One of the UK’s brightest and most successful businessmen, Tom Glanfield, tells CEOs to park their egos and become the ‘dumbest person in the boardroom’ in order to achieve success.
We sit down with renowned business consultant Tom Glanfield, who reveals the reason why bosses should actively seek to be overshadowed by their team members.
The most important factor CEOs should consider when striving for success
Board advisor, business consultant, and founder of the highly successful LHi Group, Tom Glanfielfd is no stranger to winning in business. Having started his first business from a friend’s attic, he recently sold the multinational company for a figure rumoured to be in the region of £100m.
In the last two years, Tom has become a sought-after business consultant, board advisor, and non-executive director, transforming the fortunes of startups and established businesses.
We managed to grab an interview with Tom Glanfield to find out the most important things that CEOs should consider when striving for success. Who better to learn from than someone who has mastered the art of growing a business quickly?
Tom Glanfield: ‘Be the dumbest person in the boardroom’.
Q: Can you explain the meaning behind your mantra “Be the dumbest person in the boardroom”?
A: I get asked this a lot. I should start by saying that I’m not advocating being stupid.What I’m driving at is that a CEO or boss should strive to surround themselves with brilliant, knowledgeable individuals in the boardroom. People who are the absolute best in their specialised areas. Ultimately, people who know a lot more than you do.
Being stupid and feeling stupid are two very different things. I can tell you that I feel stupid a lot of the time, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m always willing and happy to learn new things, and I’m encouraged by how talented my board is.
CEOs should not be scared of feeling stupid in the boardroom. You can’t know everything, so surrounding yourself with knowledgeable specialists is the key to both personal and professional growth.
Park your ego to be an effective leader
- You mention that CEOs should park their egos. Can you explain more on this point?
- For most bosses, it’s not easy to feel like the most stupid person in the boardroom. So most avoid that situation. It’s natural for bosses to crave respect and authority. Quite often, they seek to achieve that by keeping up a facade of intellectual superiority. Which is obviously ridiculous, and exhausting.
In reality, bosses are human too, meaning that they are ‘winging it’ sometimes, like everyone else. If you are able to park your ego and face the fact that you don’t know everything, then surrounding yourself with talent will make your life easier.
Another way of looking at it is this; if you are the most talented person in your team, then you haven’t recruited very well. Why would you not want the best people around you?
- So it’s as simple as that? Park your ego, and recruit people who are brighter than you?
- In theory, yes. However, there are two things that are crucial to making this approach work.
Firstly, you must adopt a culture in your business of allowing talent to thrive. There is no point in having the best talent in the world if you suppress that talent by not letting people flourish. Be humble, and listen to others. Foster an environment where people can be at their best and not fearful of expressing their opinions or knowledge.
Secondly, and perhaps the most important aspect within all of this is; you must get your recruitment absolutely perfect.
The ability to find, attract and retain top talent is crucial for overall success and growth. In other words, recruitment forms the foundation of any successful organisation. The people you hire directly impact growth, innovation, and performance.
Assembling a team of highly talented individuals who share your vision and possess the necessary skills, isn’t easy. If you manage it, those people become the driving force behind your success, and help remove some pressure from your shoulders.
Recruitment should be a top priority at a board level
Q: Be the dumbest person in the boardroom, create a culture of growth, and recruit the brightest talent. It sounds like a good plan, but recruiting the best people can be easier said than done. What type of recruitment strategy would you recommend?
A: Strategic recruitment is crucial for successful business scaling and growth. It lays the foundation for expansion and minimises disruptions. To begin a recruitment strategy, every board should carefully identify the skills and positions required to support growth and anticipate future needs. This allows for a proactive search for top talent before the need becomes urgent.
I would advise companies aiming to attract the best talent to clearly define the roles and required skills. By defining your ideal candidate profile, you can tailor your recruitment process accordingly.
Adopt a proactive approach. Utilise multiple channels to attract top talent, but most of all, at the executive level, partner with specialised recruitment agencies. The better the recruiter, the better chance you have of finding the best talent.
Focus on skills and attitude. Look for candidates who possess the necessary abilities and the right mindset to excel in the roles you’re offering. It’s important to align their capabilities with your organisation’s needs for better performance and long-term success.
On that note, it’s important to communicate your company culture and values. This helps attract individuals who align with your organisation’s ethos and are more likely to thrive in your work environment.
Q: What role do executive and non-executive directors play in the recruitment process?
A: Executive directors play a crucial role, especially when hiring for senior-level positions. Normally they have an understanding of the company’s strategic objectives to ensure alignment between the candidate’s skills and the business goals.
Executive directors bring their expertise to assess a candidate’s potential for growth within the organisation, shaping the leadership team accordingly.
Additionally, non-executive directors or board advisors can offer diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience, providing an independent viewpoint to ensure that selected candidates align with the company’s strategic direction.
Moreover, non-executive directors can bring credibility to make the company more attractive to top talent. Especially if the business is an SME or startup.
Q: Thanks for spending a few minutes with us Tom. I’m sure this is great advice for any CEO or business owner. I know from my own experience that recruitment isn’t always the priority at board level. Before we finish, would you like to tell us what you are up to following the sale of LHi?
- It’s been a pleasure talking to you. You’re completely right, those at the top of business should take ownership of hiring and retaining top-tier talent. Businesses significantly increase the chances of achieving their goals. Conversely, poor recruitment can hold your business back.
Don’t forget, if you are in a leadership role, park your ego, surround yourself with brilliant people, and encourage them to thrive. Your staff will respect you more if you are honest and humble. You can still show strong leadership, and you will be expected to make tough decisions, but you don’t need to pretend you know more than others around you.
One final piece of advice is structure your business so that your colleagues are fully incentivised to drive success. As an example, we structured LHi very well, and I regularly introduce a similar structure into other businesses.
As for me, I’m still on the board at LHi, helping the team to continue on their hugely successful path of growth.
I’m also working with several other boards through TEG Capital, providing business consultancy services. I learned a lot of hard lessons when scaling LHi, and it’s wonderful to share that knowledge with other business owners and watch them reap the rewards.