Lead With Purpose, Serve With Humility And Inspire Through Actions

They say when life gives you lemons you should make lemonade.

My guest on today’s episode is the living embodiment of that motto. He has been challenged in every way and still found a way to succeed. Today he’s helping others to lead more successfully.

Muhammad Mehmood crossed continents to take up a job in the UK National Health Service.

When he got here, a technical hitch meant he couldn’t start. Imagine being in a new country without an income, home or knowing anyone. Homeless and jobless he started from rock bottom.

He found a job as a Kitchen Porter.

Soon he found an opportunity. To turn an idea into a thriving hospitality business that could be successfully sold. After succeeding he was hired in to be CEO of a Tech company.

From homeless to leading 10,000 employees 

Muhammad Mehmood‘s journey meant completing nine degree/diploma courses (including qualifying as an MD). Learning to speak six languages. And visiting to around 55 countries.

I was lucky enough to spend a fascinating hour in discussion with Muhammad Mehmood.

And the best thing is that it was all recorded so you can listen in. 



Rob: [00:00:00] You’re an interesting man. You seem to have quite an interesting background. We’ve all got a LinkedIn profile and it tells you a snapshot of someone. And so what I’d like to do really is to go beyond that snapshot to get an understanding of how you think, what you do and why you 

Muhammad: think like that.

Muhammad: There has been a. quite a number of years experience behind, the lesson, the learnings I have had, and they’ve all contributed to who I am and what I do now, basically. 

Muhammad: It all started off with my very first venture when I left practicing medicine and stumbled into a world of hospitality.

Muhammad: That was quite challenging. And very soon, I personally realized that we need to hire people better than myself, train them and delegate them. And that lesson I learned the hard way, especially almost a year into this adventure if I may say. I was almost close to burnout stage and sales were [00:01:00] not going as intended.

Muhammad: In hindsight, I was probably micromanaging at that time. I want you to know everything, what’s going on. If I’m not there, I’m calling, 

” Hey guys, let me know the sales.” 

Muhammad: ” Have you delivered this?” 

Muhammad: “Have you delivered that?” 

Muhammad: The realization came when I hired a new employee.

Muhammad: She was quite young, probably 19 at that time. And in one of the meetings, I asked everybody like, okay, guys, it was a routine meetup, planning for the next couple of weeks. 

Muhammad: And I asked everyone do they have any question for me? 

Muhammad: As I was expecting pin drop silence, nobody had any question.

Muhammad: But this young lady stood up and says can I ask you a question? 

Muhammad: And mind you, she had joined us literally like a week prior to that. So I was a bit surprised and equally shocked in my mind, I was thinking it’s very bad to think that it was like, how dare she? 

Muhammad: And she said, Am I allowed to take breaks when I want to?

Muhammad: That was the first question. 

Muhammad: And second, she said, who is going to train me? 

Muhammad: I gave her the answer. I said, of [00:02:00] course, yes. The professional one. 

Muhammad: And second, I said we do have normal training. And what are you after some particular training? 

Muhammad: And she said, yes, because I want to be one day sitting in your position.

Muhammad: I just smiled back at that time. And, but it really hit me inside. That she has passion, she’s young she just probably finished her high school or college or whatever. 

Muhammad: I can’t remember what she was doing at that time, but that made me think I didn’t answer. I just walked out of the room because I had no answer to that.

Muhammad: But what I did as I would normally do when I want to think, I take the motorway and I was living in London that time. So I went on A13 up to her Southend on Sea. It was like late evening. So I just sat next to the sea and I started thinking and contemplating, what I’m doing. 

Muhammad: I also called my mother and I told her like, things are not going fine and, sales are not improving. I’m losing money. 

Muhammad: She said, son, maybe you’re doing something wrong. Maybe, just start thinking, do a kind of an introspection and reflection on what have you done so far. 

Muhammad: And that night I really thought about [00:03:00] it. 

Muhammad: The next morning I was a changed person. I gathered my main people. I told them that and I apologized to them for my behavior.

Muhammad: And I made sure that they all understood. 

Muhammad: I told them that I’ll be available for them. And, but from today whoever is, was hired for the purpose will be responsible for their actions, will be fully responsible for the results. And if anything they are to question me, they can, call me if I’m not around.

Muhammad: And then I called this young lady to my office and I told her you’re going to be shadowing me. You will learn directly from me. 

Muhammad: I had five locations at that time. And I used to go with her for training reasons, for auditing purposes, for checking these things. So this is how I trained her. 

Muhammad: After she left, like after a few years and now she’s Successfully running her own company and, I met her after five years and she was very happy and she told me that that was a great lesson she had obviously for me and during this journey, I learned about what empathy is, I knew [00:04:00] what empathy is, in our, in my medical school, when we were training there as young doctors.

Muhammad: When you’re dealing with patients, you need to show some compassion. You need to be, and especially I happen to have a one month of training in a special ward where you can see that the last stages of cancer patients. I’ve witnessed, the grief of the family is there.

Muhammad: The thing that I knew that how to approach it because we were trained to, how you say the bearer of bad news. This lesson, I started applying with my own employees to be compassionate, to be empathetic with them. 

Muhammad: This is how obviously it’s continued and fast forward as of today. That’s why I’m very much a strong promoter of empathy.

Muhammad: You can see in my posts as well, I’m talking about empathy, compassion, teamwork, delegation mentoring, because I’ve learned the hard way and I’m trying, 

Muhammad: I even have two mentees at the moment, young entrepreneurs, and this is something which I’m. guiding them as well, that whenever they hire people, they hire for make your job easier, basically, you don’t hire people just to tell them. 

Muhammad: As [00:05:00] many of the great leaders say, Richard Branson says the same things like, hire people and then, train them and get out of their way.

Muhammad: So I’m very much a firm believer in that. And hence, as I said, this is, it’s been a long journey of learning. I’m still learning, on a daily basis. 

Rob: That shows a certain amount of empathy and humility there at the start to have learned from that one lesson because like most of us our initial reaction would be, Oh, you’re just causing trouble or something like that. But immediately you switched and you recognized, do you think it was the medical training or was it something else that made you so receptive?

Muhammad: I do credit my medical training for that. I do credit a couple of my professors who actually really Made the person who I am and most importantly, I credit my mom from whom I learned a lot in my childhood as well. And one thing in a very early stage, she instilled in me the responsibility factor.

Muhammad: It’s a more, let’s say cultural thing, I’m from Pakistan and, the culture there or used [00:06:00] to be at least. Not now, like things have changed obviously over the years, but it was more like a male dominated society. 

Muhammad: That even though I have a elder sister, but I was told, from my childhood that you’re the eldest, you will be responsible after your dad, these kind of things.

Muhammad: But mom told me in a very nicer way, I would say she didn’t, brought me into situation like, okay, I’m the best and I can call the shots. But she instilled in me the responsibility. That’s why I’ve been a very responsible person from my early childhood. And this obviously came when I took responsibility of, I had about 300 plus employees, in my previous business.

Muhammad: That’s a huge responsibility. And especially we had an adverse time when we lost quite a big corporate contract and it literally wiped off 85 percent of our revenue. 

Muhammad: At that time I had about 97 employees on my payroll. I didn’t think about me. I said, okay, you know what, I’ll just probably, get rid of my sports car I used to have at that time, and probably, sell off a few [00:07:00] items and I’ll survive, and I could have done the easier way and just shut the business down because you can’t just imagine 85 percent of revenue.

Muhammad: But this is where my compassion came in okay, I’m responsible. So the responsibility came in no, I’m responsible for this. These are not only individuals. 93 families, some have kids, some have, probably they are helping out their elderly parents. So if I didn’t have that sense of responsibility or ownership, I would have literally, that was the easiest route just to raise your hands, and close the business.

