LAB Shakeel Jivraj Podcast Transcript

LAB Shakeel Jivraj Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Amardeep Parmar: 0:00This is a masterclass on how to become an empathetic leader. How to be an empathetic leader. This includes sharing responsibility, avoiding micromanaging, bringing your team together, free leave as you can pull to be more effective, and then creating processes for team success. To guide us through this topic today, we are Shakeel Jivraj, Director of Operations at the Queensway Group. Queensway have a large portfolio or brand that they manage, including KFC, Starbucks, Point A Hotels, Sloan Place, Montague Place, Ibis Styles and the Sloan Club. They've got hundreds of employees, so you can be sure that this is an episode you want to pay attention to. So Shakeel today we're talking about empathetic leadership and you've obviously managed so many different people and worked with so many different people. Can you give us an idea of the scale of the business that you work in and the number of people you work with?Shakeel Jivraj: 0:52

Sure, sure Amar. We're a family-owned business and our belief is that we have a sincere approach to hospitality that goes a long way. We're a people-centric business and within that we have our own great teams. Currently, within my operation and my portfolio, I look after 28 stores Starbucks related and within those 28 stores it encompasses a volume of individuals, whether you might be on a high street or on a huge drive-through asset. Overall, there are 350-plus individuals across the business that I'm responsible for, which is a huge task in itself, but I relish it and I thrive on the fact that I'm responsible for that volume of individuals and that I get the opportunity to look after their professional welfare and their personal welfare.

Amardeep Parmar: 1:43

So obviously you can't micromanage 350 people. It's impossible. So a big part of your role is to say, trusting people and being able to share their responsibility. How do you think about that aspects of things?

Shakeel Jivraj: 1:56

Okay, so within my team I have three district regional managers that will report into myself that I work with on a day-to-day basis and ultimately they are responsible for the scale of the store managers that look after our individual units. For me, micromanaging is almost like a sense of insecurity for a leader or as a manager. Unfortunately, it stems from a lack of confidence and the willingness to control those individuals around you. So my approach is more about an empathetic one where I can build trust, particularly with my first my Line report, so my district managers and what I do there is, it's an element that starts from scratch in terms of how can I build a relationship of open communication with them, a sense of collaboration and I always refer in my first dialogues with my managers at any level, whether that be store manager, district manager or above is that trust is really key and important. And I refer to Simon Sinek and I quote that he's really well renowned for and he's always talked about the oxytocin neurochemical that's released, which is an enabler of trust. So when you have that level of trust and you're able to be open with individuals, you get that level of collaboration, you get that sense of ability to delegate to others where they're willing to do work that will empower themselves and for them to become leaders within my team or elsewhere. So that trust piece is really really key for me in my team.

Amardeep Parmar: 3:36

And people use similar knowledge into our team right. So sometimes you use sports analogies or use a family analogy and building that trust, it can be difficult for some people because you don't know where to put the barriers in right. So how much of your personal life do you let in there? How close of one should you create for your employees? How do you think about that? How do you? What barriers do you put up and what barriers do you have?

Shakeel Jivraj: 3:58

So I mean who doesn't want to work in a collaborative environment right, where you've got elements of trust, you've got the ability to share information, resources and, more importantly, to appreciate each other's worlds, scenarios in order to help each other succeed? For me, I always think about how can I break down the barriers of geography, particularly when you're looking after a portfolio of this size. You know anything where our most southern stories in Oxfordshire and our most northern stories all the way in Manchester. So I've got three leaders within my team that are really spread across the UK. So my first thought is how often can I bring you all together with me, face to face, so that we break down those barriers in order to build those long term relationships? So geography is the first thing. The second thing is about open communication and regular dialogue. Email is obviously the most seamless way to communicate. I'm of the traditional old school where I'd rather pick up the telephone, or I'd get my team to pick up the telephone to me to just talk anything through, and that's where the collaboration comes from, that's where the openness comes from and that's really the biggest barriers that I would always look to remove in terms of geography and bringing people closer together.

