Chris Croft's courses on LinkedIn and Udemy help people all over the world improve their management and leadership skills. UK-based Chris talks to The Industry Leaders about his journey from "not very good" Engineer to globally renowned Author, Speaker and Educator.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
It's been a pretty random pathway, to be honest! I started out as an Engineer, although not a very good one because I had no attention to detail and wasn't great at maths!
I then went into management, running factories for a living. I was quite good at that but didn't really enjoy it - lots of politics and stress and relentless targets - before seeing a job advert for a University Lecturer. I got that job and really enjoyed it, but couldn't live on the salary, so I ended up going self-employed as a trainer and have never looked back.
What kind of work does your role involve?
Travelling around, mainly in the UK but sometimes abroad, talking to groups of people, usually 6-20 but sometimes to 300 or so. The talks cover various subjects, mainly Project Management, Time Management, Negotiating, Leadership, Handling Difficult People, and sometimes Selling or Presentation Skills (both of which I actually do every day!). I also record my talks as videos and put them on Udemy.com and LinkedIn Learning.
What gets you excited about your industry?
It's fun to tell people stories and see them learn. You meet new people every day, and the work changes people's lives. I get quite a bit of thanks, and it never gets boring, and I get closure every day (unlike with management). I also have security, as work is spread over many customers and can take plenty of holidays. Finally, it's really well paid.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Always keep your promises. I've never cancelled a training course and never been late for one in 20 years.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
I'm very active on Linkedin, and I am also coaching people who want to become freelance management trainers like me.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I read books on subjects like Time Management, I compare notes with other trainers, I take some online courses, and I go to conferences and networking events when I can.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
In 2020 I changed over completely from face-to-face training to Zoom and Teams training. Also, I've had to learn how to make videos - talking to the camera is totally different to talking to an audience; it's a whole new skill.
There are small challenges every day in this job too. Every talk and audience is different, and the people within an audience all have slightly different requirements, so satisfying all of them is a constant game.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Nothing would change. I already do the work because I love it; I'd be bored if I gave it up. I could already retire and live off my savings and the passive income from Udemy and LinkedIn Learning, but I haven't.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I play the saxophone in a band, I like walking my dog on the beach, and I like eating curry - but, to be honest, I never really switch off. I'm always having more ideas for blog posts, books, videos, and courses, but that's ok because that's what I love.
Training isn't what I do; a trainer is what I AM.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
There are some really bad courses out there, either boring or messy or even wrong, and yet there is no measurable quality control. People who go on a course can't tell if it's any good or not if it's the only one they go on. It's hard to compare courses.
I'm hoping that the rise of video courses will allow reviews and comparison so the better courses will prosper. This isn't about me, I'm fine, but I do feel there isn't really fairness or justice at the moment.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
With books, it's hard to know where to start, but these spring to mind:
The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck.
The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey.
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge.
The Goal by Eli Goldratt.
How should people connect with you?
Editor's note: With over 70,000 followers on LinkedIn, Chris's content on management and leadership is read by leaders the world over. If you're not already following Chris, we'd recommend it!
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**Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.