journey. But what’s most important is at the end of it, everybody in the room has promised to take one action to start making that happen as soon as they get back to work because otherwise there’s no point.

Maria Franzoni

00:13:19 – 00:13:35

I love that because I know you do that every time you deliver a speech to an organisation, you always get everybody to commit to take one action, which I think is so important that there is a change as a result of your coming in to speak. So thank you for doing that.

Chris Roebuck

00:13:35 – 00:14:01

But I’ve been on the other side of the fence, you see. As global head of leadership in UBS, I was employing speakers to speak to senior executives and what I wanted, above all, there’s no point standing in the room, just speaking. I wanted those senior executives to go and do something different that would improve performance. And that’s why I do it because it infuriates me when the speakers didn’t do that for me.

Maria Franzoni

00:14:01 – 00:14:23

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, right. So tell me, you yourself host a podcast where you interview some really impressive leaders. And obviously, you’re going to ask some insightful questions because you’re like me. You’re nosy. You want to know. And I know that you ask them for their leadership advice, right? What’s the best advice they’ve shared with you?

Chris Roebuck

00:14:23 – 00:15:25

The beauty of the podcast is that I’ve now, I think I’ve interviewed six or seven people, but I’ve deliberately got leaders from completely wildly different places. So, Peter Marra, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Andy Byford, Transport Commissioner for London. Sylvia Acevedo, ex NASA rocket scientist, Top 50 Women in Tech, ex-chief executive of US Girl Scouts. Steven Green, ex-Trade Minister HSBC. Claire Man, Southwest Trains. Jamie Price, top leader in top CEO in wealth management in the U.S. Amanda Russell, Olympic level athlete and subscription entrepreneur and professor of marketing into U.S. universities. The amazing thing is that they’ve all said pretty much the same thing. They’ve all said, it’s about building trust. It’s about working in partnership. It’s about

Chris Roebuck

00:15:25 – 00:16:10

the, you know, the win-win, the developments of the win-win. The podcast has been so much fun because, despite all of those backgrounds, it’s always back to that thing about people. Build, trust, working partnership. Create a win-win from Peter Marra, who said when he’s working, trying to get people we would describe as dictators around the world to not do what they’re doing, it’s about to win-win. His beautiful comment about he made the comment, the win-win is important, which is exactly what the Pope said to me a couple of weeks ago when I was chatting to him, which is and I said Peter, well, that’s what we always do. We often have a quick chat to the Pope now and again.

Maria Franzoni

00:16:10 – 00:16:13

I thought I was a good name-dropper. That’s very good. Yes.

Chris Roebuck

00:16:13 – 00:17:11

Seriously. But the power of those podcasts is irrespective of whether it’s a tech entrepreneur or it’s somebody like Steve Lord Steven Green, who’s being chairman of HSBC and a trade minister. It is about that getting the best from people, it’s about trust. It’s about partnership. And it’s also about being entrepreneurial, even if you’re in a public sector environment looking for opportunity to be better. Peter Wolf Lee, chief executive of UBS, mentioned the phrase that was key when he was in McKinsey that every leader has an obligation to dissent. I.e. If they see things that are not going as well as they could be going or could be improved, they have an obligation to speak out. And it’s just a little nuggets like that, that if other leaders thought about and did,

Chris Roebuck

00:17:11 – 00:17:58

Lack enough is coming out, has just come out this week. Global corporate venturer who’s invested billions in startups around the world for HP, for Cisco and now for Seamen’s. And he said, entrepreneurs, I can tell a great entrepreneur from the cycle time. The cycle time between idea and implementation and I said, well that, isn’t that also critical for leaders in larger organisations. And he said, yes, it is. You know, it’s that little point that came out leaders should think about their cycle time. Are we slick? Are we effective? Can we get people behind the idea? So I’m seriously Maria. I’m absolutely loving this. This podcast it is. It is so much, so much fun. Claire Mann,

Chris Roebuck

00:17:58 – 00:18:21

South West Trains chief executive. She started at Heathrow Express. She went into Heathrow Express and I want to do customer services. They said Claire, a bit of a problem with short of train drivers. Can you drive a train instead? So she said, well, I suppose so. I’ll give it a go. And the rest is history. One of the first women train drivers on Heathrow Express. Sorry, I just love this.

Maria Franzoni

00:18:21 – 00:18:37

That’s a crazy story. I think it’s really heartening to hear that there’s actually everybody agrees that this is what we need. So it’s not, you know, it’s the way it’s not rocket science. It’s the bit is how to apply it, isn’t it? Which is the bit that you help organisations with and help leaders with. Would you advise

Chris Roebuck

00:18:37 – 00:18:58

You are perfectly there. Because that was exactly the phrase I used by accident when I was talking to the leaders of the Chinese space programme. I just said it’s not rocket science. That’s being translated by the translator, I thought, Oh, God, I just realised what I’ve said. Yeah, silence in the room. And suddenly all these Chinese executives burst into hysterical laughter. Sorry.

Maria Franzoni

00:18:58 – 00:19:15

Okay, well, we’re going to have some fun with you as well before one more serious question. Then I got some fun questions. So, that was the advice that the leaders shared. Is that the best advice that you two would share? Would you be or would you share something different?