Amardeep Parmar: 5:11

And when you bring people together, how do you set up that correct kind of framework of like how they treat each other and the way they talk to each other as well?

Shakeel Jivraj: 5:19

It's about leading by example, first of all by myself, because if I'm not setting that tone, if I'm not setting the example there, then I can't expect them to replicate and form the same sort of leadership stance that I have. So for me, there are three ways or three levers to pull within empathetic leadership. The first is about curiosity. So we run busy lives, we all have busy lives. I've got my own family, I've got work, I've got other objectives I need to meet in life and other commitments. But how do I make that mental space in my head which is time for other people, particularly my team? So that's where the curiosity builds. So where's my attention going? I can't let it always be on myself. I need to create attention and space for my team and others. So that's step number one. Number two is the art of listening. So, with listening, being an empathetic leader, it's about listening to want to keep them feeling less defensive and be able to resonate with their feelings. So that's step number two in terms of listening. And then the third one is about asking the right questions. Okay, so how can I put myself in their shoes? And if I'm showing you an interest in my team, in my team member. By asking the questions about their experiences, their thoughts, their feelings, I'm opening up the conversation, which is an enabler that builds belief in me as a leader, that builds belief in the team, that builds safety, a safety net for them and it builds almost guardianship, which is really what people are looking for in the hustle and bustle of everyday life at the moment.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:06

And how do you ensure the team's output meets your expectations, because it's one of the really difficult things as a leader, right Is that? Because it's your baby. In some ways, you've got certain ways. You want things to be done, but at the same time, as you said, you want to be empathetic and to be able to give them space. How do you marry these things together to try and make sure that the outputs and targets are reached at the same time as not micromanaging?

Shakeel Jivraj: 7:30

It's a good question. So the alignment at the outset is key. That's fundamental. So have I given clear expectations to the team, whether it be a project, a task or anything that may be at hand or we may be reacting to something, because that's the world of operations and we're always on the go, we wear multiple hats. I can't be too rigid or vague within that expectation setting. So the communication from my side as an empathetic leader is really key. I need to be able to articulate that so that they understand the reasons why. Number two, then, is within the team, what is filtering further down? What are the roles and responsibilities for each of the team members? As an example, we use the race matrix, you know so who's responsible, who's accountable, and so on and so forth, and that helps just to give some structure across the level of the process. The third thing is I believe in what gets measured, gets done. So are we monitoring and are we measuring the progress along the way, and am I able to give regular feedback with an empathetic and compassionate perspective, because mistakes enable growth for an individual. Mistakes enable people to become leaders. Shouldn't be a form of finding opportunities to criticize.

Amardeep Parmar: 9:01

With this process is how do you try to outline it to make sure that because obviously we've say star parks, the different, is this wrong, so much is processed driven right and if you put the process correctly then you can get them to reach the expectations which you set? How do you think about that in terms of if this whole thing right, if you get the right inputs, then you should hopefully the right outputs to? How do you think about that in terms of you said about the explanation communicating clearly there?

Shakeel Jivraj: 9:33

So when you come into the world of franchising, you tend to sign up with a franchise because the systems are there systems and they have processes in place and then you know that it's replicated across a whole market. It could be replicated across the whole world. So you buy into that from the beginning. You become a franchisee or you join a franchise business because you want to follow processes and it's something that you believe in. You can get that alignment almost immediately. So if it's new to oneself, then that's that's for us as leaders to help people understand why processes are a certain way. We may have influence over certain aspects like Menu pricing. We could have a buffer in terms of how much we could charge in a local store versus what a Starbucks company store is pricing. But essentially we're following a set standard and routine for the, for the overall goal that the brand is setting, and that's what we need to explain the reason why to our teams and as a getting the right inputs to the brand's processes will deliver the output. That when you visit a Starbucks, say, for example, in central London Amar, and then the following day you're going up to Birmingham, there is an expectation that you're going to get the same latte, same size, same quality and with the same smile and human connection that you know when it's given to you. And that's why we we sign up for franchise businesses because those processes are set in play.Amardeep Parmar: 10:54

And when you look at leadership as well, so obviously you've worked in many different business, have so much of experience. What mistakes have you seen other people make or have made you made yourself in the past that hopefully the audience can avoid?