Muhammad: But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t because we obviously it’s a Long discussion to go into that, we came out of it all of us together and out of 93, only two left because I made a proposal. I gathered my team and I said, look, whoever wants to leave today is the day and I can only pay you for, let’s say, two months in advance as a compensation and that’s it and the rest who stay, I can’t guarantee when they will get to pay out for salaries and for, so it was an achievement and it’s purely because of, I think my team saw me taking responsibility of the [00:08:00] actions. It was not their fault. 

Muhammad: It wasn’t mine either, but I being the leader, it took responsibility. Okay. I’m responsible for what happened. 

Muhammad: Secondly, I was open and transparent with them that what is the situation. I didn’t try to hide anything and didn’t go for these layoffs, so to speak, in a cunning way, I would say like most of the business they do.

Muhammad: I didn’t do that approach, even though my board was very much against it, but I put my neck on the line because. It was not only me, it was 93 families.

Rob: When there are those times, like you say, so many companies, they’ll think about, okay how, what do we need from these people? 

Rob: We’ll let them go this day. We’ll have it all sorted. So they’re straight off the premises. And when you do that, you’ve completely lost any trust.

Rob: Whereas people understand that you have ups and downs, and a lot of them, depending on their circumstances will stick around. So what was the outcome there from that? 

Muhammad: So our outcome was that in 10 months time, we had a successful exit. That was the outcome, the outcome, which I would have been dreaming of.

Muhammad: And it [00:09:00] happened, because we changed our strategy, we remarketed our brands, we went into, instead of just the B2C went into a sort of B2B, we went to the B2C market. We engaged with we brought in, so our revenue was coming mostly from banks like UBS, Deutsche bank, Goldman Sachs.

Muhammad: I realized that we, I’ve put all my eggs in one basket and this is where we changed the direction of the business. Of course it was very hard the first three, four months, after that debacle that happened, we were lucky to raise some funds pay off my employees, probably, people behind two months, but still, they were still getting paid or something.

Muhammad: My team was the biggest trend behind me, they stood behind me. If I alone, I would have just collapsed, so I created the team and this team, even though now they’re scattered all over the world, you wouldn’t believe, Rob, that if I am going to Germany, I’ve got those people, they’re always welcoming me into their homes from Italy, from Spain from Poland, from Bulgaria you name it.

Muhammad: And I still to this date, if they don’t call me the whole year, I get Christmas greetings. [00:10:00] And on my birthday and I’m humbled and honored for that, 

Rob: Leading is lonely. And at a time when it’s so tumultuous, that must have been a strength and also, a validation for your approach.

Muhammad: Yes, it was. I used to obviously smoke a lot because, you’re under so much pressure. As you said, it’s, leadership is a lonely journey. It’s, sorry it’s not a journey which is lonely. It is the position itself. Sometimes there are, like, obviously you are as a human you get those negative thoughts in your mind.

Muhammad: You want to talk to somebody, but you maybe can’t. It’s the restrictions of the boundaries you put around you. And this is where also another lesson, which I learned was it’s okay to show your vulnerability. It’s okay. You’re human. You can’t be perfect, and everyone has a bad day.

Muhammad: My employees or my, like my right hand people, there were about six of them, especially three of them out of those six. They were quite open and engaging, and they actually encouraged me to open up because they kept asking Muhammad, is there something we can help [00:11:00] you? Is there something bothering you?

Muhammad: No. It’s everything is fine with a fake smile. I knew it’s a fake smile, but I had to because I thought okay, I need to be strong and I need to show my team that everything is okay. They shouldn’t be worrying about. But gradually, I learned this, but again, it’s an experience and many people would have done things differently, maybe, showing their anger or aggression, but I learned to live and control my emotions, obviously, and I think I started lowering the guards as well with my immediate circle.

Muhammad: And obviously not only my employees, but my friends, or a mentor. I always credit him for, if you don’t mind, I can take his name. If you ever see this video is Maurice Aboudi. He has been a great person to me. He was the investor in our business.

Muhammad: And he has been my mentor since I. embarked on this entrepreneurial journey. And even now, as of today, like if I have anything, if I’m making decision, I’m just going to make him a call and say, Hey, I’m thinking about this. So this person has played a huge part. I [00:12:00] learned a lot about being patient, how to strategically, change and shift your direction of a business.

Muhammad: Or obviously it’s not always about money. It’s about your brand value as well, right? Who you are, what do you call yourself? What’s your USP? Sorry. How you promote your brand image, et cetera. So there’s a lot of things. And so all combined, it’s a mix people.

Muhammad: It’s like a diverse group of individuals and everyone has a different coming from different culture, different mindset, but everyone had a big impact on me in my journey, so to speak. 

Rob: And are you now like in what you do now? So obviously you’ve learned a lot of lessons.

Rob: You’ve done it. You’ve proved yourself. Are you more, more like a mentor? 

Rob: Maurice Aboudi was to you. Is that what you do for others 

Muhammad: now? And that is correct. Yes. That’s why I have until two years ago, I had about 27 people under my wings as my mentees, but then I had a different contract.

Muhammad: So I spent a lot of time in the U.S working for a [00:13:00] U S company. And there I also tried to translate my mentoring part and how, you can promote empathy, compassion, because things were not that great in that environment, but I’m now trying to protect businesses.

Muhammad: When I say protect is that if I spot something like toxicity I think that’s one of the common topic and on LinkedIn as well, you and I both know, like we, we, all of us talk about it toxicity. So that is something if I spot it, I’m the first person to raise the alarm or a flag, if I’m not in that position, I’m maybe in a consultancy role, right?

Muhammad: Address let the leadership team know about it. And my mission now is to ensure that we have obviously, great set of entrepreneurs who are embarking on the journey to learn from our failures, our mistakes, again, that’s to me is the iceberg, like I said, yesterday on my post.

Muhammad: So it’s not about empathy. It’s also about the success. People just see the surface, if you’re successful, you would don’t see behind the scenes. So what I’m trying to do is with the youth at the moment, [00:14:00] I’m showing them the negative side of it. When I say negative, it’s guys, this is the reality.

Muhammad: Just a few weeks ago, I had a person approach me. So he had some money and he said, look, I’m just gonna buy this and hire some people. And what do you think? Is it a great idea or not? 

Muhammad: I said, it’s a terrible idea. 

Muhammad: First of all, it’s. Starting a business is not like if you have money, you just can’t buy a unit, throw some bodies in it and it will work.

Muhammad: No. So it was an interesting discussion, I had with him and I tried to share my ideas and thoughts. So this is what I do. When anyone approaches me, I share my experiences and if anyone wants to be a part of my mentorship program which I haven’t, I’m not doing it officially, so I’m not, promoting this anywhere on my website as well.

Muhammad: It’s more about the SAS and the hospitality consultancy I do, but that’s something I think is more like a passion, a hobby than making money. Yeah. 

Rob: I think when you’ve learned lessons, you want to try and save other people from the pain of learning. Do you find so when you’re looking to pass on information, [00:15:00] sometimes it’s difficult for people to accept it when they haven’t been through that experience.

Rob: Do you find that? 

Muhammad: Yes, there are instances when I can see that these people are probably just listening out of respect. But they’re not getting the point, right? 

Muhammad: Sometimes people ask me probing questions okay. But my way of saying is not to tell them, okay, this is how you should do.

Muhammad: I try to explain them through examples that, okay, guys, I had this scenario and this is how I did. 

Muhammad: So if they want to capture some moments out of that, some learning from it. Brilliant. 

Muhammad: If they have some questions, I’m very happy to answer, but I never say that. Okay. Somebody comes with an idea. I just never push them away by saying that’s a bad idea.

Muhammad: Even in my head it’s a terrible idea, but I try to engage them first, understand their perspective, why they think this is a great idea, what in their mindset or what’s their plan to execute this idea before throwing in my two cents, It’s the first part of listening. So I’ll probably I’ll do 98 percent of listening and then 2 percent of talking to them.

Muhammad: Like Yoda. Yeah, [00:16:00] exactly. 

Rob: Before you went into business you were a medical student and then you trained in business. What made you go through medical training and not decide to do it? 

Muhammad: Okay. That’s a question I get asked so many times, practically everybody, and I’m writing, I have a book, which is hopefully soon to be published. And there’s a couple of videos I’ve done which I’ll be posting under my leadership chronicles on LinkedIn that cover that part. 

Muhammad: Briefly speaking, going into medical profession was never my ambition. I was more into going into space, but that’s my passion is, I’ve been a fan of NASA since my childhood.

Muhammad: I used to write them letters, before the time when we had internet facilities, I used to write letters to them and kindly love John F. Kennedy Space Center, very, been very kind to me since my childhood, and they used to send me tons of information by post. And my last correspondence with them when I was in high school was that, okay, how do I get myself into this astronaut [00:17:00] program?

Muhammad: And they sent me all the requirements, that, okay, you need to have this and it’s a subject, etc. But that’s traditionally in our culture at that time. There were two professions, an engineer or a doctor, and my mum had this dream of me becoming a doctor. But I had a passion for astronomy, so not even engineering, it’s a different brain to astronomy.

Muhammad: So it was a clash of, let’s say, opinions that time. And also I was told by NASA authorities that if I need to be, become an astronaut, I need to be a US citizen, and I wasn’t a European citizen at that time. So there were constraints and they were very open about it, but they’d send me a letter.

Muhammad: I still have those. These were probably 25 years ago, those letters, even more than that, sorry, I have those letters from them. And I was how you say, dejected when I saw this letter and I was like, okay, and I called my uncle who used to, he still lives in, in Germany. I called him and I said is this true?

Muhammad: Cause I didn’t know at that time, I didn’t travel that much. I had no idea, what happens [00:18:00] outside in the real world. So he explained me exactly. And then he told me like, okay, we can do this. You enroll yourself and you, it takes time, but eventually you can. But then my parents obviously had this different opinion.

Muhammad: So they put me into a medical school. But equally so in parallel, what I did was I enrolled myself in a part time classes to apply in an engineering school as well, because I wanted to ensure that I have multiple streams to choose from, but then somehow, fast forward, I ended up in a medical university in St.

Muhammad: Petersburg. 

Muhammad: That’s where I developed my passion towards medical profession. And I think the strongest influence I had was one of my earlier teacher. She sat me down and she explained me the benefits and stuff because I was open with her. I probably was more open with her than my parents at that time.

Muhammad: I told her like, look, I’m, I think I’m forced into this and I don’t like this. And, but I think she worked on me for quite a few weeks and I ended up. Achieving a gold medal in from the university [00:19:00] when I graduated, but in parallel, I also went into commercial management, also into community medicines.

Muhammad: I have a multiple, avenues I did in parallel. And then I had this dream because my NASA dream obviously didn’t materialize. So I had another passion. I’ve developed passion towards NHS, even though I wasn’t in England that time, but I knew about NHS. I was researching a lot. And then I just made some inquiries.

Muhammad: Back in the days we had this NHS graduate management schemes within the NHS sector. So I applied for it and I got it. 

Muhammad: And this was one of the reasons I moved into England. Purely because I had this opportunity and then obviously certain constraints came in. And I was literally homeless, had no money, spent nights next to this embankment station.

Muhammad: I still, I show my friend, that little tiny corner where there’s a bench. And I said, I used to sleep on that bench, back in the days. 

Muhammad: Found a job as a kitchen porter, in an Italian restaurant. And I think this is the first time I entered into hospitality, started to understand, okay, what could go on.

Muhammad: So it’s completely different as you can imagine, from [00:20:00] medicine, from forensic medicine, from commercial management into this. So this is where the journey started. And during that time, I went into a bar with a friend and I met a German guy there at the bar. And he was Opening his first venture, a pizzeria, and he offered me to join him.

Muhammad: Because he spotted that I do have this entrepreneurial blood in me and I want to do something because we had a very nice discussion. So this discussion merged into like our further discussion. Then we became quite close friends and then we launched this concept and it’s, I never looked back since then.

 Most Kids have enough trouble with doing schoolwork and it’s Oh, do I have to, even doing a degree, but you were doing two, maybe three degrees in parallel. A medical degree is demanding. 

Muhammad: It is. And Rob, the thing was, because for me, my ideal person has always been my dad.

Muhammad: And my dad is from a very humble background. And he didn’t have those. Let’s say necessities in his life, which are [00:21:00] necessities, basic necessities but he still was the very first person who actually finished his MBA degree back in the days. An MPA, sorry, it wasn’t MBA at that time, MPA. So he went into universities, first time in history of his family.

Muhammad: When I say humble, it’s really very humble background. He didn’t even have electricity at home. I used to, study under candlelight or the lamps, and I, in a healthier way, we always compete with each other. So he told me that he’s got three degrees, which he has said banking degree, a law degree and a business degree.

Muhammad: So he said that, I’ve got three. And I achieved them with no support, my parents were very poor, and I used to live off, streets and this and that. And you’ve got at least a home, you’ve got some, opportunity. I’ll acknowledge you as a person, it was a challenge from his side.

Muhammad: When you will beat me to that, so this was in my head no, I need to be better than my dad in a healthier way. So it was a competition. So that’s why it always pushed me to do more and ended up [00:22:00] doing now I have a total nine. So he has got three. So I keep telling him I’ve got six more, 

Rob: so nine degrees.

Rob: So the medical engineering commercial 

Muhammad: management. So I’ve got mixture, right? So it’s a, sorry, it’s a mixture of degrees and diploma. So in total, it’s nine. So obviously management and under management, I’ve got three different like diplomas. Then obviously I’ve got this MD degree. Then I’ve got a diploma in forensic medicine because that was also something I.

Muhammad: Let’s say I’ve always been scattered, around. So forensic medicine also, I had this passion developed, like how an interest okay, I could be a forensic expert because I had very good grades in a forensic subject. And the professor of forensic medicine was very keen that I should join his faculty and, start doing that.

Muhammad: But that prompted me to take a secondary diploma on forensic medicine as well. Especially, how, for example, after an incident, especially. When it’s involving a gun wounds and all these, shenanigans. So this is something I learned in this diploma. Then obviously there are three different diplomas within hospitality because I [00:23:00] wanted to ensure that I know what I’m doing.

Muhammad: So I enrolled myself in special courses, but that didn’t end because once I, when I sold my business, I exited it. This was first time I started my, let’s say, testing the waters in business consultancy, especially specializing in the Hospitality trade and also obviously involved in staff training, which all has been a passion.

Muhammad: But I was picked up to be an interim CEO for a software business. So I had no understanding of how the tech sector works, right? 

Muhammad: I’m not a tech literate and I’ve never claimed to be one, but that’s my probably the weakest part. And because this CEO knew me from my hospitality businesses, so he said I can trust you.

Muhammad: So there was an arrangement, so I stepped into his role. And three days in, I was attended a stand up, a scrum meeting, sorry. 

Muhammad: I didn’t know at that time what scrum is. What is sprint? Because these are like the dev terms, right? The technical term. I had no clue. I was looking at everyone like an idiot and everyone knows that I’m the interim CEO for the next [00:24:00] nine, 10 months.

Muhammad: So I had a chats down with the CPO at that time, CTO, sorry. And I said, because CTO was my friend, I knew him, outside that company as well. And I said, Hey man, you need to help me out here. I don’t want to be, feeling myself like a fool and people can literally, pull wool in my eyes.

Muhammad: And I would say, yeah, okay, let’s do this. I can’t afford this to happen. And what will Ben, the CEO who has stepped out for some personal reasons, he had to step out. 

Muhammad: I spent the next two months. After work, me and my CTO, we both used to sit down in the office and he used to show me and teach me how this everything works in the tech side.

