Martin Mainey is a born teacher, starting out as a chemistry teacher in Istanbul and later working in senior roles in establishments of further education. He has also worked in industry and on board, always a keen observer of what makes people tick and perform to the max.
Now head of leadership and coaching at Luxury Hospitality, we met up with Martin to discuss his journey, what defines a great leader, and his lifelong passion to help people become the best they can be.
Can you tell us a little about your background and what inspired you to become a teacher?
I hail from Liverpool, UK, where most of my family still live, and grew up in Preston, Lancashire. I studied A-levels in chemistry, mathematics and economics before studying for a degree in chemistry and a post grad in education. Later in life I did two more post grads in leadership, and one specifically around education.
Early on, my biggest driver was travel, so I applied to be a chemistry teacher at a school in the Bahamas. I didn’t get the job as it required a formal teaching qualification, so that’s what pushed me to study teaching.
When I formally qualified, I took up my first post at a Turkish high school in Istanbul teaching science and chemistry to 11-18-years. None of the other staff spoke English but all of the kids did. It was an amazing start to my career and I absolutely fell in love with the job from the moment I stepped into the classroom. I knew immediately that it was what I wanted to do.
When did you join LH as Head of Leadership & Coaching and how did your previous experience prepare you for the role?
I joined LH in February 2019, bringing over 30 years’ experience in schools and further education. I've also been the managing director of an eyelash company, a senior partner in a recruitment business, and have a strong background in hospitality. My father was a chef and manager of a catering company, so I grew up in both the kitchen and front of house. I’ve also worked on board several superyachts, so the sheer variety of my leadership experience was great preparation for my role at LH.
You’re a keen advocate of leadership guru Steven R. Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. What resonates most for you and how do you apply it in your own teaching?
I love Covey's work because it really inspires you to look at yourself and examine your own values and personal vision, forcing you to work from the inside out. The first three habits are all about working on and exploring yourself, while the next three help you to effectively interact with others. These are all connected by the seventh habit of continual renewal and regeneration of yourself.
I think these seven habits provide an excellent structure for ordering your own life and helping you to be personally effective, so you can lead others in the same way.
I'm also passionate about neurochemistry and my interest validates and supports all of the insights that make up the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. It’s a truly great book. It makes a difference, and that's the most important thing for me in any of the training that I do. I want people to walk out feeling like they have learned something useful that will make a difference in their daily life and operation.
What’s the difference between a manager and a leader?
In general, people see leaders as being great, and managers as being less so. However, organisations need good managers just as much as they need good leaders – they are crucial to the success of any organisation.
I want you to visualise two teams: Team A and Team B. Both teams are in the jungle, working their way through the dense undergrowth to be the first to find their way to buried treasure. Both have got great managers managing their teams effectively – members have been put on a superb nutritional program to keep their strength up and fitness programs to ensure they are working all the right muscles to be able to effectively cut through the undergrowth.
The leader is the person who climbs to the highest tree for the greatest perspective of the area, discovering exactly where the treasure is to guide their team in the right direction.
The leader is the person who has the vision and a clear sight of the goal and how to achieve it. Clear vision, purpose and strong values are what differentiate a leader from a manager, what effective leaders do is bring people with them to achieve their goals. Great leaders win hearts and minds and don’t just buy peoples’ backs and hands.
Is good leadership nature or nurture?
I believe it is both. From my days spent working in the classroom, and as a football coach, I have seen people with natural leadership ability. It's difficult to know where they got it from, but they have it, so I do think some people are born with something in their DNA that gives them the attributes to be great leaders.
Having said that, you can definitely learn how to improve your leadership skills. One of the most notable things about most great leaders is continual curiosity, a desire to stay relevant and to keep learning about the craft of leadership.
If good leadership involves a process of continued learning – is this where coaching comes in?
Continued learning doesn't have to be through coaching - it can be self-directed, and great leaders are always reading around new initiatives. Coaching comes in when people are clear on where they need to develop - they understand there are things they need to work on, and they are typically seeking a blend of mentoring and coaching.
People at the top of their game often benefit from talking through specific issues that they face. In any genuine leadership role, the landscape and demands are constantly evolving and coaching can be a huge support through times of change and new challenges.
A superyacht is unlike any other work environment with a unique set of challenges - what are some of the common issues that captains and heads of department face?
Leadership is demanding in any industry, but the most common issue faced by superyacht captains and HODs is managing interpersonal relationships. When people are living and working together, time alone and personal space are limited, which can be a challenge.