Shakeel Jivraj: 11:05

So I'll talk about myself, because I've been on a journey as a leader over many, many years rather than other other individuals. I went through a journey where I wasn't able to delegate and I went through a phase of micromanaging because I felt it was easier for me to be in control of certain situations. And then I realized I wasn't enabling the succession, I wasn't allowing someone to take my chair, and it was, it was more of a mindset challenge in terms of it's okay for someone to succeed you because then you can move on to the next task, the next project, the next deliverable for growth and provide that opportunity. So not delegating was key for me at that time to understand and progress from. And that leads into not sharing leadership. Just because the title says so doesn't mean that they're not a leader in their own right everyone from our team members at barista level, all the way up to senior directors where all leaders in our own right, regardless of position and hierarchy. Taking things too personally has always been a mistake that I had in my younger days in my career, not listening empathetically and and using that level of compassion and asking the right questions and being present in the moment with the team and, finally, not respecting the team that was around me. So having built teams and and they're not giving them the respect that they deserved just led to a really high attrition rate and and it was challenging for me to understand what was going on, but I was the source and the foundational problem there and I had to give and earn that respect from them and give the respect in order to build that level of collaboration.

Amardeep Parmar: 12:47

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give this quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or we're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team. They're built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hvc innovation banking. I think you made a really interesting point there as well about the by handing over your rope, that I need to do other things and take my new challenges, whereas if you don't allow yourself to almost become obsolete in certain aspects, then you have to keep doing that right, and for many of us like listening that they're gonna want to keep growing and keep growing. But in order to grow, some something said you have to let go of some other roles, and was there any time there's basically difficult for you, maybe where there's something that you really enjoyed, but you knew that you had to hand over to make time for something else. And also I know, for example with kids you that that would have had to change that, change your leadership style there too, when now you've got other priority.

Shakeel Jivraj: 14:06

Yeah, if I think about it from a family perspective, I've got two dependents. Anyway, I've got two young children and just by default, the, my mindset of responsibility changed overnight when I became a father and I tried to put that into place at work with our other businesses. So I think, to answer your question, it was, it was key for me to translate the skill set, the mindset, the behavior that I I'd learned at home becoming a father, a better father and a better husband into what I was providing for my team and my people and the way I would try and nurture my two sons had to be the way I had to nurture the team around me and then to let go of larger projects, which, by all means, you know, franchisors that we've been with in the past used myself as the go-to point because we represented them as as the franchisee and the brand owner within a certain vicinity. But in order to nurture my team, I had to let go of bigger projects that, that enable them to grow, such as you know what, what overall marketing strategy are we putting into our larger portfolio? What are we doing in terms of our pricing strategy? What are we doing in terms of our operational plan for the year and I was and I've learned to let that be articulated by some of my team to the brands that we've operated in in the past and therefore I've been able to move across and just have a more strategic role and be involved in that.

Amardeep Parmar: 15:40

What part of leadership do you enjoy the most at the moment?