Muhammad: How we develop ideation to launch. This is how it exactly happened. What are sprints? 

Muhammad: So I started, I enrolled myself in scrum courses, to understand, and two months later, I think everyone was surprised that I would question the developers as well. 

Muhammad: So what I am trying to say is that if a new opportunity comes, always take it, even though it’s not my comfort zone, but I don’t want to be standing [00:25:00] in front of my public, my people, and not being able to contribute.

Muhammad: I think that’s a major factor. I want to contribute something, right? 

Muhammad: For example, I was watching the Dragon’s Den the other day, and Deborah or Peter Jones, these two dragons, I obviously, I have a huge respect for both of them. I’ve followed them for a long time. And Deborah always says that when she invests, she said, I’m investing in a business where I feel that I can add value.

Muhammad: Otherwise I just don’t put money. I think that’s something similar in my head, always. 

Muhammad: If I don’t provide value, I believe that I’m not, how you say, I shouldn’t be in that position. So that’s my mindset. And I wanted to prove myself that I can be the CEO of any business, including technology business. So this is where my SAS industry, relationship started.

Muhammad: And I’ve been involved like now in case a combination of a SAS expert and obviously restaurant operations. It’s a mixture and it has been a, challenging journey, I would say. 

Rob: Yeah very different industries, aren’t they? 

Rob: From hospitality to tech. But it [00:26:00] shows that what really matters is trust and the ability to have empathy and the compassionate leadership.

Rob: And I think if you have that and a willingness to learn, you can always learn the technicalities of the, of whatever the business is. 

Muhammad: Precisely. And, you don’t have to just learn from somebody senior than you. I’m talking about in a, in an org hierarchy level from that angle. A young developer can teach you many things as well.

Muhammad: So I think that’s where probably I developed a bit more into this having an open growth mindset. It’s not about okay, if he or she is a professor, there are only people who can tell you how things are. No, you can learn from a complete and utter stranger and a young person. It’s also about how receptive you are to new learnings and new 

Rob: ideas, basically.

Rob: That, that’s my key with teams. That’s my philosophy is that if you can get communication, so like the root word of, if you can get communication flowing, the root word of communication is to make [00:27:00] common and when everyone’s communicating, it’s like you have all the Lego bricks there. And then it’s about, you can put them all together.

Rob: And it doesn’t matter where they come from and it doesn’t matter who puts them together. 

Rob: For me the leader of the team is the one who can best get the group together. The ideas don’t necessarily have to come from them. They just need to be the one who, and I think the value it can be in just bringing people together so that other people contribute more and it doesn’t matter where they come from, but the end result is that the sum is more than that. 

Rob: The team is worth more than the sum of its parts. True. And so something I do have to ask now is what is the passion for space? What’s that about?

Muhammad: I can tell you the intensity of it. I’ve enrolled myself on Mars One program. I was probably the first of the few hundreds who applied for. 

Muhammad: I actively follow Elon Musk and his space ventures. I’m very keen to raise money to be on a flight, Virgin Atlantic [00:28:00] flight because obviously at the moment, I can’t afford it, obviously, unless I win the lottery tonight.

Muhammad: So I know that I probably have not in a position to be on a seat to Mars as an astronaut because it’s probably that it’s gone, but at least I can be at the periphery, and look through the Earth. So it’s been always been intriguing for me, the planets. And I think it’s a childhood love I developed with the planets.

Muhammad: I used to have telescopes. I still have a telescope. And every time if I want to just clear my head, I watch the heavens. Heavens teach you everything, the synergy, the energy it shows you. It’s very hard for me to explain, but how I developed this, I think probably the first time I, Came across the moon landing.

Muhammad: Obviously, I wasn’t even born when this happened. But the first time I saw this video of Neil Armstrong, I think this is very just something clicked in my head okay, I want to be like him, if he can do it, [00:29:00] I can do it too. And these were just the craze, desire, passion develop more and more, never went into a proper, like a school where I can learn about astronomy.

Muhammad: That is something is still in my, let’s say to do list or a bucket list. I want to do it. Everything I’ve learned is through books from the libraries now, obviously on the internet. So I do read a lot about what’s going on. And. I encourage youngsters as well. If I see them like a little bit of interest, showing interest into this, I give them all the information I have and I gave a lot of books to my nephew as well.

Muhammad: And let’s say in my employees in my previous business, I used to have a business in Bulgaria as well in Sofia. They knew about my passion and on my first time they wanted to gift me something on my birthday. They gave me a present, and they took me to, I forgot the name of the observatory there, but they took me there, it’s three hours drive from the capital city, Sofia, to that place, [00:30:00] I don’t know where I’m going.

Muhammad: So they said it’s a surprise. I sat there in the car and waiting to arrive at the destination. And when I saw that, I was just surprised. So people around me also know about my passion and I was very obviously humble. These guys really cared for me and they presented me with this.

Muhammad: So yeah, that’s, it’s a difficult one to answer. It’s there. And I think I will take this this passion with me into my grave as well, so it will remain. 

Rob: Okay. Yeah, I suppose it’s a sense of perspective of how everything interrelates and how the world works.

Muhammad: Yes, potentially. And also about it’s the curiosity factor, right? 

Muhammad: Because as humans, we are so curious that we want to see what’s going on, on the other planets. And we are obviously from one angle, we are negating the fact that this planet Earth needs probably more attention. But we are focused on the other planets, like we’ve been Mars exploration, we are exploring if there’s a water in the moons of Jupiter from scientific perspective, from my passion perspective, it’s great, but it’s [00:31:00] all down to curiosity.

Muhammad: We are curious, we are, I think we are trying to break this universal mystery and we are unlocking those hidden even though I think it will take probably another. Thousand years for us to be in a position to just get off to near a star. We are long, long away from it. We are struggling still to land on Mars from Freeman’s perspective.

Muhammad: I don’t think this is happening in our, at least in our lifetime. 

Rob: Now looking at how you use that, all those lessons and those insights from your experience has that created a kind of a philosophy that you have? 

Rob: I have a vague sense of it’s very much about empathy and compassion.

Rob: I don’t know if that’s a clear enough question, but could you speak a little bit about your leadership philosophy? 

Muhammad: Yeah. I have a very clearly defined which is probably becoming more and more visible in my thoughts and my post or in my comments is that. For me, leadership is a massive responsibility.

Muhammad: And you need three ingredients that’s my like three ingredients. And that’s how I define leadership [00:32:00] is you lead with purpose. You serve with humility and you inspire through actions. So that has been my slogan now on LinkedIn lead, serve, inspire. And that’s just how defined it in my head.

Muhammad: Obviously the other thing which I am very much promoter of other than empathy and compassion is. I think we discussed that the vulnerability part that, okay we should show that the curiosity, I’m going to link it here. Curiosity means identifying avenues, be curious to learn and keep learning more and more.

Muhammad: And from that school of thought also learned how to respect culture. So now what I define, or sorry, tell my people, whoever asked me this question is that if you want to. Learn about empathy, diversity, and inclusivity. The best thing for you to do is travel. Travel and be part and go to different cultures, understand how they live, how they behave, and why do they do these things.

Muhammad: It’s easier for me now to say, because I am a very well traveled person, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to travel. I can’t remember the [00:33:00] exact count, but around 55, countries I’ve been to, and I’ve experienced different cultures from the Asian culture to the Arabic culture to the Southeast Asian culture, to the Slovak culture to, Roma culture to Russian culture.

Muhammad: And I’ve been in a lot of places. And this has allowed me to be more respectful and mindful about religions as well, because everyone has a belief and they are entitled to, right? 

Muhammad: Who am I to judge them for? 

Muhammad: Same goes with the languages. Recently we were having a debate, let’s say, that if somebody can’t speak English well, they’re not intelligent enough.

