Phil Olley Interview
Phil Olley is a sought after inspirational speaker and author of the Nexus Code. Phil kindly took some time out to answer some questions about his speaking work, his books and how he can help clients in this very difficult time.
You started your career in the military before moving into business. Did it take time to adjust from one career into another?
Yes, very much so. I remember handing in my ID card when I left the forces and thinking ‘I’m now just Mr. Phil Olley.’ The military life is all-pervading, all-encompassing… every bit of your life is about being that person, about that role. The role, and rank you hold become your identity. So when you leave, everything in your world changes, and you have to reinvent yourself somewhat. I went into the world of Financial Services and Sales which was very different.
What can we as businesses learn from the military? Were there any skills you learned that carried well into a business environment?
I soon found that the sort of characteristics that a military life gives you can stand you in good stead in the business world, such as self-discipline, focus, creating a working regime, and doing what you say you’ll do… not to mention time-keeping. I missed the comradery of military life very much, and in fact, I think that is something that is unique and doesn’t exist in most roles outside of the forces. The one big takeaway from military training is how to overcome challenges and operate in crisis situations under pressure. Such leadership qualities are certainly coming in handy in the current business climate.
Your book “Reflections from the White Tunnel” tells of the moment you collapsed and died briefly in 1999 and how you experienced a “white tunnel” moment. Could you recount briefly what that moment was like?
It was a life-defining moment, as you can imagine. It changed everything. I remember the experience of descending through the white tunnel and emerging at the far end. I remember how I felt about that soundless descent. I was calm as if I had yielded and given over to what felt, in that moment, peaceful and inevitable. I was aware of what was happening. I remember the last few ‘semi-conscious’ thoughts I had, and what flashed through my mind. I remember the moment of absolute, singular clarity as I emerged at the bottom of the tunnel. And I then remember waking up on the pavement surrounded by paramedics, one of whom was pushing an oxygen mask onto my face. I was struggling a bit, but he just fixed my eyes and said, “It’s OK mate. You just died, but you’re alright now.”
Would it be fair to say that this experience galvanised you in some way and helped develop your speaking work?
Without a doubt. I began speaking professionally around 5 months later, although I didn’t speak about the experience at that stage. The experience did, however, make me realise that I wanted to help people live more productive, purposeful and focused lives. And that inevitably led to my coaching, writing and speaking. It has really only been the last 5 years that I have used that experience as part of my keynote conference speaking.
Until then I hadn’t quite realised how I could use it as a clearly powerful story for audiences, and nor did I particularly want to revisit the scenario when in front of large audiences. However, I decided to overcome that and now do use it when appropriate.
You have created the Nexus Code. Can you explain a little more about this?
Over many years (more than 25 years now), I’ve looked at what makes the difference, in any field, between those individuals, those teams, those businesses, and those organisations that achieve ‘success’ and those that remain in the quagmire of endless activity and unachieved goals.
What is it that makes the breakthrough into the zone where the top 3% experience true achievement, and genuine fulfillment?
The NEXUS code began with the realisation that there were certain traits, beliefs, habits, behaviours, and actions that created that success … And that these can be learned and developed.I began to codify them into a useable suite of practical tools and strategies and to help people to install them in their lives, careers, and businesses.
The essence is that our success in anything comes from the inside. It’s within us.
- · Most people don’t access those inner resources and strengths that will unleash that success, instead quashing their true potential.
- · Many people don’t achieve their goals because of the way they set them. Most goal-setting methodology is fundamentally flawed in its impact on performance, for example.
- · Most people don’t build the habits to succeed because they don’t know how to change their mindset, at an unconscious level, which is where habits live.
- · Most people don’t make the changes needed, because they don’t have the confidence, the clarity or the courage to take the actions required… and then to sustain those actions.
The NEXUS Code is about removing the barriers, and about taking the actions needed on a habitual basis to achieve genuine breakthroughs, whether that be in sales, sport, as teams and businesses, as leaders, or in any walk of life, even in the most challenging and turbulent times. In fact, especially in the most challenging and turbulent times.
You speak on building high-performance teams and maintaining focus. Surely this is never more important as it now given the recent coronavirus crisis?
Absolutely. And the whole paradigm has shifted too. In times of great change, it’s so important to have full team engagement, clarity of direction, and focus. Many people are working remotely for the first time, and many managers and leaders are wondering how to keep their teams producing results in this period of uncertainty.
Having worked from home for 30 years, I have set routines I teach people, and a very specific set of psychological tools that I use to help get the mindset right, get focused, create a daily action plan, and have a life of balance and high productivity.
Do you have any advice to leaders in this current climate and how they can help get their team through this time?
Whilst in ‘lockdown’ many companies will lose their competitive edge because they simply don’t keep their people performing. Similarly, those who do manage to keep their people performing, even in these turbulent times, can gain a huge competitive advantage.
And once it’s all over, the fall-out from this whole situation is going to be immense, and you as a leader want to keep your best people, performing at their best, once the dust settles.
I think 3 factors are crucial at this stage:
- Connection – keep your people engaged. Make business feel as normal as possible, not just one big discussion around coronavirus.
- Clarity – be clear about what ‘working from home’ means, what you expect in terms of performance and results.
- Communication – keep the lines of communication open, both 1-1, and as teams. Speak to those people who report to you direct, every week. Not just about specific business issues, but about professional life in general. Have a 1-1 development session with them, at a pre-determined time. I created a template for this ‘semi-formal’ coaching session which I use with many companies.
Do you foresee a shift in more events going online or will people prefer more live events?
This is a difficult one to call, and I suspect a lot will depend on how long the ‘lockdown’ lasts. I certainly think people are realising that, for years, we have had the technical capability to work remotely, probably way more than we have been actually utilising it. Now people will be more comfortable holding events virtually. At the same time, I think the current situation has highlighted that it’s a deep-seated human trait to want in-person connection, in all walks of life. Perhaps we will see a rise in certain types of live events as a result.
You are currently working on a fourth book – can you give us some more details on this at this stage?
Well, I’m working on a 4th and 5th book at the moment.
The 4th book is actually the first in a series of small books around specific tools/ concepts/ techniques that I use to help people make transformational changes in performance and results. This one is all about how to set up and achieve breakthrough 90-day goals. There will be a series of around 6 books covering very particular topics.
The 5th book is ‘The NEXUS Code’ and will be a book, and will also be a digital, modular course for people to obtain virtually too. This will take quite a bit of writing, so it might not be finished till the end of the year.
For more information on Phil Olley and his speaking work please see his webpage