• Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is John Blakey. I am a leading executive coach, author and board advisor helping CEOs and elite sport coaches around the globe to develop high trust leadership styles.I am a regular speaker at international business conferences and I have recently completed prize-winning doctoral research at Aston Business School into how leaders build trust in a world where nothing can be hidden. This research is the basis of my book ‘The Trusted Executive – Nine Leadership Habits that Inspire Results, Relationships and Reputation’ which was shortlisted for the Chartered Management Institute book of the year in 2016.
• What is your brand philosophy and how does it give you a competitive advantage?
My brand philosophy is to walk-the-talk as a Trusted Executive. In a world that is losing trust this gives me a competitive advantage because when the room gets darker it is an opportunity for your own light to shine brighter; and the room is getting very dark right now in terms of trust.Walking-the-talk as a Trusted Executive means focussing upon the three pillars that inspire trust – Ability, Integrity and Benevolence. If a focus is maintained on each of these three pillars in parallel then leaders and companies will develop a high trust brand.
• What customer-centric strategies do you use and why?
True customer-centric strategies call for a company to get deep into appreciating their customers’ fundamental needs. Organisations need to be aligned around their customers and look to understand the world through their eyes. Companies that strive for, and achieve this level of engagement see greater results and bring more innovative products and services to the market. Certainly with the type of engagement I am required to have with my clients, a deep understanding is already very established within a very short space of time and their individual needs are paramount.
• How does your business recruit and retain your employees?
The Trusted Executive Foundation is a start-up business. We are a small team of highly motivated, passionate believers! We have each made sacrifices to commit to an entrepreneurial path and we see ourselves as partners rather than employees. In that context, we are looking for more believers who have the same self-motivation, initiative and courage to commit to the journey of trust.
• What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your business and how did you overcome it?
I was brought up to believe that nice guys come last. I was told time and time again that if I wanted to become a successful leader, I must nurture my psychopathic tendencies. But I decided to resist and challenge this 'dog eat dog' Darwinian mind-set. My work on trust was inspired by an incident in a corporate boardroom 17 years ago where I was told I was ‘too f---ing nice!’ by my then boss, the CEO of a major plc organisation. This sparked a drive in me to prove that nice folk, i.e. folk who can be trusted, can also deliver outstanding results.
• What inspired the launch of your business?
Following on from my boardroom incident, I committed myself to finding a better way, and I found I was still successful. In fact, I found I was able to deliver outstanding results, build inspiring relationships and make a positive contribution to society. I could still be a dog without eating the other dogs! I now help others who wish to prove the same point, because I believe the world needs leaders who rely upon the power of trust rather than those who trust in power.’
• What is the number one factor in your business success?
Given that we are a start-up foundation, the No.1 factor in our business success is listening to the market and refining our proposition to meet what the market needs rather than what we think the market needs. We have to walk the tightrope between having a passionate, inspiring vision whilst also staying highly flexible to respond to the immediate opportunities and needs of our clients.
• Describe your business model and what makes your business unique?
What makes our business unique is that our business model is founded upon prize-winning doctoral research on trust. This means that we have ground-breaking research that can help business leaders build trust in a world where nothing can be hidden. Our proposition is not something that was dreamt up over a glass of red wine, it is the result of five years intense research at one of the UK’s leading business schools. This backdrop gives our customers confidence that they are investing in a scientifically verified formula for building trust that deliver results, relationships and reputation.
• Explain your growth-funding path?
We are a self-funded business. Currently, we do not have plans to seek external funding and do not believe that we need this in order to achieve the aims of our business plan.
• What technology has made the greatest difference to your business?
There are so many aspects of technology that have revolutionised the way we work that it is hard to pick out one. Personally, I love Doodle, for scheduling meetings. I love LinkedIn, for sharing content and creating introductions. I love our Crunch accounting software, because it has taken the agony out of recording expenses. I love the Nvivo research software, because it provides a fabulous means to analyse research interviews. We live in an amazing time of opportunity, much of it that has been catalysed by emergent technologies large and small.
• What future advancements do you foresee in your market and how are you preparing for them?
The market for leadership development needs to respond to the shifting expectations of the leadership role. We now expect our leaders to have a broader vision than simply making lots of money. We expect them to have a view on broader societal issues and to make a positive contribution to these issues. We expect our leaders to care, to show some vulnerability, to be humble and to coach people rather than tell them. These are all skills that 10-15 years were not core components of business leadership, and so many leaders need help to navigate into this new world successfully. We are preparing to help them with that challenge by getting ahead of the curve with research, writing and speaking. By working with the early adopters, we can create models, tools and techniques that will help other leaders tread the path. Also, by walking-the-talk ourselves we can empathise with the challenge and be credible as role models for this new style of leadership.
• What’s your favourite business book?
Am I allowed to add my own book?
• How could you become a better leader?
I believe that leadership qualities such as ability, benevolence, integrity and, of course, trust, are most important to becoming a great leader. In order to inspire people to adopt these qualities, you have to demonstrate that you have these qualities too.Leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers—are better leaders, They are more valued by followers and have higher performing teams. These leaders are not just concerned about helping the group achieve its goals; they also care about helping each member of the team to reach his or her full potential.
• What will you discuss in your BIO2018 presentation?
I will be inviting attendees to engage with the nine habits of trust that have arisen from my research. I’d like to challenge them to understand that we have a trust crisis raging around our institutional leadership. There is an opportunity for them to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, but that role involves examining their own leadership and doing the hard yards to change leadership habits. My talk is backed up by my doctoral research into trust at the Aston Business School, and my practical experience as a former FTSE100 international managing director. It includes anecdotes from my time as an entrepreneur and lessons learnt from coaching over 120 CEOs across 22 different countries over the past fifteen years. I am passionate about banging the drum for trust at events such as BIO2018 and I believe it is time people became aware of a new way of leading a crowd, a workforce or a cause. I hope that my message will inspire the audience to try out bold new ideas that nurture hope, positivity and resilience.
• Who is the Target Audience for your BIO2018 presentation?
Anyone who leads others, either at work or at home or in other spheres of their life. As Stephen Covey said, ‘Trust is the glue of life. It is the essential ingredient in all effective communication. It is the foundational principle of all human relationships’. Therefore, trust is a universal message for everyone.