As part of our 2023 insights initiative at Romero Insurance Brokers, we will be highlighting team leaders across the Romero Group. Over 12 months, The Romero Group will showcase 12 important figures, each from different departments and different disciplines.
Seventh in our Insights Series is Andy Romero-Birkbeck, Founder and Director of We Are Wellbeing. We Are Wellbeing offer health and wellbeing services for businesses, helping them improve the welfare and outlook of staff. Andy has had a storied history in the wellbeing industry, and over time has built a business which offers a wide array of services for the good of employees and managers. Mid-way through a critical year of growth for the business, we sit down to discuss his management style and the importance of a positive mindset.
What are your roles and responsibilities?
Founder and Director of We Are Wellbeing. I lead and manage the full team, dictate the direction of the company and manage partnerships with brands and client businesses. I also lead on webinars and head up in-person wellbeing training.
Can you describe your first instance as a manager and how you developed your personal method of management?
My first management role was as a Senior Wellbeing Advisor in a national health club chain where they already had a Fitness Manager. There was immediate conflict between me and this gym manager; it was a real challenge, because she couldn’t see the value of having me there which created conflict. Over time I was able to demonstrate my worth and eventually able collaborate together for the best interest of the team. Then, my role quite quickly changed and I became a national trainer. I would visit gyms around the country and train all the professionals on how to deliver a health screening. This was my first taste of management.
Teaching is a huge aspect of my managerial role. I don’t aim to bring people into a business and then for me to tell them what to do; I prefer to bring in good people, offer some training and then allow them to exude the best of themselves. Otherwise you end up with carbon copies of yourself, and that’s not what a business needs – especially not a small business like ours [We Are Wellbeing].
As a manager, I wear many different hats. Yet, if I can train someone up in a key area it means I can take one of those hats off, and then focus more in other key areas.
What’s your management style?
I suppose my management style is offering people autonomy. It’s ensuring they have the freedom to make their own choices. I’ve been looking into psychological safety – giving people the space and vulnerability to make mistakes. For example if we get some bad feedback, that’s valuable as we can learn a lesson from it. Whereas, if you’ve got someone who’s autocratic and they micro-manage, you don’t have that freedom to make mistakes.
I’m really keen on encouraging my team to jump in at the deep end. Rachel and Becky, for example, neither had any health and wellbeing experience, just starting out in the industry – within six months they’ve been delivering health checks, training courses, workshops. Education is easy to come by, but being able to deliver is a skill that needs to be developed, and requires a platform.
Managers don’t necessarily want a finished product. Because a someone’s who is the complete product is usually fairly resistant to change. We need to be able to identify someone who has the potential and the hunger to learn; you’re looking for a growth mindset.
What’s the growth mindset?
The growth mindset is somebody who doesn’t have fixed limitations.
Honestly, this opinion comes from me because historically I definitely had a fixed mindset. My mum and dad earned a certain amount of money, lived in a certain type of house, and I grew up thinking I’ve made it if I achieved the same as them. But then I met people who didn’t have that limitation – spending time with people like the leaders at the Romero Group and friends who have their own businesses – they have this ability to take the lid off.
This is a mindset I encourage my team to have as well. I wouldn’t be disgruntled if anyone from my team decided they needed to move on to grow and develop. This is why businesses must provide opportunities for growth.
I know this first-hand because, before this job now, I’d only ever been with a company two years, tops. I took every single training course, put myself up for all promotions, but the only progression was down in London. So I job hopped, which worked well, learning new skills and progressing that way, but that wouldn’t have happened if a company had avenues for progression.
In We Are Wellbeing, there are unlimited opportunities to grow and develop. It’s also crucial to find out what’s important to individual team members. I don’t box my staff into what my idea of their career should be – I ask them: Where do you want to go? What do you want to develop? Which bits of the job do you really enjoy doing? – This is key to keeping the team happy.
Realistically, not everybody enjoys their job. But I do; I couldn’t wait to get back to work. And if I can instil some of that into my team, how can we not be successful?!
Do managers have a responsibility to be happy?
I think, to some extent, yes.
You’ve got to be realistic, happiness is difficult, it’s subjective. For people to enjoy life they’ve got to have a sense of purpose. And with that comes contentment. But complete contentment can act as a barrier for a business, because we want people to develop and grow.
I think sometimes having hunger, and being somewhat dissatisfied, can be helpful. For example, I’m happy with what I do, but am I happy with my business right this minute? No chance! I want us to grow and be more successful.
This links back to the growth mindset: Have you maximised your own potential? I think about our team – there is so much more growth there. There’s so much more they can develop, and if I can support them to do that, what a job!
How do you prefer to communicate within an organisation?
I would say this is one of my flaws. The challenge is that there is so much technology involved now, and yet we’ve got quite a small team, so we communicate through Whatsapp more so than emails. But we always benefit from full team in-person meetings.
There’s huge value in people being able to work from home, flexible working, and finding this balance between work and home-life. But there is nothing better than sitting round a table, making each other a brew, getting a pack of chocolate biscuits involved, and seeing people face to face. We discuss what individuals want out of their role and where they see the business going. When we do that, most of the good ideas come from the team – I’d love to say that it’s all me, but it’s not.
What’s one tip you’d give to future directors?
Don’t double book. And if you do, never sacrifice in person meetings. If something comes up on top of a team meeting that’s seems a priority, it actually very rarely is – and can often be rescheduled to another time.