Muhammad: That was just like a headline statement just to engage the discussion there. I’m very energetic to answer such debates, right? Okay. English is not my first language. But when I didn’t speak English as such, it didn’t mean that I was not intelligent because at that time, probably I had already Done my high school, I have a very different approach to that.

Muhammad: I [00:34:00] also promote is to learning new languages. I speak about six languages. And so there’s a passion for learning more languages. The more language you understand, the more culture you understand. I think inside you, you’re becoming more tolerant, more receptive. Now, world is a small place, right?

Muhammad: In my, for example, last company in the US, we had people from I can’t even say that we almost have represented from at least 100 countries within that company because that business is quite big. 

Muhammad: We had 10,000 employees there. And for me, it was so easy to mix with them because I’m going with the open intent and there’s no judgment, in my head.

Muhammad: If somebody is, let’s say fasting, I respect that. If somebody is not fasting, I respect that too. 

Muhammad: If somebody is going to a church, good. If somebody is going to a temple, good. If somebody is going to synagogue, Brilliant. 

Muhammad: If somebody is going to mosque, respect that. So that’s my opinion, right? So no judgment, it’s more harmony. 

Muhammad: More this is where I think most of the time we struggle [00:35:00] that, I was having a chat with some other person on LinkedIn and we were discussing this. That we’re talking a lot about these principles and, how to be more transparent, how to be more engaged, how to be more thoughtful, but in reality We need to still do a lot more.

Muhammad: We’re not tolerant as a community or as a world itself. We are until it suits us. And there’s a lot of things going around, as and I think none of us, including me, are not doing enough to raise awareness. I’m not saying to do anything stupid, but at least, in our own rights, we can raise awareness.

Muhammad: That why there’s a need of there’s no room for abuse, biases towards others. Based on, certain criteria. I think this is our mindset, how we develop it. I’m okay to have this skin color, I don’t have a problem with that. And I equally, so I don’t have a problem with anybody else’s skin color or the culture or the way they are eating or, but I think this all has happened and would have happened if I had not traveled.

Muhammad: Honestly, this is my personal opinion. This traveling has [00:36:00] allowed me to be more open. If I was confined in a country or in a city, I don’t think I would be as a person as I am. Because this thing, my parents didn’t teach me. Nobody taught me this. I learned along the way. When I go to a new country, so for example, if I go to, let’s say an example to Croatia, I wouldn’t go to McDonald’s or Starbucks.

Muhammad: I would try to find where the locals go, what’s their food looks like. I want to enjoy that. That’s how you get closer to the culture and the 

Rob: people. Yeah, I think historically we’ve grown from small tribes, and then tribes have gathered together and then somehow we’ve artificially put in nations and what these have done is separate us.

Rob: We have a fear of people who are different. I think this is a problem with conflict is we have an inbuilt fear that someone from a different tribe is a threat. And so as soon as someone disagrees with us, we shut down. And we denigrate the person as there’s something wrong with them.

Rob: Because it is a [00:37:00] natural. We frame the world in the way that we feel good about ourselves. And when someone challenges that threatens people, but over my lifetime, I can remember. Growing up and there’s stuff that was on TV, that isn’t allowed to be shown now.

Rob: People have traveled more, and we’ve integrated more. And when you get to know people, you get to see that it doesn’t matter what your skin tone, what your sexuality, what your culture, what language people are, people, there’s a universality to people. I’ve never traveled as much. For many people, I think that the route is travel.

Rob: For me, I love anthropology. I love reading stuff from anthropologists who, who’ve looked at. Is this culturally specific? 

Rob: What are the commonalities between cultures? 

Rob: What are the differences between culture? 

Rob: Why do they believe what they believe? 

Rob: And how is it through different times?

Rob: I always think an idea is limited and you need to look [00:38:00] at does the idea work? 

Rob: Does it only work in a certain context? 

Rob: Something I’ve given a lot of thought to recently, that I think there’s a big difference between maths and English. Like my daughters really struggle with maths and you have to go trying to explain.

Rob: And when you’re trying to teach someone, I think people don’t recognize that maths is a different language. 

Rob: And so in the story, you’ve got a context and you’ve got a hero, and there’s a journey and it’s very specific, is very concrete so that you can visualize the details and what maths the math story is.

Rob: Summing plus Something minus Something divided by Something is whatever. 

Rob: It’s completely devoid of context is devoid of, hero is devoid of, specific circumstances, but there’s a purity in maths in that the truth is there. 

Rob: As soon as it doesn’t work in a context, it’s no longer valid as an equation or it’s a context specific.

Rob: There’s more of a challenge that I think stories can [00:39:00] inspire. But I think maths can give anyone a framework so that anyone in any context can go, okay I need this or more of this, less of this. 

Rob: In our thinking as well, I think travel is great.

Rob: And integration as we become more global, we get to understand and we get diversity of opinions. But I think, even within that, we can get into a group and we can be in our little team and we get that groupthink where we’re sheltered because we’re all techies because we’re all in hospitality because we’re whatever we have a limited mindset. 

Rob: So what I always like to do is I always like to find an idea that works in one place and then look at these are the same dynamics. 

Rob: If you can strip out, make it more abstract, you can recognize the same dynamics. So my work in relationships has never really look like everyone else’s because although some of the same basics are still there, but most of what I’ve done is this is a problem.

Rob: Where [00:40:00] else is that a problem and how, where has that been sold and then translated what’s worked in another context. 

Rob: It’s about overcoming prejudice. And so I’ve always known that I became prejudiced from reading books and from understanding people who are different from me.

Rob: So I also think if I’m going to learn about something I’ll look and I’ll listen, I’ll suspend judgment to learn. from someone, but then I’ll look at someone who’s completely opposite and I’ll suspend judgment. And then I’ll go, okay, what’s common, what’s, and you usually find that there’s a prejudice in both of them that limit them from saying the same thing.

Rob: That’s very true, actually. I think you describe it very well. And it’s all about, as you highlighted, it’s all about finding those common grounds. Because always, you would find something. And I think just to add here, finally, on this, when talking about. Culture communities in my experience. 

Muhammad: In my opinion, actually, so my experience drove me to [00:41:00] this opinion, having traveled a lot of countries I do feel that the culture in this country, in England, it’s much more tolerant than a lot of other countries in the world.

Muhammad: Somebody actually the other day, they asked me like, why you made England your home? 

Muhammad: Two things. Sorry, three. 

Muhammad: One was that I didn’t feel that I’m an alien here when I came first time. 

Muhammad: Secondly, I am free. I have free to do everything. Nobody’s stopping me from, let’s say, following my faith, speaking my language or being whatever I like. Very big things for me, like tick box. 

Muhammad: Third thing is that there’s a rule of law. So whenever you have a disagreement with somebody, what do you say normally? 

Muhammad: I’ll see you in the court. 

Muhammad: Why? 

Muhammad: Because you believe in the court system. I’m not talking about the politics, right? 

Muhammad: You and I can have a discussion, debate about Tories and Labour and everything, but the court itself.

Muhammad: How I, into this is that I remember I was reading and Mr. Churchill was the first person, right? 

Muhammad: During the war. Yeah. Yeah. He asked his comrades that, are we providing [00:42:00] justice through our judicial system? 

Muhammad: And the answer was yes. And he said, yes, we’ll win the war now. It was a powerful statement he made.

Muhammad: And this actually stuck to me. I read this a long time ago. And now having lived in this country, this is what I believe in. 

Muhammad: That, look, Rob, whenever there is something, we open our doors. 

Muhammad: People come here. Recently from Ukraine, right? Prior to that, from other countries. And I think this we do not highlight the qualities of this culture.

Muhammad: I’m not talking about, of course, there are communities, different communities in this country, but we’re not talking about the culture in general, which England provides to everybody. 

Muhammad: Everyone is welcome and everyone can earn the living. I’m an immigrant as well to this country, but I now adopted as my home and why I did that because country allowed me to.

