Interview with Tom Griffin – Behaviour Strategist & Storyteller – Speaker, Facilitator and Coach: Extraordinary People


1- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Recently in November 2016 you were the Chairman of the EMEA HR Summit in London (Europe, Middle East and Africa HR Summit). What was the most important piece of knowledge that you gained from this experience? And how do such conferences and summits support leadership development within individuals?

Tom Griffin: The most important lesson is that technology is an enabler and that change is opportunity. When you make change happen rather than have I t happen to you incredible things become possible.

2- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: If you are a recruiter, how much weight would you give to a person attending such conferences?

Tom Griffin: One of the most important qualities you can posses in life in curiosity. The belief that there is more to discover and the desire to go out and discover it, marks out the extraordinary from the ordinary. If I were a recruiter, any potential candidate that shows that they have this quality and used it to explore their own personal and professional development, would impress me greatly. The attendance at conferences such as this would signal just such an attitude and appetite.

3- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Advise HR professionals with other fields to study aside from human resources.

Tom Griffin: The insights that we now have into the truths of how we human beings work means that we now have the ‘instruction manual’ on what it takes to achieve whatever it is we want for ourselves in our lives. I would strongly advise HR professionals to cultivate an interest and fascination in the areas of applied behavioural science and applied neuroscience. They are broad areas and I am happy to point people into more specific areas that relate to their personal interest.

4- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: From your point of view what are the qualities of a clever public speaker?

Tom Griffin: Three words, engage, align and elicit. Great speakers are able to engage an audience at very deep, and most importantly personal, levels. They tap into the beliefs and values of their audiences both individually and collectively. Having done this, and having encouraged audiences to engage with your session on their own terms and through the lens that they themselves look at the world, a great speaker will then create an alignment between where the audience is at and the theme and direction of the talk. Both the speaker and the audience become one, and share a sense of community and purposefulness. From this place the speaker can then elicit the beliefs and the behaviours that will then make a tangible difference to the lives of those they have had the privilege to speak in front of. Great speakers all share one common desire… to inspire their audiences to want to be the best they can be.

5- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Being a Senior Partner of Extraordinary People, how did you work on marketing the organisation services across the UK?

Tom Griffin: I am spending 2017 consolidating my research and work over the last few decades in to sharable formats for the social/digital age and am not there for marketing Extraordinary People. Even before this Extraordinary People was not really marketed as such. I would simple meet people, talk or chair conferences and write opinion pieces. It was from this that projects would flow.

6- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Extraordinary People “transforms organisations by engaging people from the inside out” can you please share with us a case-study; a difficult challenge you have dealt with in one of those organisations and how did you overcome it?

Tom Griffin: A major insurance company wanted to set itself a part from its competitors through a customer care based proposition. Given that much of the interactions took place through a call centre, where call times of less the 3 minutes was a key performance indicator, the challenge was to have the call centre not only believe that it was possible, but that it was worthwhile striving for.

The obvious solution was soft skill training in the areas of verbal communications and empathy. However I chose not to start there. I first wanted to engage people with the values and beliefs that they held in their personal lives around helping those they cared about. In addition I wanted them to explore and expand the beliefs that they held about themselves and just what it is they believed they were capable of achieving. Once these two areas were stimulated into life (through the sharing of stories), I then created an alignment of their own personal values around helping others (and what it felt like to help and be helped), with why the company wanted to take better care of its customers.

These two elements took up 40% of the training programmes. This was time very well invested as it meant participants were ably to assimilate, practice and perfect the 7 behavioural capabilities that followed much more quickly that a tradition approach manages.

As a result of the programme, attended by every one of the call centre staff, customer satisfaction score went up and average call time actually came down!

7- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Many fresh graduates, middle age employees and professionals consider career shifting? What do you think about this move? And from your personal opinion why do you think the reason behind the increase in career shifting?

Tom Griffin: We live in as world of accelerating change, so therefor to actively seek out change is to actively harness its power and potential. Whenever we find ourselves in new situations our whole physiology responds in a totally different way. We enter a state of super learning and accelerated growth, not to mention the dramatic expansion of possibilities. My advice is to seek out change and join its fast flowing river.

8- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: During this era a lot of HR people agree that the performance appraisal system hasn’t been strongly effective. In your opinion what kinds of evaluation can be used or implemented instead? Or other ideas to make the performance appraisal more effective?

Tom Griffin: Key Performance Indicators should become Key Behaviour Indicators that are expressed specifically in term of what people with say and do (what you will hear and see) when they are working at their best. Here we enter the world of heuristic behavioural science and can then start to see the measurable impact of intervnetions such as training development appraisals.

9- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: As a professional you have been through several job interviews until you have reached your current position. What was the most difficult interview question you were asked, and what was your answer to it?

Tom Griffin: I have never had a job I needed to interview for!

10- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: How far do you think Human Resources Management processes can go flexible with the millennials and the new digital era? Do you think the overall company system should totally yield to millennials working standards?

Tom Griffin: I don’t think this is about Millennials driving flexibility. It should be about our harnessing the technologies and possibilities that have made millennials ‘Millennials’. This is wondrous stuff we should run with not be pushed forward by it.

11- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: In the EMEA HR Summit you suggested that “Storytelling” should be a course implemented inside organisations with line-managers to help them become leaders. Can you please elaborate more? And do you believe that the talent of storytelling can be taught to any person?

Tom Griffin: Storytelling is simple the process of engaging people through shared experiences. Story goes beyond language; in the same way that music transcends notes. To be a story, communication has to become the narrative of what has happened, is happening or you want to happen. Leaders inspire people to believe that they can be the best version of themselves, and in being that, achieve extraordinary things. In order to do that, leaders have to engage those they seek to lead at the level of their own beliefs and values. Those beliefs and values are formed out of our life experiences. When we hear stories, the way we relate to them is by calling up our own life experiences. You can see therefor how the use of stories gives leaders a direct line into much deeper levels of personal engagement with others. From this place you can then use stories to create an alignment between where your people are and where you want them to go (seen from their own perspective not yours). Having engaged and aligned your people you can elicit the desired behavior by again using stories to paint a highly motivational picture of what the future looks like and what it will feel like to play a contributing part in making it real.

Can anyone be taught storytelling? Well we all already experts, it’s just we don’t realise it. So the training element is more about enabling people to discover what a great storyteller they actually already are! 

12- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: You studied classical theatre at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and you have a massive amount of experience in acting, dancing and singing on different stages like: Repertory Theatre, London’s West End Theatres and Saddlers Wells Opera, does this have an influence into making you a more professional public speaker? Do you advice public speakers to take acting courses to enhance their performance?

Tom Griffin: My background as a professional actor has equipped me with technical communication skills, the ability to engage an audience emotionally, and the ability to intuitively ‘feel’ the messages that intend to convey. It has enabled me to understand the importance of a strong narrative flow, the ups and downs and changes of pace within a keynote, and how to create an emotional and intellectual ‘golden thread’ that runs through any speech. Ultimately if you want your speech to be a great piece of communication it needs to inspire people not just to believe what you believe, but to want to do those things that will make a real difference for themselves and others.

Most certainly acting courses will help speakers in many ways and will be a lot of fun too!

13- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Being part of many plays and theatre performances, how does the stage director motivate and train you and other team members? Can this be applied in Human Resources Management?

Tom Griffin: Acting and performing is a collaborative endeavour the focus of which is on helping each other by constructively contributing to each other’s performance. It recognizes that the success of the play depends on every performer being the best that they can be. A leader can learn from the theatre director in that their role is to mold, shape and guide the talent to better express itself. Imagine what then becomes possible!

14- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Imagine if the human resources department represents a musical instrument, what would it be?

Tom Griffin: I will cheat on this answer and say…. The Conductor.

15- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Would you advice theatre directors to study human resources as a way of managing people?

Tom Griffin: I think they already do in their own ways.

16- HR Revolution Middle East Magazine: Tom, if you are to create your own HR Summit, which country will it take place in, and what will be the theme you would like to choose? Why?

Tom Griffin: On top of the world (Greenland) or in a wilderness somewhere like a desert, forrest or mountain scape!

My theme would be: “How to help others be the best that they can be.”