Christina Robinson

Managing Director, Green Umbrella

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

My favourite teacher would have been Mrs Pogson, my secondary school music teacher. I had a pretty unsettled childhood and while there was a lot of chaos at home Mrs P took me under her wing, showed me a lot of care and compassion, and ultimately gave me a safe haven and escape. I was very much involved with Choirs and Orchestras which brought opportunities that would have been out of my grasp. I had some amazing experiences because she made those opportunities a possibility for me. She was an absolute inspiration and showed me a world where it didn’t matter what was going on in life, you just need to show up. If you show up, good things will come your way.

2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?

I think I’ve been 40 since day dot! I was a really good kid and never did any of the naughty stuff. I was a really, really sensible and wise kid because of experiences which led me to see the world in a slightly different way. When I was 16, I left home. I had just started sixth form at the time. Leaving home meant I had to keep a roof over my head so all of a sudden, I was doing three jobs and unfortunately, I did drop out of sixth form. I’ve always been responsible but actually being responsible for yourself from a financial perspective was actually quite a big turning point into adulthood. I actually think I’m more of a kid now than I ever was as a child.

3. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?

Possessing grit and resilience isn’t a good thing – people use it as a shield. Having that shield means you’re always battle-ready. I’ve had grit and resilience beaten into me from a young age and for many years it taught me nothing other than to keep going and keep pushing forward. It’s a fantastic avoidance tactic for not seeking help and not taking care of your mental health. There’s power in vulnerability, acknowledging where you are and where you’ve been. Dealing with that will help you win the war, not just the next battle. There is a mass of content out there focusing on resilience and grit and why they’re things you should strive to have. I get it – I just see it differently.

Many people talk about work/life balance and there being a clear line between the two – I don’t think that’s true. I love what I do and obviously I love my family and kids. However, I get told off all the time because I don’t have this divide between being at home and being at work or, working and not working. The reality for me is that there are a lot of grey areas. I read a lot of books, listen to a lot of podcasts and engage in learning because I am excited by it. That’s my downtime. I could be tinkering with a new bit of software or experimenting with social selling strategies and I don’t see that as work. For me it’s the fun stuff! There’s a lot of things I do that I wouldn’t describe as work, but other people would.

4. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

The people that work with me think that I am really organised, and the truth is I’m not. Not even a little bit. I’ve had to commit to and create a lot of strategies to make it happen. I write my to-do list once a week in a ridiculously expensive journal and plan my entire week. Every Sunday I reflect on my week, reflect on my leadership, realign myself with my goals but recently, I’ve added an additional step. I now have a ‘dump it’ list. It’s scary – every week before I start figuring out what’s a priority, what I need to delegate etc I look at what’s on my list that is actually pointless. What needs to be dumped? What’s the one thing I really do not need to be doing? We all pick up things that slow us down that actually aren’t that important, we just don’t realise until we look at things and actually consider their importance.

5. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it et you in?

I’d probably say my sense of humour – when that filter doesn’t kick in. I make myself chuckle all the time and my humour is 100% in the gutter. Sometimes my brain is firing so quickly and my thoughts are so disorganised that the words just all just fall out of my mouth leaving me with some awkward silences and situations to deal with! I then try to explain myself… and it just gets worse and worse.

6. If we were to go and speak to people who don't think very highly of you, what would they say?

“She thinks she’s funny and she’s not.” When I meet new people I’ll usually warn them, ‘Hi I’m Christina and just so you know, I think I’m really funny’. I am one of those annoying people that genuinely thinks they are hilarious. There’s not many people who don’t like me to be honest but the couple times over the years it’s happened and someone has had a problem with me it’s always been around my sense of humour and what they perceive of it!

7. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did
you learn?

I never feel like an outsider, but I often don’t feel like I fit either. I’m too girly to be a lad and too blokey to be one of the girls! It’s the same in professional situations too – I’m just a bit awkward.

The awkwardness is about getting comfortable – and that’s just something I’ll always be developing. It’s not a confidence thing, I have the ability to step into the role I need to take in a group. Occasionally though, when I’m unsure of the dynamics there’s just a little thing that stops me being everything I can be. Makes me put a filter on and dial myself back.

