Q&A with Owen Toms
1. What motivates you?
For me it’s about the footprint I leave and the impact I have. I’m motivated by my job and the anticipation that I’m making a difference. Hearing what impact I’ve had on an individual or the impact I’ve had on a business is incredibly satisfying.
2. How do you handle pressure?
It’s about understanding that pressure can help you be your best - almost seeing it as a bit of a friend rather than something to be worried about. If I care enough about something, there’s going to be an element of pressure because I want a great outcome. This helps me to perform at my best, embracing pressure rather than fearing it.
3. What will change most about the world of work in the next few years?
What we’re seeing a lot of at the moment is the use of data. Decisions are being made using newly accessible and insightful information. Being able to use and interpret this data effectively will give business a winning edge.
4. What’s your defining career moment so far?
I’d say something that was significant for me was when I moved back to the Isle of Wight. I grew up on the Island, but my career has been in and around London. Moving back was potentially a bit of a risk due to the complexities of travel. I love living here and the fact I’ve made it work, with the requirements of my career, pleases me.
5. What book, film or tv show has really changed the way you thought about something?
I often re-read Carol Dweck’s book on Mindsets. That has really changed the way I think about what I value, what I do and the importance of having a ‘Growth’ mindset. When I first read it, I looked back on my role as a parent and spotted lots of areas where I could have done things differently to help build a stronger Growth Mindset in my children. A big takeaway from the book is to see challenges as a real opportunity for growth. It’s one of those books I keep going back to and reminding myself of those key messages.
6. What’s your favorite sport to business lesson or story?
There’s a great story of a guy called Steve Way, who was a self-confessed couch potato. At age 33, he decided that he was going to stop smoking, get fit and sort himself out. Seven years later, he represented England in the marathon at the Commonwealth Games. This story shows that we’re limitless in what we can do if we’ve got the drive, motivation and desire. We often judge people on how they present themselves at a moment in time but that may not reflect what they could be in the future. To the people that once looked at him and doubted his potential, he’s shown that if you want something badly enough you can make it happen, and I really like that!
7. What makes you proud?
It’s about the impact on others and making a difference. It’s genuinely believing what you do makes a difference. I wouldn’t be coming to work every day if I didn’t feel it was important.
8. What makes you angry?
That’s a hard question as I don’t really get angry! Things that are blatantly unfair do irritate me. I know people say, ‘life isn’t fair’, but I like to challenge situations that seem unfair. An example of this was when a local school near me was set for closure. It performed well and was really needed by the local community, but it was also on a site that could be sold for a high value. I got really involved in trying to keep the school open and am very pleased that we were successful. The school is thriving and remains at the heart of the community.
9. Which leader do you most admire most and why?
I don’t think there’s one leader but rather aspects from many leaders that I admire. There are many admirable qualities in the people I’ve had as my leaders throughout my career. Whether it’s demonstrating belief in me or providing opportunities to grow. I’m big on authentic leadership and love seeing leaders bringing their own personality to the role. A good example of this in the sporting world would be Jurgen Klopp. He has an important job managing Liverpool, and you see him in his interviews just being himself, having a laugh and cracking jokes. He’s serious when he needs to be, but I like the fact he has the confidence to be authentic.
10. What are your best and worst characteristics?
I’m very enthusiastic which is great because I can get quite excitable about things I’m involved with and I find it can be quite infectious. But equally, it can be my worst trait because when I get excitable, I sometimes speak too quickly. So, it’s almost like a double-edged sword. It’s a strength, but like lots of strengths if you overplay them there’s a shallow side which means I need to reign it in a bit.
11. What would you like to learn and why?
I’ve got two things - the first being to speak Welsh. Specifically, I want to be able to sing the Welsh National Anthem in Welsh because I’ve got family heritage in Wales and I like listening to the language.
I’d also like to learn to be a decent golfer. I love being outside and I’ve got a lot of friends that play golf but, right now, I’m not prioritising the time it takes to learn. As I’m away from home a lot, going off and playing golf at the weekends would not go down too well with my family. It’s on my list and it will happen in the future!
12. If you could choose anybody, who would you be for a day?
I would love to be some form of rock legend! I would love to get on stage in front of thousands of people, play guitar with everyone singing along to your songs. You’d get such a buzz and you’re never going to know what that feels like unless you do it. I’d also like a big Rockstar party afterwards.
13. Who would you like to invite for a dinner party, living or dead?
My childhood hero was Errol Flynn. He was in a lot of my favourite swashbuckling films. He had a really active career in exciting films, but he also had a very interesting personal life. I think he’d have a lot of anecdotes to share – I love story tellers. I think he’d be great entertainment.
14. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I think ‘be yourself’ – it goes back to what I said previously with authentic leadership. I’ve had lots of opportunities where I’ve had to step up and take on roles. One of my quite early leaders said to me: ‘You got this job because of you, it’s about what you can bring to the role yourself. Don’t try to be someone else.’ I know it is important to adapt and grow, but there is still room to be true to yourself.
15. What would your motto be (if you haven’t already got one)?
‘Keep it real’ is a good one. I’m big on practical application of great theory. I love all the research we do, and I’m passionate about having good conversations and identifying the ‘So What?’. What are you going to do that will make a real difference?
16. What personal value would you never compromise?
Keeping my word. I’ll do whatever it takes if I’ve made a commitment. This is particularly true for friends and loved ones. It’s important to always be there for your friends when someone needs you.