In order to manage this, leaders need to have the tools for selecting the right people in the first place, and to nurture a culture of tolerance, acceptance and understanding. The second biggest challenge is keeping their crew, which can be even tougher.
What are the most common leadership mistakes you see people make?
Firstly, people who lead through ego, with the expectation that people should just do whatever it is they want them to because they have requested it. This authoritarian-style of leadership, where we see leaders trying to lead others without doing any work on themselves, often leads to people feeling under-valued and teams under-performing . It’s vital to understand and know how to effectively lead yourself before leading others.
What would you say are the top three qualities any leader must possess?
Firstly, they are passionate, knowledgeable and credible. Whether it's the superyacht industry, hospitality, a classroom or a college, they love what they do, they ooze that passion and it’s clear for everybody around them to see.
The second is their ability to create an environment where people enthusiastically give their best, and create a place where people are excited to go to work – they aren’t just turning up and doing the job because they have to.
Thirdly, great leaders believe in people and know how to connect deeply with others and coach them in a way that unleashes their potential.
I'm going to sneak in a fourth! Great leaders have impact, get results and can demonstrate a track record of achieving important goals.
Across the company, LH uses Talent Dynamics to profile clients and identify their strengths and style of communication – do you use this in your leadership training and coaching?
Yes, I do. It is a core part of understanding yourself, which allows you to further recognise and understand differences in others. This is important, both in terms of personal leadership and leading others, especially in the superyacht industry where it’s crucial for creating harmony on board.
Which courses do you currently offer and in which formats?
We offer a whole range of leadership programs. There is the GUEST program which is a face-to-face three-day delivery on advanced leadership. We also have a whole range of leadership and personal leadership programs based on the insights from the ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’.
For Emerging Leaders we offer a course called the ‘Five Extraordinary Choices of Productivity and for First Level Leaders’ a course titled “The Six Critical Practices of Leaders’ - a great practical one-day program for those in their first leadership role managing small teams of up to 10 people.
There are two programs geared more towards HODs and senior managers - the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective Managers’ and the ‘Four Essential Roles of Leadership’, which are both two-day courses.
We look at each organisation to assess its needs and see which approach is more suited to their stage of development. For CEOs and board level, we offer a highly effective program called ‘The Speed of Trust’.
All our courses are also available with face to face delivery online or can be blended, so clients might begin online and follow up with one-on-one coaching or guidance with me. We have a multitude of different options on offer.
Even before the current COVID-19 epidemic, were you seeing a shift towards online courses and support?
Yes, particularly with millennial learners. They want to be able to access learning whenever it suits them rather than waiting for a face-to-face delivery, and we've been working towards supporting this aspect of the market over the last 12 months.
What have been some of the highlights or surprises working with yacht crew during your time at LH?
At the start of the courses I ask people to share what scares them the most in their leadership role. What's keeping them awake at night and what are the biggest challenges on board that they would like to address? The highlight for me is when, at the end of the program, they shake my hand and say: “I've got some amazing tools and I can't wait to get back on board. I feel I'm coming away with something that's going to help me make my life better, make my team perform better and lead to greater harmony and satisfaction.”
Who has inspired you most in your career so far?
My dad. He was a brilliant chef with very high expectations and an amazing guy to work for. He would never compromise on quality, but he had a great way of connecting with people, bringing teams together and coming up with the goods. He also knew how to have fun!
I would also have to say my wife. She is a senior officer in the police force and people frequently talk to me about the impact that she has and what a great leader she is. The way she leads in our family and in her social life is amazing, and I’ve got nothing but the greatest respect for her.
Who would you count among the most effective leaders in business or the world stage?
I'm not sure I know enough about business leaders, but I'm a passionate football fan (I'm an Evertonian!), and I see Jürgen Klopp, the current manager of Liverpool, as a phenomenal leader. He really knows his football and he knows how to get the best out of his players. He engages extremely well with the Liverpool supporters and with the media. Even though our teams are arch-rivals, I have tremendous admiration for him, his style and his achievements.
What is your motto?
The closest thing that I have to a motto is when I sign off my emails. I don’t write ‘Yours sincerely’, ‘Yours faithfully’ or ‘Kind regards’. I just write the word ‘Best’. I do that specifically to remind myself to try and be the best husband, father, brother, friend and colleague I can be; to remind myself to be the best I can be for all people that I love and interact with.