Get to know your peers in the global HR community through our career profile series. Today, we talk to Alan Watkins, CEO of Complete Coherence about the perks and downsides of owning your own business, the one book he hopes everyone reads, and how he got to where he is now.
Name: Alan Watkins
Current employer: Complete Coherence
CV in brief:
- CEO, Complete Coherence, 2002 – present
- Medical officer, Del Mar Reynolds, 2002-2004
- Director, Hunter Caine, 1996-2002
- Senior registrar, Southampton General Hospital, 1992-1996
a day in your life
Tell us about your job and organisation.
I have the great privilege to lead a company where everyone is sincerely passionate about helping humanity, through developing enlightened leaders who make decisions that cause less suffering for all those whose lives they touch.
Who do you report into?
My wife – and anyone else who will listen.
Tell us about your team.
I work with the most amazing bunch of people. They come from diverse backgrounds and bring very different views and approaches.
What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Helping my team to develop as human beings, creating new ways of delivering products and services to reach more people, and integrating new advances in research into what we offer.
What is the most challenging part of the role?
Getting the language right when describing what we offer, so it makes sense to our audience
What does a typical day look like for you?
There are no typical days – that’s the joy of it.
Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?
I felt compelled to start my own company because I could not find anyone to work for who wanted to offer the services we provide.
Perks and downsides of your role?
I meet some incredibly interesting leaders from all market sectors from all over the world. I get to help them take on tough, complex challenges and also guide their development as human beings.
On the downside, some leaders show resistance to input even when we know we can make a transformative difference.
What skills are essential for the role you’re in?
The ability to continuously develop ourselves as individuals, as a team and as a company. Innovation in what we offer and how we explain it to people. A great sense of humour – frankly sometimes all you can do is laugh.
How did you get to where you are now?
I was fortunate to understand my purpose from a young age. After that, I just followed my passion.
What were your best subjects in school? What and where did you study?
I enjoyed biology and English the most. I went to the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe and medical school in London, where I also got a degree in psychology at the same time. I did my PhD in immunology at Southampton University.
What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?
My first job was working for one of the most brilliant cardiologists in Europe, Dr Peter Nixon. He was a man way ahead of his time and widely misunderstood. As a medical student I worked for Peter so I could become his junior doctor when I qualified. He helped shape my thinking at a critical time. I have always tried to work with exceptional people and have been lucky to meet many throughout my career.
Have you followed the career path you set out to?
Yes, although I didn’t anticipate it would allow me to work in the UK, Australia, the US and now all over the world. Seeing how humanity rises to its challenges has been very illuminating.
What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?
Leaving the security and financial rewards of the medical profession after 12 years – at a time when I had three young children – was a big decision. I realised that if I wanted to really live my purpose and follow my passion I would need to work in a completely different way. A day does not pass when I don’t appreciate that decision.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?
I went for an open casting interview at the BBC in Birmingham to land the job of a professional coach to people with anger problems. It was for a BBC1 series called Temper your Temper. I got the job and was filmed coaching people live on television to better cope with their tides of frustration and anger. Some of them completely changed which was incredibly rewarding to see.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
My book launch last October and celebrating it with my clients who came along. Covent Garden to celebrate that with me and then going to dinner afterwards with my amazing team –one of life’s moments J.
Do you have any career regrets?
None, I don’t really believe in regrets. All experiences are useful for development especially the hardest moments.
What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?
As Jack Palance once said in a movie: “Find the one thing that you really love doing and do it”. Joseph Campbell, a great hero of mine, said it thus: “Follow your bliss”.
What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self?
Read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.
- Coffee or tea?: Tea first thing then coffee in the morning then tea in the afternoon – enjoy the variety
- Jam or marmalade?: Jam, no bits in it
- The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?: Beatles – more thoughtful
- Mac or PC?: PC – old habits
- The Guardian or The Times?: The Times for general, the Guardian for specifics
- BBC or ITV?: BBC – no adverts to interrupt the flow of the narrative
- M&S or Waitrose?: Waitrose, it’s nearer to my house
- Morning or night?: Morning. It’s about freshness and the birth of a new sun every day – magical
- Rain on snow?: Snow – it’s less common in the UK
- Sweet or savoury?: Both – because you can.
App: Tube map, practical navigation
TV show: Modern Family – fleshed out characters and subtle interpersonal dynamics at play
Band: Queen. I grew up in the 1970s so it had to be glam rock and Freddie Mercury had the best pop voice ever
Song: Over the Rainbow – extremely moving
Book: Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. It transforms your thinking
Sports team: GB Rowing squad – successful for 20 years because they built a system (and I used to row, and I am working with them)
Thing to do on a Friday night: Be with the ones you love
Place to eat: At home
Holiday spot: Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas, Australia
Piece of advice you’ve been given: “Follow your bliss” – Joseph Campbell.