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Interview with Adrian Adair COO – The Morson Group
ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP AND HIS DAUGHTER. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
“It’s really important for kids to see where their parents work and what they do.”
Dad of one, Adrian Adair is the COO of globally respected, recruitment and engineering organisation Morson Group and has been a senior leader within the company, for over 10 years. Adrian is renowned for his expertise in coaching, his in-depth knowledge of the recruitment market and his innovative ways of motivating colleagues of all levels to create positive and enthusiastic atmospheres within their teams. We sat down with Adrian, to discuss how different life is now that he is juggling a successful career alongside the demands of family life. It was clear throughout the interview just how passionate Adrian is about creating the best working environment possible and we were in awe at how forward-thinking the Morson Group are when it comes to supporting working parents, and how this ethos has helped them to build a loyal and thriving work family. Adrian’s wife Leanne – who runs a successful business herself, and their beautiful little girl Alana joined us for the shoot and consequently added some wonderful BROOD-esq moments to the interview.
ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
How long have you worked in recruitment and why did you decide that Morson Group was the right company for you to achieve your career goals?
“Well, I’m a recruitment lifer, I started in recruitment when I was a graduate. I’d been looking for the right company for a number of years, I’d met with a number of CEO’s and then I met Ged (Ged Mason OBE, Morson Group CEO). I had already decided in the lift that I wanted to work for Ged. He’s a well-known, well-respected leader, a family man himself and he was proud to be running a family business – Ged’s father founded the company 52 years ago. And I think what clinched it for me in the lift was when he said, ‘recruitment is all about the people’. That’s one of the tag lines we use now ‘placing people first’. Whilst it’s en-vogue for businesses, this has been the recipe that’s been in existence at Morson for over 50 years. I think I knew when I joined the company that it had the right ingredients for me to continue to move the business forward.”
How long had you worked at Morson before you became a dad?
“Well, when I met Leanne, I had always said I wasn’t going to get married, I didn’t like pets and I don’t want children – she said OK to all three. Then we got married, we’ve got a dog and Alana arrived 3 years ago! (We all laugh) So, I’d been here for about 7 years before she arrived. I think because we are a family business there’s always a kid in the building. Alana after this (interview) will go up and see Ged, sit in his chair and he’ll spin her around. I think even though Morson is a big organisation it’s still a family business and you look after your family, don’t you? We think new arrivals to the family are great and kids are always encouraged to be around, and I think that’s fantastic. I think it’s really important for kids to see where their parents work and understand what they do.”
Morson have quite an innovative approach to supporting working parents, can you tell us a little bit more about how the company do that so successfully.
“I think a lot of organisations are still figuring out how to handle working parents, whereas it’s been baked in here. Simply, we look after them in the different ways that they need. That might be a part-time return or a full-time return with flexible hours, there’s no set solution it’s about each person as an individual and their specific job role, we try to understand what is going to work best for them and the business. I think the average time for an employee to work here is 7 years – which is amazing for this industry. And the average tenure for our directors is 15 years, so again lots of people are here for a long time, because we support them.
It was evident during Covid how important this (to support working parents) is for Morson. We talked as a board about what we could do to help our working parents – as it was just crazy wasn’t it?”
We all agree it was a very hard period – especially for working parents.
“So, we put on some kids shows during the day, we sent educational toys out to all our colleagues’ children as well. I think it was the little things that helped, and again I think what was interesting was that a lot of organisations during that time finally got to see the kids on the video calls, but obviously it’s something that we’ve always encouraged.”
Has becoming a parent changed your managerial style at all?
“I think you do become more understanding as a parent, because whilst the theory is great, you don’t know until you do it yourself. I’ve always admired working parents, but when you’re doing it, yourself you just think ‘wow!’. I’m definitely more of an empathetic leader since becoming a father.
ADRIAN ADAIR OF MORSON GROUP AND HIS DAUGHTER. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
How did you personally adapt your life after you became a dad?
Adrian – “I used to be at the gym early every day for example, and I can’t do that anymore. And obviously, you sleep less – bet everyone says that. One thing that stands out is that I don’t read anymore. I used to read a book a month…”
Leanne adds “He used to read the paperback to front by 6 am, then read a book – you were like Johnny 5!” We all laugh.
