Workplace Leaders
Search Consultancy
Managing Director 

Paul Kynaston

As businesses navigate the complexities of a globalised economy, inclusive leadership stands out as the cornerstone of building stronger, more innovative, and harmonious teams. But the success of an organisation doesn’t rely on leaders alone: everyone at all levels must come together to create a culture in which everyone can feel heard and thrive to their fullest potential. 

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, met with Paul Kynaston, Managing Director of Search Consultancy, to discuss his career transition from the Navy to the business world, the key to creating a high-performing workplace culture, and the importance of values-driven leadership in creating effective teams. 

Paul's Journey

Max: Can we begin with a brief introduction to yourself and your current role? 

I’m the Managing Director of Search Consultancy in the US and UK. We’re a multidisciplinary, international recruitment brand which operates across six sectors: construction, IT, business services, healthcare, professional services, and industry. We have a diverse portfolio of businesses within the group, which allows for the sharing of experience and knowledge. I first joined Search 15 years ago, and I was grateful for the opportunity to work across different industries. 

Max: Your background was in the Royal Navy. How did you make the transition from the military into the business world?

I wanted to join the Navy since I was a young boy. When I was about 17, I joined up as a fairly naïve youngster, and I absolutely loved it. It was a unique opportunity to see the world. But over the years, the six-month deployments began to take a toll. So after seven or eight deployments, I decided it was time to settle down. After eight years, I decided to leave, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next. Some of the skills you learn in the Navy aren’t exactly transferable to the traditional workplace. Recruitment wasn’t part of some master plan, but I had a friend who worked in a recruitment business, and I went in one day for an informal chat. Before I knew it, I’d started a new career! After ten years at Hill McGlynn, I came over to Search, where I moved up the ranks until I became Managing Director. 

Max: How did your experience in the Navy influence your approach to leadership?

When you join the military, you’re instilled with certain key values. The Navy is built fundamentally on teamwork: some people are in command, some people are doing specialist jobs, but everyone has a role to play. It doesn’t matter how junior or senior you are: if one person isn’t pulling their weight, the whole team falls apart. I always try and help my team feel like it’s a team effort and we’re all in it together. When you join the Navy at a young age, it teaches you discipline and hard work. The armed forces instil a strong work ethic, and that’s pivotal to succeeding in recruitment. Teamwork, respect, and hard work are the things I have incorporated into my management style. 

Max: What initiatives have you taken at Search to create a sense of belonging and inclusion for everyone?

For every incentive or event, we make sure to include everybody, from our trainees to our directors. I’ve seen some businesses prioritise “high-flyer events”, but those seem to attract the same types of people every time. The construction industry is a tough gig, with a lot of rules and regulations. It’s a hard grind, and it can be extremely challenging at times, so you need to make things special where you can. To create that positive team environment, you need to involve everybody: for example, when we’re making decisions about strategy, we like to involve the people who’ll be responsible for actually delivering it on the ground. 

Max: How can we best create an environment where people from all backgrounds can feel comfortable and engaged?

At Search, we have around 400 employees, and we have people with highly diverse backgrounds sitting around the table. When it comes to recruitment, I’ve always selected the best person for the job, and that results in more diversity, not less. We have people who’ve worked in sales, hospitality, the armed forces, and more. But beyond that, it’s the personality we’re looking for — drive, ambition, and being a team player.

Max: It seems people’s work schedules are busier than ever. How do you find the time to build culture and keep everyone engaged?

It’s tricky, especially since we are spread all over the country. In my team, one of the interesting dynamics is that we are half England and half Scottish, so there’s a bit of friendly competition there. We even have a charity football match! I have teams all the way from Brighton to Inverness, so the logistics of travel can be tricky, but we make sure to get everyone together at least twice a year. As a business, we bring everyone together for our annual awards and our regional teams hold quarterly events. After the lockdown, the whole landscape has changed, especially with the rise of hybrid working, but we still try to get people together in person. 

Max: What’s the key to creating a high-performing workplace culture?

For me, it’s about empowerment. I encourage people to treat their roles as if they’re running their own business and make decisions based on that. When I was a consultant, I found the most enjoyable thing was meeting with clients and helping them make decisions. I felt like a partner to those organisations, and that’s what I encourage my team members to be. To really get good at this job, you need to become embedded into your marketplace, whether that’s construction, engineering, or anything else. 

Max: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

I could almost write a book about that! I was fortunate enough to work for Steven Hill, the founder of Hill McGlynn, who taught me to be consistent. When it comes to the business side of things, I was once told that if you take care of sales, everything else will take care of itself. Life is a bit more complicated these days, but at the end of the day, you still need to take care of business. 

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Max Webber
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