At the same time, when you spend so much time in presentation mode and feeling like all eyes are on you, it’s quite nice to disappear into the background and be a wallflower!

8. In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for alarm? In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for celebration?

Tough question. I see so many news stories each day that I feel like I’m blind to it all. My approach to most things is very practical so I don’t get alarmed. I’m not blasé about things either, I’m just very much in touch with the fact that there are things I can control and things that I can’t. Plus, the one thing I can control, without exception, is my response to a situation. ‘Respond, don’t react’ is a mantra of mine!

I don’t celebrate the news either! Although I do get excited when I can learn something new or get an opinion together before anyone else does. Like the potential TikTok/Oracle/Walmart deal for example. Right from the word go back in the spring I had been reading into the rise of TikTok and dropping opinions on social media about what I saw the future of the platform would be, potential bans in the US and other countries and what that might all mean. Sad as it sounds, it gives me a thrill being able to put this stuff together in my head and make predictions or have an opinion. People want to stay in the loop on the social media marketing front and hear my take on these things from a business perspective. The reality is it doesn’t matter if I’m right or wrong. I like that it’s a topic that doesn’t impact the world – lives won’t end because of it.

9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

I have to play with so many apps it’s hard to choose! is a big win for me when it comes to dictation. I’m also loving Headliner for producing Audiograms. I’ve been playing with that a lot since starting my podcast! On a personal note, I’ve recently started using an App called Freetrade. If you like a bit of a gamble and you’re nervous of getting into shares and that kind of thing it’s interesting. Every time there’s negative press on the social platforms the stock prices are affected. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t invested in Facebook, but it’s really interesting watching from a distance what happens! With all the lockdown, threats of second lock downs, recession related news etc I’ve been watching the process of all sorts of things and how the market is being affected. (Although I should say most of it I don’t really understand! Not my specialism!)

10. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

I love my iPad Pro. It’s been invaluable during lockdown when so much of the coaching work I do has gone online. I’m a fan of illustrating my points with a marker on a flipchart and using diagrams to explain different marketing techniques. Being able to start draw works really well for me – even though I’m not an artist! It helps people I’m working with to understand what I’m explaining so much better so using the iPad to screen share with my trusty Apple pencil has really bridged the gap between face to face and online training! Plus, a quick click or two and I can send the sketches to people – again super valuable. It’s not anything amazing but without the iPad, I felt like I wasn’t communicating in the way I knew I could with people. The moment I starting using it, I felt like I was delivering again.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

Fun, funky and classy. You would walk in and have no choice but to be happy. You would walk in and just be in party mode and forget about your problems for a while. Imagine being swept away in a cacophony of fun and laughter.

12. If you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

When I started my podcast I wrote a list of people I would love to interview. Sean Stephenson was born with osteogenesis imperfecta and wrote a book called ‘Get Off Your “But”: How to End Self-Sabotage and Stand Up for Yourself’. His disability did not stop him doing anything and he just cracked on and got on with living life. He did everything you should do in life – no excuses. His book is all about stopping making excuses and stopping using the word ‘but’. Reading this book marked the beginning of a pivotal moment in my life. Straight away he was on my list of people to interview for the podcast but I sadly found out that he had died late in 2019. He’s probably unknown to most people however he’s somebody I would have at the table

I’d also have my Granny at the table. She was the mother of 13 children, and she was an absolute powerhouse of a woman. She always had the most fantastic stories so yes; I’d love to have her at the table as well.

My final chair at the table would be shared by my Daughters. The stories my Grandmother would tell would allow them to know her. My youngest Daughter never met her and my eldest can’t remember her. If they heard her stories first hand and experienced Granny it would be the ultimate gift.

Sean Stephenson’s message would help them understand my why. My pivotal moment impacted their lives and caused me to double down from a work perspective, meaning that at times they felt hard done. They would see where that pivotal moment came from and why.