Adrian – “…yeah, but you have to adapt your routines, and it can take a bit of time to figure out how to do that and of course that can change and evolve as your child grows and evolves too. Another thing I don’t really do anymore is either is watch TV – if I do watch it, I fall asleep! We’re very lucky in that we’ve got a gym in the garden though – so I can still fit ‘going to the gym’ into my life as much as possible. Leanne’s a bit of a night owl and I’m an early bird, so that combination works well for us. We’re a global operation, so for example I was doing some work with Australia this morning and some days I might need to be on to North America at night, so being flexible in your approach is important and that can help you in terms of balancing being a parent with work-life too.
One thing I do try and do, which I think is important for all working parents, is to make time for yourself, you’ve got to fit that in when you can. So, for example, because I’m an early bird I will go biking in the mountains at the weekend, but instead of making a day of it like I used to, I’ll do it early in the morning, so that I can be back in time for breakfast. I think it’s important to find the balance, because that’s your escapism from work and the pressures of life, and I think for me that really helps me in terms of staying energetic, productive, and happy. There’s a bit of a joke in the office if I’ve not been to yoga, ‘Have you not been to Yoga this week, Adrian?’ Because you can tell!”
“I’m actually missing a yoga class today! We do corporate yoga here actually, in the building. We’ve done it here for several years now and I think that’s something I encourage as it’s great from a well-being perspective. Yoga is something you can do collectively. You don’t have to be super fit, you don’t have to be super flexible, everyone can do it and that’s something else did through covid, we put the yoga class online. It’s great that we can now practice it in the building again, as it’s a great way of interacting with the team out of the office setting. We’ve got graduates that come to the classes, right through to people who have been here for years, everyone benefits from it massively. This is something that other companies are starting to implement, but we’ve always been the first to do things like this. It’s so important to us that we’ll often talk to our clients about their staff and let them know what we do here and what the benefits are. We were one of the first companies to have a well-being manager and things like that are important whether you’re a parent or not. It really does help to create a productive and engaging environment and that obviously links back to people staying here for so long.”
Self-care is obviously very important to you and something that obviously has great benefits, is it something you continued to do right from the moment Alana was born or did it take you some time to figure out how to maintain that? And if so, did you feel guilty at all for having that time?
Adrian turns to Leanne laughing, “Do you want to answer that?”
Leanne – “When Alana was first born, we were members of a local gym which do games every year where everyone has to compete. You get points for going to classes etc and he basically was there every day! So yes, right from the beginning!”
The room erupts into giggles – Oh, so no guilt in having time to yourself then, Adrian?
Adrian – “Well, I didn’t want to let the side down. We were in a team, and it was probably a bit for my ego too, as I was in the 25–40-year-old category, so you’re competing against 25-year-olds, so it was good to beat a few of them!”
Leanne – “But, then we saw the benefits, that even when you’re so tired, the more you exercise the better you feel! And we got into a good routine with that, so, no guilt never came into it.”
Brood – “That’s such an important message, as for some people, where exercising isn’t the ‘norm’, they will think that sounds crazy, but once you tap into to it and integrate exercise into your routine you can see the benefits. It’s great that Morson makes that so accessible to their employees.”
You spoke earlier about needing to be flexible due to working within a global company and as anyone who has a successful career knows, it can be demanding at times, so how do you switch off when you’re in Dad mode? Can you switch off?
“I think my ground rule is to be present when you’re there. So, whether it be bedtime or when we’re having breakfast in the morning, I won’t pick up my phone and I am strict with that, so my engagement with Alana is good. We’ve got a great relationship. Don’t get me wrong there are times when we need do need to go on the laptop, so we’ve got Alana her own little laptop, so she can sit there typing away with us at the times we do need to jump onto something. When you talk about work and kids I think about my parents and their work ethic, and I never remember my mum sleeping. She would be sewing in the morning when I got up and as I was going to bed. She went out to work, she would drop me off for my paper round etc, she never ever stopped, and I think that’s the work ethic that’s ingrained in me now.”