Chris Roebuck

00:19:15 – 00:19:49

No, I think that is the best advice. Because in the last two years, just before Covid, I did a six-month neuroscience course because I knew what leaders did to be successful. I wanted to know what was going on in people’s heads that made them successful. And you knew what I’ve done is I’ve taken a lot of the stuff from the neuroscience and turned it into what I call everyday neuroscience so that leaders can really get a grip of it. You know, the really simple things like, Oh, you know, boss comes up to you in the corridor and says, Chris, I want you to do this. This, this and this

Chris Roebuck

00:19:49 – 00:20:40

and your brain says I’m not sure about that. That’s not really a good idea. And the boss goes on, yes, you need to do this. And then suddenly the shutters come down and the boss goes away, and you can’t remember what the boss has just said. Now that is, that is day to day neuroscience because your brain is structured so it only takes in information, it thinks is a value to save energy. So your subconscious has said no. This is not a value. I am going to close down. And it’s those little points that come out of the neuroscience that leaders really need to understand because it gives them the power to ensure that they can get the best from people by doing certain things in different ways that allow them to get that best.

Chris Roebuck

00:20:40 – 00:21:03

And what I would say. What I would say is, never ever forget that the people that you are leading are human beings. And going back to what Lord Stephen Green said in the interview last week, in the final analysis, is very simple. Treat people as you would wish to be treated yourself.

Maria Franzoni

00:21:03 – 00:21:24

Fabulous. Fabulous. So, listen, I’m going to have a bit of fun with you, Chris, because I know you very well. And I know you’ve been around the block a little while just like me. Well, you know, we’ve had some experience and I know you’ve got some crazy experiences. I want to do a few quick-fire questions. What’s the most memorable event you’ve ever done?

Chris Roebuck

00:21:24 – 00:22:17

Most memorable event I ever did was I was invited. I did a gig in Malaysia. And the president of the Myanmar Red Cross had seen me in London and asked me to go up to Rangoon to speak to his executive team. And this was literally four weeks after the country had opened to Westerners after being closed down. And I’ll never forget being in a blue room with paint coming off the walls, fans rotating, plastic tables, plastic chairs, little plastic cups and about 12 people on the executive committee. And I remember the title. It was a presentation even now, “Doing more with less for those in need”. And they took me to their warehouse and they showed me their emergency Red Cross packs ready to go. They showed me all the emergency stuff.

Chris Roebuck

00:22:17 – 00:22:29

They showed me the body bags just in case. And it was such a humbling experience being with dedicated Red Cross people in a country that had no health care.

Maria Franzoni

00:22:29 – 00:22:36

Wow! Wow! Wow, that’s amazing. What about have you done anything weird? Any weird events

Chris Roebuck

00:22:36 – 00:23:18

The most. Yeah, The weird, most weird event was a couple of weeks before Christmas. I was supposed to be, doing a sort of 20 minute run into an awards ceremony and then presenting the awards on a river boat going down the River Thames for about 100 and 50 people. I thought that’s gonna be great fun then, then our new variant kicked 10 days before the event. So suddenly there’s a panic, and we all have to go to virtual. So on the 15th of December, I was standing in my lounge where my lounger studio, where I am now in a dinner jacket in front of the camera, opening gold envelopes, hosting an awards ceremony with a button that delivered canned applause. Absolutely surreal.

Maria Franzoni

00:23:18 – 00:23:29

Fantastic. We might have to play that at the end of this, the canned applause and I like that. So I’m going to finish on one final question. What was the most dramatic thing that’s ever happened to you when speaking?

Chris Roebuck

00:23:29 – 00:24:23

The most dramatic thing. Right. Middle East two banks, two major banks in Dubai being merged, really, really important event. The merged top leadership teams of both banks about 200 people. Massive five-star ballroom. At the beginning of the event, the memorandum of agreement was signed. There was a government, a couple of government ministers, CEOs, everybody there. Anyway. I’m then supposed to talk about how you, as a group, can work together to create a new visionary bank. Behind me is a massive screen of televisions about five metres high 10 metres wide, the amount of light coming out of there. I’m surprised people in the front row work in sunglasses. I get 20 minutes into the keynote and suddenly there’s these great, there’s a buzz and then a bang behind me.

Chris Roebuck

00:24:23 – 00:24:54

I turned around, the entire screen is completely blank. So I think, okay Chris, ad-libbed. See what happens. So I’m ad-libbing. What then happens is they get it going again in about five minutes I get another five minutes in, bang, it goes again. Somebody comes up, whispers in my ear. The problem is they plugged the screen into the wrong socket and it keeps overheating. You keep going. By now, the HR director is freaking out. You keep going, and what we’ll do is we’ll run another cable.

Chris Roebuck

00:24:54 – 00:25:24

I then get the audience to sit around the tables and talk about how we can build a great team together and sort of facilitate a bit. In the meantime, the electricians have a sort of three ft high cable reel with a cable six inches in diameter. They’re running down the middle of the audience, plugging into the screens at the back, and then I just finish off. Just finish off my keynote for the last 15 minutes, back to normal, as if nothing had happened. I’ve got a good round of applause at the end.

Maria Franzoni

00:25:24 – 00:25:26

I should think so. I think you might

Chris Roebuck

00:25:26 – 00:25:28

I need a drink after that one.

Maria Franzoni

00:25:28 – 00:25:43

Not so easy, always in the Middle East, but anyways, super. Chris, it’s been an absolute pleasure to host you. Thank you so much for your wisdom on leadership and sharing your thoughts on the solution that you have with regards to the great resignation. And I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Chris Roebuck

00:25:43 – 00:25:57

Maria. I always enjoy myself with you, but that is, that’s the joy of this speaking business. Just going out there and helping people get more from their lives and helping people helping organisations be successful through that.

Maria Franzoni

00:25:57 – 00:26:28

Perfect. Anyway, thank you, everybody, for listening to the Speakers Show. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts. You can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is speakers associates dot com, or your favourite podcast app. And if you’d like to book Chris to speak at your next conference or event, please contact Speakers Associates in plenty of time to book him. So you won’t be disappointed. I will see you all next week. Thank you.

Live interview

Maria Franzoni

WITH OUR PODCAST HOST

Maria Franzoni

Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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