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Paul Holbrook, Time Rebel

After spending two decades witnessing toxic management that hurt both managers and employees, Paul Holbrook decided to do something to help. Paul talks to us about why he wants his children to continue his work in future and shares the four words that signal the moment his work with a manager is done.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

I spent 20-years in the City of London watching the story of toxic management play out, damage, and even destroy the lives of both managers and the people they were supposed to manage. I decided to change the story by starting my own company.

I soon realised that the biggest challenge standing in a managers' way is themselves and their belief that they should be doing things that have nothing to do with management. From here, The Diary Detox was born :O)

What kind of work does your role involve?

Introducing managers to a method that helps them look in the mirror by using their diary to shine a light on what they are doing every day versus what they need to do. It is incredibly gratifying.

What gets you excited about your industry?

The fact that something that impacts everyone and is seen as so complex - a lack of time - is incredibly simple to fix. It's music to my ears when I get to the end of a delivery and a manager says, "But that's so simple!".

Job done.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

You have one mouth and two ears; use them in proportion. I love that!

What, or who inspires you?

Anyone who has the courage to try something new, despite the uncertainty it brings.

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

I listen to podcasts, read books and ensure I follow the right people on LinkedIn to make sure that my feed contains thought leadership articles. I also like to read the weekend business section in the papers to see what articles and features have been written by business leaders.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

Delivering a Diary Detox to a CIO of a 4000 person division that needed it but quite clearly wasn't ready for the transformation.

It was right at the beginning of the Diary Detox journey, we had breakfast and spoke about a challenge they were having. I offered to do a Diary Detox for FREE (first mistake). They weren't paying for it and therefore didn't value it.

Also, I soon realised that, while they needed it, they weren't struggling enough and hadn't made the link between the problem they were experiencing and their time.

I learned a lot from that.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

After ordering a new aeroplane (I love to fly), I'd bring more people in to help me scale the business.

I've often had people ask me what my exit strategy is. I don't have one, because I don't want one. My passion is to change the existing story of toxic management and create a world of better-led people.

I would love my kids to take over my business and never want to NOT be a part of it.

How do you switch off after a day at work?

I have an hour of what I call 'blue time' at the end of my working day when I walk my black Labrador (Loki) and reflect on the day, listen to a Clubhouse room or catch up with a friend.

Other than that, I exercise, fly a plane and play the piano.

Of course, family comes first, though!

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

That the industry would stop selling more 'management' and 'leadership' development courses without first inspiring a desire for management and leadership.

At the moment, most courses are lost on the people they train because their biggest problem is not having enough time. They subsequently pay it lip service and, when they get back to their office, they do what they always did because they don't have time for anything else.

I open their eyes about the stuff they DON'T need to do anymore and give them time. Once they ask how that time should be spent and realise they should be managing and leading, THEN I point them to the other courses.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

Other than my book, if you're a manager, I would read Good to Great by Jim Collins; it's a great way to think about management.

In terms of a podcast, I would listen to Secret Leaders by Dan Murray Serter or Eat Sleep Work Repeat by Bruce Daisley.

How should people connect with you?

Via the Diary Detox® Website at or find me on LinkedIn where I'm 'Paul Holbrook (FLPI)'.

*Ever wondered what kind of leader you are? Take our free quiz to find out.

**Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.


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