Muhammad: It allowed me to showcase my skills and it provided me the value to my, expertise. So we, we need to cherish this as well and promote this side of England too, in my opinion, because we’re talking about culture. So I just thought I’ll just add this final statement to this. 

 [00:43:00] I’ve never seriously looked at looking abroad, but when you’re in the middle of winter in England, you do look and think somewhere else would be lovely to be in the winter. But when I’ve talked to people, like when you’ve been on holiday and you talk to people who live out somewhere and there’s so much corruption, there’s different treatment if you’re not a citizen on, and there’s, and you can’t always rely on the court or the law or the bureaucracy or whatever. 

Rob: So there’s that and also I think the NHS, I don’t really understand how the American system work, but the inhumanity of saying I’m not going to treat you because you haven’t got health insurance. 

Rob: I wouldn’t want to be in a country that has that, that frame of Oh, if you haven’t earned enough, then. It’s tough luck. Yeah. So that’s one of the things that I yet respect and value about England. 

Muhammad: Definitely. And NHS this is very close to my heart. I still volunteer for the NHS and, and as you said, NHS opens doors for anyone who walks in with a problem.

Muhammad: They don’t ask you who you are. [00:44:00] Okay. There’s some administrative stuff after the treatment. 

Muhammad: But at the point of entry, nobody cares who you are, where you came from. Every single doctor, nurse, healthcare staff, will do all their best. And you’re spot on, like in countries like us, whenever I was going there for extended period, I was only praying to God please don’t make me ill here, 

Rob: that’s awesome.

Rob: I can’t imagine how that must be. 

Rob: Something else I’m interested in is recently we’ve been having a bit of a debate. 

Rob: I was talking to Matthew Ward, he had a very strong distinction between leader and manager and roles. 

Rob: Something I added to that is I felt, I don’t think I would ever be a leader. I’m not built for that. I’m more of someone, like I would say a specialist. 

Rob: I want to develop mastery in what I do. 

Rob: I don’t want to manage, I don’t want to lead because I think there’s so much pressure. And I don’t think I’d be able to perform at my best.

Rob: What I took from after talking to Matthew was the idea that a [00:45:00] leader is someone that leads a change, they lead a movement.

Rob: A manager is someone that stabilizes, and they hold things accountable and they keep people on track and make sure everything ticks over. 

Rob: My addition to that would be, I think there needs to be a path to, we talk so much about the Peter principle when people.

Rob: Because you’re good at something and you want, and you’re ambitious, it means that you then become a leader or a manager, which you might not necessarily be. 

Rob: So I think there, there is a lack of respect for mastery of a technical expertise. So what’s your view? And on these kinds of situations, on these, the differences.

Muhammad: I have a very strong opinion on this subject. First thing, even though I’m in leadership and, I promote leadership messages, empathy, compassion, that’s set aside. I do believe that leaders are also human and we should not glorify them. They, everyone is, has his own imperfections, right?

Muhammad: So that’s my kind of take on leadership. Cause I’ve seen there’s a vibe on [00:46:00] LinkedIn is that leaders are like flawless and this and this, 

Rob: right? This I think was what Matthew was getting at is it was leader is good, manager is bad. 

Muhammad: I did a post as well, I think a month ago about this leaders are also having imperfections and so let’s not glorify them.

Muhammad: That was probably the hook it’s detailed a lot why I’m saying that. And then coming across a lot of other material, I did another post about leader versus manager. That was the statement leader versus manager. But what I’m trying to have done in this which answers your question here is that the similarities of the common grounds, first of all, secondly, you remove one person from the equation, the building collapses.

Muhammad: Now, there is a reason behind it, because I believe that leadership role and managerial role, sometimes one person can be in both. 

Muhammad: Let’s call for the sake of argument titles, okay? 

Muhammad: So both can be under, I can be a manager, but equally so I can be a leader, vice versa. Then comes like these slight differentiation that, for instance, if I look from [00:47:00] the political side, currently in Pakistan, our ex cricketer Imran Khan, we looked at him as a leader, he’s the leader of the nation. 

Muhammad: So he’s not a manager, he’s not managing anything, he’s not a manager of a bank or a building society, he’s leading, so he’s leading the vision, he’s showing the public what’s best for them, so He’s not telling them what to do.

Muhammad: He’s showing them what they can do. So the manager, has to manage process, manage something like a project, they have to meticulously, going into minute details, ensuring that this project doesn’t go off track. It doesn’t mean that when it comes to showing some guidance, they cannot stand up and say to the team, okay, guys, if we go in that direction, you’re not going to succeed. 

Muhammad: Let’s go into this. So they also become the guide. So I think it’s interlinked. So to the point of me saying that one is better than the other, no, I would say that neither of them can survive without each other. 

Muhammad: They are joined together, albeit in their own domain. They need to [00:48:00] execute their responsibility because manager is a responsibility.

Muhammad: Leadership is a responsibility. And there’s a lot of course, or something that quite excites me when I read that, that leadership is about, sorry, a manager tells you how to climb up a ladder and the leader ensure that the letter is, next to the right wall. Now, you can debate on behind the scene, analogy of it.

Muhammad: What it’s saying is that still you need both of them, right? 

Muhammad: In my post, I said that it’s basically two of the foundations or two wheels of the same car. Or I gave another analogy that one sits in the driving seat. The other is putting the direction in the navigation system. So again, I’m linking that you need both of them.

Muhammad: And it could be the same person as well. This is my heart straight opinion. It’s not about me. 

Muhammad: No, Rob, you can’t be leader or you can’t be manager. And you’re saying to me, no, you’re not a good leader. You can’t be a manager or some sort. I don’t think so. I think this is the wrong perception. We are just unintentionally or intentionally creating confusion in the mind of [00:49:00] public, especially the youth who are coming, forward.

Muhammad: And also I have done a slight mistake as well in the past where I glorified leader versus boss. And that post, Rob went viral, honestly, viral, it’s wow, hundreds and thousands of impressions, right? And likes and this. 

Muhammad: But after two weeks, I realized my mistake. I said, people call me the boss as well, and it’s not a, how you say, a derogatory word to be used. 

Muhammad: Your employees call you boss. They don’t call you sir all the time or, or take your name. Sometimes they say, Hey boss, can I have a word with you? 

Muhammad: It’s absolutely fine. Nobody comes to me. Hey, leader, but I can say you, nobody comes to me.

Muhammad: Hey, manager, but hey, boss, nine out of 10 times you get to hearing any organization in my life. I had in my journey, I had always only had two bosses ever because I probably am not the best employee to work on that as someone, but I used to call them boss. My last boss was in the U S in New Jersey.

Muhammad: I used to call him boss. It never called him. Isn’t by his [00:50:00] name. So my next probably course of action, which I’m obviously we all go according to our team when we are posting. So I am slowly and greatly reaching that point where I am going to unearth this mystery that boss manager leader, dude, everyone is in the same bucket.

Muhammad: Don’t create this negativity about bosses. So it’s a journey if you have, which I believe you have the same mindset, I’m in with you. We need to break this myth. This is wrong. Nobody is better than everyone in the same. 

Rob: I think really it’s the same person. It’s facets of the same person, depending on, it’s like the old thing of all the different, the blind, all the blind men see the elephant and they all think it’s something different because one’s got the trunk, one’s got the leg.

Rob: I think it’s much the same in that way. I think the real problem is we’re trying to talk about an abstract concept within a minute, so if you’re on LinkedIn or any other social network, you probably have a maximum [00:51:00] of a minute’s attention. And you’re trying to get across something in a minute.

Rob: So what really works, when you talked about your post, the most viral thing is the simplest to understand. Whatever makes it simple as this versus that is suddenly, yeah, this is it. And then the algorithm then means that because we’re all writing for attention and we’re all writing for to develop our network and be known and all of that stuff means that you can write something like that and get a lot more attention. 

