Lee Chambers is an well respected Environmental Psychologist and Life Coach from the UK. Having recently launched a new venture and become a Radio Presenter, Omega caught up with him to find a more about his journey and his plans for the future.
How did you end up being labelled a ‘Renegade Psychologist’?
I wish I could tell you I had an amazing story behind why, but actually it’s fairly mundane. The young Lee Chambers was always very disruptive, and it has been something that has stayed with me throughout my career. As a psychologist I had no desire to fall into academia or to delve into research, I wanted to get out and apply what I had learnt in real world scenarios. Having spoken to a senior member of the APA, it was reported he had said that “He won’t be remembered for his research but he’s certainly the type of character who will be remembered for something significant”.
Simply hearing that made me think I had to push the reality that I wasn’t conforming and was being different. Everybody needs something that sets them apart from the normal, and I’m certainly a long way from that. Hence, I decided to proceed as Lee Chambers, Renegade Psychologist. It turns heads and has become the prompt for many questions and discussions!
What is one lifestyle trend that excites you?
I’m sure many people will think of data and technology when asked this. For me, it’s starting to understand consciousness and what it means to be human. We are beginning to look more at the positive elements of psychology and getting a more in-depth knowledge of neuroscience. There is no doubt we will always be a fantastic mystery, and yet we are starting to understand that little bit more about our existence.
To carve out something more specific, it’s moving away from the idea of work-life balance, and moving towards work-life integration. Truth be told, balance is somewhat a myth. We only have our life. Work should integrate into our lives, and we should were possible design it to fit with our biological rhythms. This is something I regularly speak about when talking about the human future of work and lifestyle design for optimal health.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
The one piece of advice that has stuck with me is simple, and yet so powerful. I had a mentor in the early days of my corporate career who told me these six words which have lived with me ever since:
“Don’t take advice, and don’t conform”
It seemed so paradoxical; he was giving me advice not to take advice. But it has been so powerful for me. Nothing great was ever built by those that conformed to societies rules and limits. Most significant change has been made by those willing to push outside the boundaries of what is considered possible. And I’m an individual, it’s important for me to work on myself and find out what I want, not search the external world for an answer that’s inside of me.
This has led me to ignore advice which would have held me back. I was advised not to go into the video game wholesale industry as a young black male with a disruptive nature. If I had taken that advice, I would not have built PhenomGames and learnt all the lessons from creating and pivoting the company. It has stopped me listening to well-intentioned advice as it so often comes from the other person’s perception, which is filtered through their own mindset and experiences.
It has also shaped me as a leader and as a parent. Where possible, I stray away from advice and try to help people to get the answers from themselves, using questioning, feedback and encouragement to empower them. And not taking advice myself has led me to fail a number of times, which has been great for understanding my ego and weaknesses. I have learnt a lot about myself through those failures. Conforming is an evolutionary process; once upon a time, if we lost the tribe’s support, we had to hunt on our own and wouldn’t survive. But we are all neurodiverse and bioindividual, so we should be ourselves, fitting in is overrated!
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
I think a piece of advice that is valuable is to find what is truly important to you and work hard to build momentum in that area. Many people jump from one idea to the latest trend, to the next, especially younger entrepreneurs. It takes hard work to build sustainable foundations for a business or a successful career. While we should ensure we don’t hustle ourselves to burnout, the initial traction always takes significant effort, for little visible progress.
It’s the case for many things in life, that until you’ve built up the foundations and started moving the wheel of momentum, it can almost feel like it’s not worth the effort and investment. We should always have a point where we decide that quitting is more valuable than carrying on. And quitting is not failure, it’s what intelligent people do when they have weighed up all the options. So often, people are about to make that breakthrough, and they give up, just before they get that momentum. If you stop pushing, it’s so hard to get that wheel moving again!
What trends in your industry excite you?
I am excited by how we are starting to see people as people, instead of seeing them as resources, and by new applications for health data we can collect. Departments are changing, the old human resources evolving into the Department for People. This is vital, as our people will be going onto the balance sheet as an asset, real social capital that can increase in value if developed and looked after. I hope this will improve internal wellbeing strategy and policy while promoting the value of conscious leadership and a coaching culture. Employees have great potential, and therefore this can be realised if employees are given the autonomy and empowerment to develop, and the appreciation and encouragement to look after their wellbeing.
As we move towards new health technology, the current ability to monitor heart rate variability and humanise the data, opens up new horizons on what we are able to measure, test and iterate to improve the overall wellness of our workforce. It also boosts employee wellbeing as they have tangible awareness of how different scenarios affect them. This is just one of the exciting metrics we have access to and with the future of biotechnology soon, we will have even more understanding of how we function optimally.
How do you motivate others?
Motivating others is essential, as it is a large part of what I do. By appreciating the work that they do, and offering both praise and constructive feedback, I create a bond of trust with the people I manage, and they are my work family in a way. I’m always supporting and encouraging them to develop and grow, even if it means they push the boundaries and fail. We have a culture that doesn’t blame or judge, and feel that everyone has the potential to become a leader themselves and come up with innovative ideas and insights. This open and honest communication allows people to have a motive that drives them to engage with work and flourish.
As a leader, it’s my job to care for my employees and partners. I set an example by leading myself first, and the companies values are not just written, they are lived, and decisions are made with those values in front of mind. I know about my employees lives outside of work. I ask questions and actively listen, and often ask if there is anything I can do to support or assist. I try to inspire hope, in their future and the companies future. I like to think that the secret to great leadership is love.
How has your company grown from its early days to now?
Phenom Games started in my parents bedroom in 2008, with zero outside investment and a solid business plan. It hit six-figure revenue within a year, and continued to grow from there, with me trying to automate as much as possible, but not wanting to delegate anything as I was shortsighted and still trying to micromanage and be the self-made man. I got a rude awakening when I become seriously ill and lost the ability to walk, and then started to delegate as I couldn’t manage everything on my own while in hospital and recovery. I pivoted the business away from retail to wholesale in 2014, seeing the market changing as direct download reduced physical software sales. In 2016, with the political situation in the UK, I decided to switch to European fulfilment only, to mitigate currency fluctuation and any potential tariffs. This led to a team of 13 associates across Europe.
Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing has grown from prelaunch in July 2019, to launch in December 2019. Onboarding my first clients was a real breakthrough moment for a project that had taken years to develop to be a company that encompassed my values and brought an impact to the world. In the past few months, I have acquired several new delivery partners and my first international clients. Despite the challenges of the current crisis, we plan to continue growing, expand the team and increase our reach in both the employee wellbeing market, the conscious leadership sector, and the functional coaching space.
You can find our more about Lee Chambers here and he is active on Linkedin. To find out more about Essentialise and what they offer, click here. We would like to note that since this interview has taken place, Lee Chambers has exited PhenomGames, which is now owned by Dangaard A/S.
Laila Azzahra is a professional writer and blogger that loves to write about technology, business, entertainment, science, and health.