Shakeel Jivraj: 15:42

I feel I'm a people-centric individual. I have been on various development workshops and the most recent being one that's called heart styles, and and where a lot of my strengths were lying were in what we call the love quadrant, and within that I had strengths related to compassion, encouragement, development of others and so on. So I feel that, that's really where my strengths lie. I'm able to get the best out of others over a period of time. It might take longer than anticipated, but when I invest in someone, whether that's one individual or or a whole host and cohort of them, I will dedicate my time to you. I'll want to know who you are individually. I'll want to know whether you've got, whether you're married, you've got kids, you've got pets. I'll want to know everything about you so that I can understand what your triggers are, so I can understand what I can help you develop and grow with. Because ultimately, as I said earlier, I want someone to take my chair, and that means that not that I can retire early, but that I can go and move on to other things, but the self satisfaction that I can receive by proving once again that I can build leadership in terms of a succession pipeline, that gives me the most satisfaction.

Amardeep Parmar: 17:01

That's really because I'm much earlier in the journey than you are and that's from which I know I need to think about, because with the BAE HQ, I've always said if I'm in charge of five years time, then I've done something wrong, because ideally there should be other people that are coming up and then I can take a different kind of role and even in a year's time it shouldn't be me doing interviews, because hopefully I can teach somebody else that can help them, nurture somebody else, and then I can move on to other roles, that within the organization when I have to develop and learn new skills, whereas I'm 260 something episodes into the podcast now. So I've got experience here and I can hopefully train somebody else up in the future. So if somebody is listening to that and it's not me, the initial thing and like says we hardly to give up, I can say this, but I know it's gonna be hard to give up this role and I'm probably gonna micro manage somebody when they come in to take that seat, but I know my inside myself that's so important for the future. If you talk about your own journey now, what's most exciting for you going forwards? They want you working gone. What was exciting?

Shakeel Jivraj: 18:05

There's a lot of personal development from my perspective. I'm looking to make some transformational change to my leadership approach. There's more for me to learn outside of being an empathetic leader. I'm looking to be more strategic in my thinking and then grow in those development roles, personally speaking. We're also looking at other brands within the companies that we operate in, so the franchising market is definitely not saturated. There are clearly a lot of emerging brands coming into play, as well as existing and legacy brands that are now starting to franchise, and that's where our expertise can come in. So I'm excited by the future of franchising in turn, particularly in QSR and hospitality. There are lots of opportunities and if we're able to use our expertise to grow with strong brands in the market and those who have got history, then that's really what excites me to take on new challenges and new opportunities. But again, I need the people to grow with me in order to succeed, be successful and get to scale to a certain level. So I'll always go back to being people centric. Who's the succession for me? Who'd like to continue working with us in our companies and continue to grow?

Amardeep Parmar: 19:22

That's really exciting. So before we move on to the quick fire questions, can you, is anything else better? A pathetic leadership that you'd love to share that maybe haven't covered yet.

Shakeel Jivraj: 19:33

Yeah, I will actually. So, as a leader, I'd always suggest and recommend that we are able to try and share an era of vulnerability with our people. Again. It will build much stronger connection. It builds that level of trust. It builds that level of respect on a human level, because ultimately that's what we are we're humans and we need connection. We're social animals, but we're humans in terms of trust and respect. That trust is a catalyst for increased engagement. So it's something we measure across our business in terms of partner engagement and we call them partners because they are partners within our Starbucks business. But that increased engagement can only come from that level of foundational trust that they have with us as leaders in their business, Whether that be something personal or a part of the team. And then empathy is always the source of innovation, in my opinion. Because if we're looking for the leaders of tomorrow, what can we do within that level of empathy to enhance creativity, to enhance autonomy, to allow for mistakes to happen, as we talked about earlier, so that people are able to grow, people are able to develop. Without the fear of being told off, without the fear of I've made a mistake and it might be wrong, but I've got a great leader in front of me who's just going to guide me and say that was a great attempt. Have you thought about it in this way? So the innovation and autonomy is really what our teams are looking for. It's what they are brought up to think about in terms of how they can grow, how they can develop and what they can do to enhance their own careers. So I'm a big fan of that if you can get that level of empathy right.

