“I think to actually grow and improve you have to step outside of your comfort zone. I’m a real believer that in sales and recruitment and growing businesses, you have to step out of it to move forwards. I also believe that in order to get your teams to do that you have to lead by example. You have do it yourself and put yourself out there.”
For an episode of her podcast ‘The Authentic Recruiter’, leadership coach Claire Ackers speaks to The Bridge’s Executive Director James Milner. Topics for discussion include; why James believes recruitment brings freedom, why he tells the brutal honest truth when interviewing potential recruiters to join the business, and how COVID-19 has changed the industry.
Read an excerpt from the discussion below. To listen to the full podcast, click here
James begins by telling how he ended up working within recruitment:
“As with most people in recruitment I fell into it. I think it’s very rare that anyone at age five or six says to their parents ‘I want to be a recruitment consultant when I grow up!’ I probably wanted to be a footballer or something when I was young. But interestingly I got into it after I went to university doing sport. I always thought I’d do something within that, but once I came out of university I realised there probably aren’t that many jobs in it unless you’re very good at it. It took quite a while for me to understand what I wanted to do. I worked abroad a couple of times doing ski seasons and things I didn’t class as a career. When I came back to the UK I wanted something I could have ownership over. The thing that appealed to me about recruitment was that you could have a big impact on the amount of money that you make, and the harder you work the more benefit that you can get out of it. So I got into it in a graduate role, working for one of the larger companies in the IT space for a number of years. I really enjoyed it but fell out of love a bit and so I went travelling for a bit. I was quite lucky in that before I went, I was offered a job at The Bridge, whether I came back in six months or a year. That was a nice idea so I came back and joined. It was a very different organisation than the one I worked in before. It was people centric with a lack of KPIs. It was an adult environment that trusted people to do their jobs. That really suited my style. I’ve been with the Bridge for 15 years now and we’re a much bigger organisation than before.”
The topic of the conversation shifted to the nature of the role itself – the pros and the cons that come with working in a role that both allows for freedom yet relies a lot on self-motivation and drive in order to be successful within it.
“You realise when you go into recruitment that its incredibly hard work that requires a multitude of skills. It isn’t for everyone and you need to be resilient with great people skills. I think it does enable people to have freedom but it’s not for everybody. Working in this industry has allowed me to do a lot but it wouldn’t be the case for everybody.
When we interview for recruiters now we’re realistic. One of the things that we started doing a number of years ago was we started telling people the brutal truth. Recruitment can be a repetitive job with a lot of knock-backs, and you need to be a person to handle that with your own personal motivation. We don’t have heavy KPIs at The Bridge, we focus on customer service and what we expect from our consultants is probably slightly different to other organisations in that you need a bit more self-motivation. If you need to micro-managed, then our organisation won’t work for you. Part of our recruitment process is making sure we have the right personalities.”
After 15 years working at The Bridge in numerous roles, James is now Executive Director, leading the business from a strategic point of view. James speaks about his leadership style and how this has changed as his career has developed.
“I think my leadership is ever-evolving. I’m a big believer that you don’t know everything. I do a lot of reading and I have a coach who helps me. I’ve had a management-type role for a number of years, and I think when you first start managing you tend to do it in the way you yourself may have been lead or managed previously. Possibly when I started, I was a bit more hardcore than I am now. The role I’ve got at the moment is having a number of directors feeding into me who have teams below them. My style now is to try and give people the autonomy and ownership of things and try and do it in an adult way and delegate the authority down. I’ve become a lot more open with my communication. Especially through something like COVID, I’ve been trying hard to make sure everyone in the business knows where we are so people can take ownership of it.”