10QUESTIONS with Graham Massey
Our 10QUESTIONS feature asks members of the Freshfield community ten questions about their working life. Featuring client partners, colleagues and FF friends, our guests share some personal stories, views and fresh words of wisdom.
Graham Massey is a co-founder of The House, a purpose-led business, culture and brand consultancy. He works with business leaders to unearth, define and communicate purpose and the organisational culture to unlock potential, build trust, fuel belief and grow confidence.
1. How do you like to start your working day?
Since the pandemic began, I’ve adopted a daily practice. Whenever possible, I spend the first hour of my day with Catherine, my wife. I drink warm lemon juice, make fresh coffee (using a stove top Bialetti) then read something short from a myriad of inspirational books that we both share, followed by a little meditation or quiet prayer.
2. How has the pandemic changed your working life?
It provided the stimulus to fast forward a personal three-year plan and make the move to the heart of Europe, last June. We live in Hungary, about 45 minutes west of Budapest on a hillside amongst vineyards, fruit trees and lavender fields. We converted a dilapidated garage at the bottom of the garden into the perfect space for me to think, create and talk to the world from my desk.
3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I’m fortunate to have been given a lot – ‘you can’t manage (or lead) what you can’t measure.’
Another favourite is ‘happiness is something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.’
4. Where and how do you come up with your best ideas?
I’m very visual and live in the world of metaphor and analogy, so I particularly love working with words, maps and illustrative models. I scribble, write notes, doodle and draw a lot of arrows. I find the best ideas come when I am in a flow and that’s usually when I spend time with ‘shiny–eyed’ people.
5. What does leadership mean to you?
The ability to show up, believe in what you do, see the whole picture, focus, think clearly, reflect and act with heart and a service mindset.
6. Which current or historical business figure do you most admire and why?
I love bridges, real and the metaphorical kind. Bridges span divides, connect and join and create flow. They have their own story to tell. So, I particularly admire any leader who starts a business and makes something worthwhile out of nothing or turns a failing business into a sustainable one. I’m curious about what these leaders saw or heard that others didn’t – or was it just the grit to keep going and not quit?
History often teaches us that the brighter the light of the leader, the darker the shadow. Every successful leader will have his or her detractors, so I’d hesitate to choose one. That said, I respect how Tim Cook has led Apple out from the enormous shadow of Steve Jobs. Big shoes to fill! And who cannot be impressed by Yvon Chouinard, the founder of clothing company Patagonia, announcing that all company profits will be used to help fight the climate crisis. Most memorably he said, ‘Instead of going public, you could say we’re going purpose.’
7. What is your most trusted source of news?
Living in Europe, I’m fortunate to be able access so much online. I cherry pick from trusted journalists and commentators, typically those at the Guardian, New York Times, BBC and very occasionally The Economist. I do miss a Sunday with the papers so I subscribe to The Week, which I really ought to call The Fortnight because it takes a week to get to me. Always something to discover in bite sized pieces.
When I’m in the UK, I buy Private Eye. I like my news best with a large dollop of humour!
8. What is your favourite brand and why?
Marmite – you know the rest!
9. What’s the most recent new skill you have learnt?
I’m learning Hungarian – far too early to call it a skill, but I’m hopeful that I will master the basics.
Ez nagyon nagy kihívás!
10. We all use them… what management jargon phrase do you use the most?
I doubt I even know – but I have adopted an expression from a film to express my attitude to life, leadership and learning – ‘stay frosty’.