Amardeep Parmar: 21:21

Awesome. Yeah, that's amazing. And I think, like I said, the empathy makes such a difference across any part of an organization. It's a leader, a person at the top or the bottom, and it sometimes also does go the other way of where people are just starting out also need to understand the challenges on a leader too. So that does go both ways, I think sometimes of. I remember when I was an employee I always just think, oh, my bosses are this or they're not thinking like this, this or this. But now that I am employed myself, you realize payroll, all these kind of different things, how stressful it can be. So I think sitting on the other side of the table has kind of opened up my eyes to some of those challenges too. So going to move on to the quickfire questions now. So thank you so much for opening your shed so far. The first question is who are three British Asians that you'd love to shout out, who you think are doing incredible work and the audience should be paying attention to?

Shakeel Jivraj: 22:16

Okay, first one is Nick Noshar Jivraj, who is the CEO of Queensway. He's built that business over a number of decades. It's a family business that, yes, it was handed down, but he's enhanced that business and grown it significantly. But he's also the president of our Shia, its minor community in the UK and the UK jurisdiction. So I have a lot of respect for what he's done over at Queensway in the hospitality business, but also what he's doing for our community as our president. The second one is an old colleague of mine who is a franchisee in our young brand's days at Pizza Delivery. His name is Mizan Syed. So Mizan was my chairman on the franchise council and we represented an audience, or franchise audience, of about 60 of us across the estate. I learned a lot from him during that time as the chairman of our franchise council. He was an empathetic leader, he was a great listener, but he also challenged with the right tonality to our franchisor and he supported me along the way because I was a lot younger in my career at that time. And the third one is an individual that I sporadically speak to over LinkedIn more or less, and his name is Rahim Hirji, so I'm also involved in a digital ed tech business in the background. It's called Logic School and Rahim Hirji is someone that I've sporadically reached out to and he's an ed tech collaborator, so he's more an innovator and a leader in the digital education learning platform and models business, so a big shout out to him as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 23:56

Awesome, and then if people learn more about you getting in touch, or learn more about Queensway or any of your other projects, where should they go to?

Shakeel Jivraj: 24:03

So Queensway, we have a website, obviously, queenswaycom. You can find out all about our businesses there. We operate brands here in the UK our Starbucks business. We have a hotel portfolio members club as well in central London, and then we operate KFCs over in Eastern Europe, in Austria and Slovakia. So there's a number of things happening and we have other projects over in East Africa, particularly the smaller hotel business over there. Myself. Obviously you can look me Shakeel Jivraj, , on my LinkedIn profile. I'll always reply to anyone who's got a question, who wants some advice or whoever wants to share any information. I've got resource. You may have resource that we want to share and collaborate on together.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:44

Awesome. And then is anything that people listening today might be able to help you with, or Queensway with?

Shakeel Jivraj: 24:50

Any final words. I think anyone who's out there who's got the resource and facility to continue to develop me as a strategic leader, as a strategic individual, I'd love to collaborate and learn from those who are within that business. Number two anyone else who is more of an expert than I am on empathetic leadership let's please share information, let's collaborate even further and let's help to build a succession pipeline in all our businesses. Number three any franchise brands out there that are willing to work with us and collaborate or who are looking for expertise, come to us. We can support you on that, because we've been in the franchising business for more than three decades, almost across our family, so this is not something that's new to us, but we're always open to collaboration and to look at new projects and JVs.

Amardeep Parmar: 25:41

Awesome, so thanks so much for coming today. Shakeel, have you got any final words to audience?

Shakeel Jivraj: 25:46

Thanks for listening. First of all, I hope I've been able to impart some words of wisdom, some gems for you guys. If you resonate with this, then obviously let's connect, let's talk, let's collaborate further. If I have done that and I'd look to make further connections with anyone within the network who's listening to this so please reach out and be empathetic, continue to listen, follow the rules about curiosity, listening and asking questions and, believe me, you will have the right people alongside you all the way across your entire journey, because the only way is up as long as you're people centric.

Amardeep Parmar: 26:24

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