Roger leads Barndoor Strategy’s executive coaching team. He has advised government ministers, senior managers and clients facing tough interviews, critical presentations and crisis management situations.
- How did you develop your own skills?
In my early twenties I had a sales job in the City. To be frank, I wasn’t a very strong salesman but I had a flair for sales presentations. Unfortunately, I was too junior to be allowed to represent the company and it was frustrating to have a skill that I couldn’t use outside training sessions.
One day I was in the car and there was a politician on the radio speaking at a conference. I could do that was my first thought – and the next day I volunteered for my local party. Within twelve months I was a London borough councillor and within five years I was the Leader of the Council Group with my own office and staff.
I tell young people who are starting their careers to identify their key strength then put everything into it. You will probably be successful and you will certainly have fun.
- How did you get into executive coaching?
The local council was a bear pit with over a hundred people at many meetings and very little control of proceedings. It was like a public speaking stock car race. I learned to hold my own fast in a very combative environment. You had to craft a message for communication in just five minutes as well as dealing with interruptions, heckling and even occasional applause.
One evening an older colleague asked me who had taught me to speak in public. He wanted to pay them to help him to improve. As I was self taught, I offered to assist him myself. He was my first satisfied client and he kindly recommended me to other people.
- Did you always set out to coach advocacy?
I have had many jobs – from delivering letters, to programming a mainframe computer, to Chairing the London Assembly and acting as Deputy Mayor of London, a great world city.
But I didn’t even realise I was doing advocacy until the local council’s solicitor pointed it out to me. We often found ourselves arguing legal points and he thought I might be quite a good lawyer myself!
On the strength of this conversation, I resigned from my job and spent the next few years as a full time law student. Even though I had very little money, I loved the learning experience and found the skills I was taught very valuable.
I was Called to The Bar in 1997 and got my best results in the advocacy and negotiation modules. I use a lot of what I learned then to help my clients.
- Who is your most memorable client?
Confidentiality is important in this business so I can’t name names!
Over a decade I have helped a lot of candidates with selection interviews and speeches. Of course these are very competitive and your career can hang on a ten minute performance. Some have gone on to become government ministers and even members of the House of Lords.
One minister told me that he still uses a key piece of advice I gave him – Come out from behind The Desk! politicians too often have to get back to the basic principle that they are there to represent their constituents first and their government second.
- What is your greatest achievement?
In 2005 I was invited to advise Women 2 Win, a new organisation that was set up to help more women into Parliament. The Conservative party was very male at that time and some able women were reluctant to put themselves forward.
I had the privilege of working with some very high achievers and supporting them on their political journey. I am sure they would have been successful without my help, but I made the process faster and less painful for them.
When I look at Parliament now, I see so many great women who I advised. It is probably the most worthwhile piece of work I have done and it is making a real difference to the country.
- What is your top tip for speakers?
It is natural to wish clients Good Luck, but I never do that – success in speaking is about detailed preparation and practice, not luck!
Time spent worrying about body language should be devoted to crafting your message. Confidence shines through when you are properly prepared. It may only be a ten minute speech but it deserves hours of care and attention to detail.
It takes a lot of planning to be this spontaneous!
To find out more about how Roger can help: