The power of learning

Nick Bates extols the virtues of life-long learning, and how it helps to empower ambition, satisfaction and purpose.

The power of learning

Nick Bates extols the virtues of life-long learning, and how it helps to empower ambition, satisfaction and purpose.

Nick Bates, currently chairperson of Vistage Yorkshire, has had a long career in commercial law, reaching the position of managing partner. But despite the obvious success, and its rewards, he admitted he was no longer enjoying his work on a day-to-day basis. So he became a business coach with Vistage, helping others to realise their dreams. This is his story of fulfilment:

“I’d become stale, but it wasn’t obvious to either myself or anyone else. I wasn’t enjoying my job, and I put this down to the fact I’d stopped learning. It’s very important to have a purpose and to feel like you’re moving forward.

I was still performing well in my job but I wasn’t leaping out of bed anymore. I was earning good money but not satisfied in my day-to-day role. Had I continued in this lucrative position I would have become exhausted and old long before my time. Therefore, I handed in my notice and took a year of paid gardening leave.

But it didn’t take long to discover my next goal in life and it happened quickly. The decision to quit my role as a managing partner was well-publicised in the local press, as well as within the legal fraternity. Thanks to this, and I’ll be eternally grateful, I was approached by Vistage and asked if I’d considered becoming a chairperson in my region. So this is what I did and underwent the necessary training. I wasn’t sure how things would pan out but it’s been the best decision I have ever made in my career.

I used to get paid a lot of money for telling people what to do. Now I get paid for asking people questions and letting them decide what they want to do. I enjoy the coaching element of the chairperson’s role. I also enjoy those monthly Vistage meetings when 16 business leaders come together under one roof. It’s up to me to set the agenda, create the pace, create the environment and build that team.

Every day is different. I have regained control of my life but still work hard. I’m no longer under the cosh and, best of all, I learn something new every day. This group of 16 have a wide range of skills, backgrounds and personalities. My focus is to create an environment where all these people can learn, develop and build relationships with each other.

There is certainly no corporate atmosphere within this group – or any of the groups I chair for that matter. Suits are banned, but we do encourage people to activate their true personalities. These meetings are fast, energetic and enjoyable. There is humour and we proactively help each other with any problems our members have. There’s a real buzz to the occasion.

In addition to these monthly Vistage meetings, I coach and mentor on a one-to-one basis. We build up a huge level of trust between people. We discuss everything about our daily lives in this safe and private space. Everything is confidential.

But we’re not simply a collection of ‘nodding dogs.’ Members are continually challenged, they must accept the reality of the situation that they find themselves in and be accountable for their actions and decision-making processes. In short, I’m helping them to become the best person they can be.

Another part of my responsibilities as a Vistage chairperson is recruitment. We need to get out there and find the right people to be members of our group. If you want to coach, then you have to be selective in finding the right people to coach. This can be a challenge but most definitely worth it.

As an overall objective, personal growth and development is the aim. I currently run three groups for Vistage who tap into a whole array of talent and expertise to assist their members.

Since I became chair in 2014, I have taken advantage of what Vistage has to offer, via their assortment of top quality speakers and mentors. These top-class speakers are not just from the UK but also international. They cover a wide range of topics and have had a massive impact on everyone connected with Vistage.

But I certainly never stand still. I carry out plenty of my own research and partake in much self-reflection and personal soul-searching. You end up challenging yourself with the same questions that you ask other members of the group. Part of my role is to coach someone into a space where they’d previously not felt comfortable going. And when you do this you also reflect on your own decision-making during your life and career.

While we try to help our members realise their full potential, Vistage are doing the same with their chairpersons. Being a Vistage chair is a good way to develop your own expertise. Not only do you learn from your own members, you also learn from other chairpersons, along with speakers and the wider Vistage community.

I admit that when I took the big decision to quit my role as managing partner of a commercial law firm, it was a giant leap of faith. But I needed to depart my own comfort zone. I may have been the most important person in that company at the time, but I feel I have much greater importance now as a cog within the giant Vistage community.

Importance cannot be judged in terms of money, job title or the number of people who report to you. I now have an influence within 40 businesses across Yorkshire. I work with these businesses, have helped and coached them through the pandemic, and this will impact positively on thousands of employees who I may never have the enjoyment of meeting. I now have a real sense of purpose and I feel more significant than ever.”

This article comes courtesy of Vistage who offer a unique combination of resources for accelerating business performance. This includes one-to-one executive coaching and mentoring sessions; interactive workshops; a rich online library of content; best practices and webinars; plus words of wisdom from expert speakers. Vistage offer access to a global membership network of more than 22,000 business leaders.

For more information on Vistage, which has 24,000 members in over 20 countries, and more than 60 years of business coaching experience, go to: Vistage

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