Adrian turns to Leanne and continues, “You’ve got that with your dad, haven’t you? And I feel lucky with that as Leanne’s dad worked away a lot when she was younger, so she’s used to that kind of busyness. You can see the impact that is having on Alana already and the things she’ll notice, like when Leanne is off to a meeting and she’s dressed up Alana will say, “Oh look at you mummy! Look at how you’re dressed – you’re not in leggings!” Once again, we all laugh. “We’ll encourage all parents, dads especially, to some of the school drop-offs or pick-ups, as you’ll never get that time back. I’d encourage all organisations to do that.”
Leanne – “Some weeks the balance is tipped so far towards work that it’s just too hard to get that balance.”
Adrian – “Yes, I was listening to Jay Shetty on Steven Bartlett’s podcast recently, and he was saying when he was setting up his business, he was working 16–17-hour days. There were spells last we where we were acquiring new business etc where I was doing the same and you feel bad as a parent for doing that. But equally, you have that mindset that takes you back to your parents and when they were working hard and actually, I only have fond memories. One thing my parents did, was no matter what they were doing they would have dinner with me. Even when I started working and they had dinner earlier than me, they would still sit at the table with me when I ate my dinner. So again, we try and sit at the table and it’s not always practical in terms of timings, with work, but it’s something we’re always striving for.”
We’re thrilled to welcome you on board as one of our contributors, where you’ll be interviewing different working parents from within your vast group of clients. What are you most looking forward to about that?
“I think it’s sharing stories. The more people that hear that it’s the norm (being a career parent and being an organisation that supports that) the better. A lot of the organisations that we are working with are doing some great things and I think it will be exciting to share that. A lot of other senior people that I interact with, are all in the same boat, I won’t spoil some of the stories that we’ll tell but everyone’s got a funny story from when they’re on the phone to the boss, with the kids in the background. I think it will give people inspiration, as it’s always interesting to listen to successful people and to hear how they have done it. One of the last interviews I did was actually with the body coach -Joe Wicks and he made me feel a lot better actually. You just see him on Instagram and TV and people presume, he’s got an army behind him, and that’s how he does it – but he’s not – I had a bigger entourage with me!” We all burst into laughter again before Alana then politely proceeds to offer us all a snack that she carefully pulls out of her rucksack. “And you know he’s got two kids, with one on the way, and I was talking to him about exercise and balance and he’s good at being strict with it.” Alana, who is obviously more than ready for the photoshoot now, interrupt’s Adrian in the sweetest way,
“This is your office.”
“Yes, this is my office. Do you like it?”
“Are you going to go and see Uncle Ged after this?”
Alana then returns to sitting on Leanne’s knee.
Adrian -“So yeah, that’s good, to kind of go behind what you see on social media, which is obviously something you’re doing with BROOD.”
Talking of funny stories, have you got any standout moments?
“Yes, I haven’t told this one. There was this one time that I was working at home and I was on a call and Alana was going absolutely mental and Leanne just came in and said I can’t deal with her anymore.”
Leanne – “Yes, it was during those early stages when they just don’t stop crying sometimes and I’d just had enough. So, I just said you’ve got to take her off me. So, he took her upstairs put her on the bed and did this conference call.”
Adrian – “I was on this conference call; I had my laptop open, and I had a dashboard up and it was just crazy!”
Leanne – “There’s a picture of her on the bed next to all these papers.”
And finally, do you have any hints or tips for career parents?
“I think don’t be harsh on yourself. Just do your best. Also, you’ve got to make sacrifices. There’s lots in social media now around manifesting, vision boards, and it’s great to do all of that, but you’ve still got to graft. I think it’s perceived at times that a lot of people have made money easily but everyone who has done well has made sacrifices whether that’s been short term or long term and you do still need to do the work.”
Leanne – “Early mornings and wine in the evenings!”
Adrian will be featuring each month as a contributor so watch this space and sign up to our mailing list to be the first to receive all the latest articles.
My ideal routine:-
- Get up at 5am
- Have a coffee and a little time to myself
- Go into the gym
- Read my emails
- Wake Alana up, get her breakfast and then get her to Nursery
- Go to the office.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD
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