Rob: When I was blogging, you could write something really deep that you think was your best work. And people were like, it gets nothing. 

Rob: Then you write something simplistic. And you think that was, I didn’t really have much time and I just write something off and it goes wild.

Rob: It’s because to really change someone’s thinking is hard. And people don’t like that. Sometimes you come across a post, and it really makes you think and you’re you’re scrolling through and it’s hard then to comment. 

Rob: So the [00:52:00] deepest posts probably get the least comments, and interaction. And so they get the least people saying it because, where is it? 

Rob: So like when I’m writing, I’m looking at how do I make it a simple for someone to read? So it’s easy to digest, easy to take in.

Rob: And I think there’s a temptation to also go with not really saying anything. 

Rob: I think a lot of social media is not actually saying something, but, it’s confirming bias. 

Rob: Everyone’s had a bad boss. Everyone’s, aspires to be a great leader. And so it’s easy to play on that. Meme, and it’s just an easy post to make and it gets you attention and it gets you things.

Rob: I think LinkedIn and other social media are great for sparking a debate. But they’re not ideal for really getting across deeper concepts, which is partly why I wanted to talking to people like yourself in a podcast because you’ve got more time to develop ideas.

Rob: You mentioned, this is one of the things you’re talking about, [00:53:00] what other topics have you got that are on your hit list that you’d like to address? 

Muhammad: There are quite a few, obviously I’m also very much strong promoter of culture, as you can imagine, and especially because I have seen a lot of toxicity and toxicity has levels, right?

Muhammad: So we’re not going to the final debate, but that’s something I’m thinking to unlock a bit more layer by layer, like what actually toxic levels are because we have this, a bad boss and micromanagement. 

Muhammad: That’s it. That is toxicity. It’s scratching the surface. The deeper layers of toxicity and this is something which I’m going to work on then another interest.

Muhammad: Not interest. I have an idea. And I’m trying to, I was speaking to another person I met on LinkedIn and she had the same thoughts as I have. 

Muhammad: So probably we’ll look into a conjoined effort on this topic, but just give you an indication that when we talk about even my post from last few days, it’s talking about, let’s say compassionate [00:54:00] leadership and how leaders should develop empathy and understanding effective communication, et cetera.

Muhammad: No. I am trying my, my next like plan of action is that I’m going to zoom out of this now from this leadership, because it’s too much focus on one guy here, right? 

Muhammad: The poor guy or a girl let’s zoom out, let’s give them a breathing space and show the human side of them. And from there on, I am saying, okay, now I’m wearing a lens of a leader and looking at my people.

Muhammad: So the message is the same, there’s still empathy there, compassion there, I’m here for you, I’m available for you and everything, but what employees are looking, when they are looking at the leader, do they have the same feeling of empathy? 

Muhammad: Are they also looking at this person that, okay, we need to dig deeper?

Muhammad: We need to go below the surface and understand how this person, we call it him or her as a leader or a boss or a manager, how do they feel? 

Muhammad: So reversing the role from the eyes of the employees, this is where I was [00:55:00] thinking to put like how employees should behave as well. I’m a strong promoter of employee rights.

Muhammad: Okay. Don’t take me wrong on that. You can see my every post is about employee, but now employee has a duty of care. 

Muhammad: Employees are getting paid to do their job. I’m not paying my employees to go and have a fag every five minutes. Every boss will go bananas, or every leader will go bananas, and even every manager will go bananas for that.

Muhammad: So what are the rights of me as your manager? 

Muhammad: So I have my rights too. I can demand results, right? 

Muhammad: I can say, okay, you wanted this training opportunity, the company paid for it. You wanted some bonuses, company gave you this. You wanted a travel allowance, company gave you that. You had a birthday party, we gave you, not two, but five days off.

Muhammad: Where is the plan? Where is the plan of action? 

Muhammad: Why haven’t you done that? 

Muhammad: And if we do that on LinkedIn, believe me, we’ll get slaughtered. Like, how dare Employees are untouchables. No guys, no man. 

Muhammad: This is where probably it’s [00:56:00] quite will be interesting content to start sharing on from that note, but that’s my plan, this is what I’m going to do, challenge it now.

Rob: That is something that is really that I’ve looked at. So, my background is personal relationships. So it’s couples, dating, individuals all that kind of thing. And I’ve then looked at, okay, a great relationship is a team. Okay. A great team is great relationships. So I looked at, so I’ve looked with kind of a fresh eyes in the corporate world and all that.

Rob: And what I see is so much focus on a leader. And my thinking is being like you say, not everyone is going to be great and however much training you give to someone, there’s always so like in, in the newspapers, there is always in education, it’s always bash the teachers. 

Rob: The education system is so broken and political anyway. But it is always the problem is bad teachers. They can’t all be bad, but you’ve got to have a system where 10, 20 percent are going to [00:57:00] underperform in anything, whatever you do, you’re going to have 10, 20 percent of airline pilots, doctors, or whatever that aren’t going to be as good as the rest.

Rob: And I think we put so much pressure., so for me, where I look at what I do is if you have the relationships, the communication and the commitment what you’ve really done is like first you fertilize the soil. 

Rob: You make the soil so much more fertile that they’re responsive to the leader because what I think you often have is in relationships you can’t work on one side. 

Rob: Sometimes that will make a difference but you have to really understand what the problem is and is the problem leader or is the problem that 

Rob: There’s a natural tension between the employer wants to get the most value for the least money and the employee wants to get the least work for the most.

Rob: That’s not exactly true because people do want to work, but they want to give the least for the most pay. 

Rob: There’s that natural tension and you can’t [00:58:00] just put all that pressure and say, it’s about leader leading. Some of it is about, you have to create the right context, the right environment. So there is that safety.

Rob: So there is trust. So there is communication. And so ultimately you have two way accountability. 

Rob: I think that’s the key to making teams work. In the same way that teachers get beaten up, for problems. Like to go back when I was at school, I remember a teacher quite clearly saying us telling us that he didn’t care what results we got because he was going to be judged on that.

Rob: I’ve done some work in schools and been in there and it’s if people aren’t performing, you’re accountable for their results. They might not do the work. And yeah so that really hits true to me. 

Muhammad: I agree with you on this and I think this is where probably there’ll be an interesting there’s a lot of topics that could be, points raised under this topic.

Muhammad: For instance imagine you, you’re leading a team and you’ve got, let’s say, for argument’s sake, 10 or [00:59:00] 12 people in that team, half of them are religiously, and I’m not going into this, are they hybrid, remote, or, they’re on site, just the tendency, you’ve got a 10 to 6 arrangement for argument’s sake and you will see most of them logging off prior to that time, because most likely they have done their work, or they just lazy or tired, sorry.

Muhammad: They probably want to come next day and with a fresh head and, complete the task. Then there are a few set of people who are literally looking at the clock, almost like count and timer. And as soon as the six this job, why?

Muhammad: Because they don’t want to be judged. They don’t want to, the employers to be tasked, okay, you left yesterday one minute earlier or five minutes earlier.

Muhammad: There are certain companies because I’ve been consulting and I’m going deep. deeper into these scenarios. 

Muhammad: I had a chance to talk to those people. Okay. I watch you literally on the dot 5 p. m. boom, locked off. And okay, guys, I’m off. So I walk out with them. It’s okay. What’s the rush? What’s the urgency?

Muhammad: That’s it. They just pay me for [01:00:00] my seven hours. That’s it. I don’t want to spend a minute more than that. Does this make them a bad employee? 

Muhammad: There’s a big question mark, right? 

Muhammad: Some would say yes, the worst employee, they should be fired. But it could be if you look from the other side angle that it might be the people who are actually delivering the most efficient work, effectively, sorry.

Muhammad: And there are people, who would be Looking busy, do nothing approach, right? 

Muhammad: Look busy, do nothing approach and just filling their time. Are they being loyal to their boss? 

Muhammad: I don’t think so. That’s not personal. They’re not loyal to the boss. They’re not loyal to the company. They’re just doing or filling the hours just to get paid.

Muhammad: You ask them something, they’re not showing any loyalty. Maybe the person who 5pm will be more loyal to this person. 

Muhammad: Then you have another lot of people who would stay back if they know that If they leave now, things will fall apart. So they are either, it’s more like a rotational shift that they’re waiting for other team members to arrive.

Muhammad: They want to properly hand [01:01:00] over if there are some escalation, they want to ensure that escalation is sorted. 

Muhammad: They wouldn’t be calling their bosses and saying, Hey, I’m still here. They will just do their job. But such people will be noticed very quickly. And I think that’s where the onus falls back on the management, how they’re doing acknowledge these people, done the extra mile. 

Muhammad: And then this is where a little bit of toxicity comes in the picture that these guys are people who are actually investing more time, their personal time, mind you, they have their families and their personal lives, but they’re investing or staying back for the sake of the business.

Muhammad: They’re not earning more commission out of it, but they will get just normal salaries. And then they see that they’re not getting. acknowledged or appreciated. That’s where the problem starts. 

Muhammad: And then yes, you can point fingers. It’s a bad leadership or a bad management. Then they will go. There’s a plenty of different angles you need to look at, and I say nobody’s sacred cow, honestly, not employees, not the CEOs of the businesses.

Muhammad: I’ve seen CEOs who had no clue what was happening. They thought everything [01:02:00] is fine. Why? 

Muhammad: Because they had the yes men around them. Is everything okay? Yes. Is the employee happy? Oh, yes. 

Muhammad: Because he never cared. Now, this is a response to him. Go and speak to them yourself. They will probably tell you more things than your subordinate because there’s a fear culture built up.

Muhammad: And CEO, it’s not his or her intention, they’re not intentionally damaging their employees mindset. They just detached from there. So they should take this responsibility. And then there is another thing which I notice is that, for instance Let’s say there’s one role available and you and I are the both candidates of it, right on paper in real terms in practice Everything goes in your favor that okay.

Muhammad: You have more experience. You are more skilled for this. You have done this there’s a data behind to back you up to be promoted there but Muhammad because he in the C suite room Maybe I have personal connections there. I know somebody personal. Maybe I’m from the, you see there, maybe from the same community.

Muhammad: Maybe from [01:03:00] the same country. Maybe I speak the same language. I’ll get preferred and I get moved. 

Muhammad: Now, Rob has two choices, either suck it up and stay, or just say, you know what guys, I’m off. Thank you very much. So this is what intentional management has done. And I’m not blaming the CEO or the boss sitting in his room.

Muhammad: He may not be aware of this. 

Muhammad: So there’s another thing that comes into my mind all the time is right person in the right seat. So if you appoint the right people to make right decisions, this will then filter down because remember everything starts from the top, you cannot fix a problem from bottoms up, you have to fix up towards the bottom.

Muhammad: And this is my kind of probably the last. I have fought for this, that everything starts on the top, take ownership. And if let’s say in a normal hierarchy, if I talk about the hospitality side so when I say hospitality, obviously the tech side I do is also caters for the hospitality market.

Muhammad: So it’s that’s why they’re interlinked. So I know both sides, okay, how they work. So forget about the CEO for a [01:04:00] second. You’ve got the CEO, you’ve got MD, you’ve got CPO, you’ve got then The director of operations, then you’ve got area managers, then you’ve got, the cluster manager.

Muhammad: So that’s hierarchy part comes up, right? 

Muhammad: 90 percent of the time, these positions are filled based on because I like Muhammad, but I don’t like X, Y, Z because they’re not culturally fit because my culture is in my head. It’s not the company’s culture. So what happens is it develops groups of people, as you initially said, as well, within a company, you’ve got set of groups, it’s us and them.

Muhammad: And there’s a constant bickering and fights and who’s responsible for that. I think that’s where if you dig deeper and you start finding the root causes that it may well be because of the boss himself, it may well be the wrong assignment from the HR department, or it could be that a healthier competition has turned into a nasty one because they have become gone personal now.

Muhammad: So there’s [01:05:00] plenty of angles. I was saying to Stephen Claes the other day, cause we were on a call and we were talking about forensics. 

Muhammad: I was saying that this is exactly what I will do is forensically analyze layer by layer on the culture. What we say on LinkedIn, empathetic culture, foster this culture, but we’re not saying what is happening behind in these tiny layers.

Muhammad: And this may not be viral as you said, Rob, maybe the worst post ever, but I’m sure if One or two people can benefit out of it. I think I would say, as I said to Anna the other day, my job is done even if one person benefited from it.

Rob: That’s interesting because I have a different theory on that. 

Rob: All of that is true, but obviously I come from a very different angle. And my insight comes from where relationships break down. And so when I look at a division in a team. So my idea is that as a team, we need to be unified.

Rob: So we need to unify as one, which means unified action [01:06:00] and change as one. And I think we’ve got a broken relationship frame. And so this is what I’ve seen is relationships are, things are fine when we’re friends. But so let’s say we’re, we were both going, like you say, we were both going for the same job.

Rob: We were friends. We would chat. We would get along great. Suddenly you become my boss. 

Rob: The relationship changes. Now my future is dependent on the decisions that you make. And so that changes the dynamic and it becomes a lot more tension. And so the relationship needs to be a lot stronger because it’s challenged.

Rob: And so the friendly relationship that we had before has changed. And I need a lot more trust. 

Rob: Now there’s an element of, I’ve lost a bit of my freedom because you make decisions and so as you become a couple, the decisions that one make directly affect the other. And this is why the tensions are so much more intense.

Rob: When you get those rivalries, so you’ve got the sales director [01:07:00] and the marketing director and they’ve become siloed because one getting more seems like it’s taking power away from the other and one’s getting more status or something like that. So they want credit. So you get all those micro- tensions within that.

Rob: Ideally what you need to create is a change from there’s myself to there’s the team. And so when you become part of a team, part of it is a change of identity. So I think underneath, so I think all of the things that you say are that you would look at, they are the way that is created.

Rob: There’s an also another problem is that people don’t know how to relate. And I think the core of it is that is a fear of conflict and there’s a fear of conflict because we’re different. And then that becomes intensified when our decisions affect each other.

Rob: There’s also another aspect in that. We’ve never really learned. 

Rob: Every group splinters, when the [01:08:00] relationship becomes challenged. So marriages break about half of marriages. And I’d argue that there’s probably another 20 percent that stay together because of financial, moral, ethical, social, cultural reasons.

Rob: And it’s 70 percent of business partnerships break. 

Rob: In any culture, it’s very difficult for business because this is another meme is that everyone has to get on. 

Rob: We have to be happy and it’s not about getting on. It’s about having the trust and the safety to challenge. 

Rob: People go they’d be, oh, we have great relationship, which means that no one ever upsets anyone else. And that’s equally bad. 

Rob: But it’s, it comes down to, like you said, lead with purpose. 

Rob: The purpose of the relationship defines how the relationship needs to be. It’s interesting you talk about medicine because I, like you coming from a background in medicine, because I often think in relationship terms, if you look at how people talk about relationships, they talk about it, how, we talked about germs and the [01:09:00] plague was miasma. 

Rob: Until we understood germ theory, we couldn’t fix it. And I think a lot of culture can’t really be fixed until we really understand the dynamics that, drive relationships and conflict. 

Muhammad: It’s a great explanation. Very valuable comments you’ve just made. I take 

Rob: them. Yes. It’s my little soapbox.

Rob: Thank you for sharing all your insights and your experiences. It’s been great to, to go beyond the LinkedIn profile to, to get a real, understanding of you.

Muhammad: thank you for having me. I think it was a pleasure talking to you. 

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