Q&A: Meet the New Boss, Same (Surname) As the Old Boss
James Godsall has been at the head of the business for over a month now. We managed to sit James down and ask him the following questions.
What is your impression of the team?
Fantastic. I’ve known a number of the team for more years than we’d all care to admit to, but it’s been great reconnecting and getting to know some new faces. The level of expertise, and the commitment towards our customers, makes my job a whole lot easier. I don’t need to be ‘the’ insurance expert because we’ve got 250+ years of other experience across the team, so there’s not a lot that they haven’t seen or dealt with before. In former roles, I’ve spent a lot of time, and money, on looking to create truly customer focused cultures. We’ve already got that here, so the challenge becomes one of keeping and evolving that.
What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?
From a time perspective, it has definitely been the investment around my continued development. In some cases that has been a very significant investment, most obviously when I studied my Masters part-time whilst in full-time employment, but it’s helped to keep me growing. For anyone, in any stage of their career, the single biggest thing you can do is invest that time in yourself to keep developing. It doesn’t have to cost very much at all, it could be attending a free seminar, reading a business-related book, finding appropriate content on YouTube… it all adds up and keeps you moving forward.
How would you describe your work/life balance? Do you have any tips?
My work/life balance is definitely changing. In previous roles I’ve done a lot of daily UK travel and international travel, so it’s been something that I’ve had to work hard at, and ultimately there have had to be sacrifices. Moving from a 4 hour daily commute to around 45 minutes has allowed me to reevaluate those sacrifices and make sure that alongside work, I’m doing more of the things I enjoy. I don’t think there’s a magic answer to the conundrum that work/life balance can represent, but I’d offer up the following bits of advice:
- Do work that you enjoy. Work is a significant part of our lives, and if you are not enjoying your work, attaining any kind of work/life balance is going to be very difficult.
- Put ‘red lines’ around things that you won’t allow yourself to compromise on. For me, that is around time with my children. It’s why in my previous world I would rather travel back 2 hours to do a bedtime story than stay over during the week wherever possible, and why I will as much as possible look to switch off from work between the hours of 6pm and 7.30pm every night, and make sure that nativities, sports days, etc, are booked into my diary as early as possible.
- Have a life outside of work. This point sounds a little glib, but it’s certainly something that I’ve lost a little track of at times in my career. I talked of sacrifices before, and one of them for me was that aside from Glastonbury and the odd other show, I wasn’t attending many gigs, which have been a big part of my life since I was about 12. On the face of things it’s not exactly a big sacrifice, but having started to attend more recently I’m appreciating that I was missing it! Having more time for my friends and family has undoubtedly been the biggest positive though, helping to remind me about what is truly important to me.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
I’m not sure my 21-year-old self would listen to the 37 year old version! Nevertheless, I’d say focus on what makes you happy, not on what others are doing or on what expectations others may have for you.
How do you spend your free time?
First and foremost, with my wife Nicola and 2 children, Matilda (4) and Benjamin (1). We’re lucky to live somewhere where there is so much countryside to explore and enjoy, fantastic connections to enjoy days out around the Midlands and UK, one of the UK’s most picturesque cities in Worcester a short distance away, and what has become one of the worlds best cities in Birmingham within 30 minutes on the train or by car. We’re never short of options for things to do and have enormous fun together (along with the occasional tantrum, though I’m learning to control those a little better as I grow up…).
As mentioned previously, I do enjoy time with friends and other members of my family. As much as I love nothing more than a relaxed night in with my wife, I am a social animal at heart so try to make sure I make a bit of time for that as often as possible. As also mentioned, I love going to gigs and Glastonbury festival has become an annual fixture (though sadly not this year, unless the Eavis’ happen to be reading this and fancy selling me a ticket?). I also love films and sport, particularly football and cricket, and really enjoy travelling. I also enjoy running, as I find it not only helps me stay vaguely fit but also helps clear my mind if I’m struggling with an answer for something.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with and for some amazing people. There are 2 people who had a particularly significant impact on me, Peter Cunningham who I worked for at UK-NSI for a few years, and Ashley Portlock who offered me the chance to join Goodrich, and with whom I worked for a number of years as part of that organisation through its evolution as part of UTC Aerospace Systems. Peter helped me see that I could have a career that I would enjoy, and not just a job in Human Resources, and pushed me to develop myself through my Masters, and recognised when it would be time for me to leave that business for an opportunity elsewhere to continue my development. That focus on what is right for others before what might be convenient for yourself is something that I’ve tried to take with me. Ashley was the person that offered me that alternative opportunity and helped put me on a path to experiencing things that could happily fill a much longer career than the one I have had in HR. I got to join a world class organisation in Goodrich, experience becoming part of one of the worlds largest organisations in United Technologies, travel the world, work with fantastically talented people and make some (hopefully) lifelong friends. He also focused heavily on my development, giving me the opportunity in 3 different roles during our time together. I will always be particularly grateful to them, and the others who gave me a chance to continue developing. You can only achieve so much without the help of others, and I would not have had the confidence to take this step without all the chances that others have afforded me over the years.
Who is your favourite author?
From the business world, I am a big fan of Simon Sinek. He has a habit of putting into words how I feel about the world of work and the role of businesses. Aside from that particular genre, I wouldn’t say I necessarily have a favourite author, but I definitely have a preference for autobiographies. I don’t read as much as I should, but from recent reading can highly recommend the autobiographies of Michelle Obama (it’s highly, highly inspirational), Bruce Springsteen and the Beastie Boys. I had Elton John’s and Ben Fold’s books for Christmas so am looking forward to getting stuck into them!
What does success look like to you?
I’m a little reticent to answer this as one of the things I have learnt is you have to define your own version of success and not be defined by what others see as successful. I can tell you what it’s not (in my eyes at least); a job title, salary package or accompanying material benefits. All of that can be what some people view as success, but it’s really not. I guess success, to keep it simple, in my eyes, is knowing what makes you happy and being focused on that.