13. What decision makes you say, “What was I thinking??” when you look back on your career?

I took a job once doing a telesales role. It was a proper cold calling sales job. It was never something I was going to be able to do as I’m just not that sort of person to take constant rejection. The fact that even for a second, I thought this was going to be something that I could do is just mind blowing. I was destined for failure on that one! I warm to people and like to give value so doing a repetitive sales job was never going to work. The fact that I even considered it is just ridiculous.

14. Can you give a work example of a lesson you had to learn the hard way?

If people don’t like you it doesn’t matter – it’s actually not that important. We have this human desire to be liked and things are not always going to go that way! It doesn’t happen often but, when I grate on people and they don’t like me… it’s problematic.

The lesson is that you don’t have to change who you are to please others. If someone genuinely doesn’t like you, they’re not going to like you no matter what you do. Accept it and move on. Trying to be someone you’re not for the benefit of one person is exhausting, and you shouldn’t have to do it. It’s uncomfortable and impacts your mindset negatively.

I got caught in a situation where I was in a very small team with another strong character who pretty much despised me. I tried really hard to change my behaviours and it was horrendous. I was miserable and so were the other people around me because of it. I bent over backwards to change the dynamic and whatever I did, the situation became more and more impossible. Things just got more and more ridiculous, the stories from that time include the individual having a tantrum because they didn’t get the cream cake they wanted! Eventually things came to a head and the individual left the business. From that point on I said never again. If people don’t like me that’s up to them – it’s their choice. If you don’t like me then don’t work with me. If you have to work with me, then it’s up to you to find a coping mechanism. I’ll give a bit as well but I’m not changing who I am.

15. Who is the best co-workers or collaborator you’ve ever worked with? Now is the moment to give them a shout out - who were they and why were they so good?

From the day I started at Green Umbrella our designer, Mark Mundin, has been a rock. He’s there when I have my awesome ideas and puts the icing on the cake to make them perfect. Equally, he’s been there when I’ve had my rubbish ideas and screwed them up, put them in the bin and stopped me wasting time on them. When I can’t explain what I see in my mind, he’s able to extract that from me. We’ve had clients say he’s my work husband – they’re not wrong! We have a fantastic working relationship and I’d be lost without Mark.

I’m going to cheat and mention a second name, Paul Dewick. Going through the MBO at Green Umbrella was a massive decision and I needed help. At the time Paul was not only a long-standing client, he was also an advocate and close friend. Paul helped me massively in navigating the waters and figuring out my approach, he also gave me the extra boost I needed in my confidence to believe that I could successfully make the move from employee to business owner. Paul has continued to be a voice of reason and someone I can pick up the phone to and rant at, even though it usually ends with him calling me names and telling me to get my crap together!

16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

Nope, I’ve never been the weakest member of a team. I’ve always quickly gravitated into some sort of leadership role. I’ve got this ability to make stuff happen by grabbing the bull by the horns, add into that I can be a bit of a blagger at times too! For that reason, in my honest opinion, I have never felt like the weakest link. I’d like to think that if I was in a situation where I wasn’t offering value, I would remove myself from the situation.

17. What’s one industry challenge you don’t think will ever get solved?

Figuring out the true ROI of social media marketing. There’s never going to be an answer that is 100% correct. There are so many different things at play, social media works in conjunction with a series of marketing activities so you don’t get a true reflection of where success has come from. In honesty, too many people are also looking for the ROI in the wrong place. Social creates efficiency. If you’re getting it right you’ll have more leads coming into your business from everywhere. Your cost per lead will decrease, as will your time to fill. Agency recruiters will find the sales process slicker as they spend less time building rapport and trust. The truth is, this isn’t where most recruiters are measuring things in their business.

18. What changes to our industry would you like to see post-Covid19? What changes do you think we will see?

People see marketing activities as a cost rather than an investment. It’s also seen as a luxury for a lot of recruitment businesses. When things are tight that cost is one of the first things to be cut, even though the decision makers know they should continue to invest in it. That’s one of the things that I would love to see change. I’d love to see recruiters and vendors into the industry put more importance on the marketing function in their business and really leverage it. I am confident that the businesses in the industry that have simply stopped marketing and turned things off are going to struggle massively. Those businesses are going to be in jeopardy.

19. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Nope – I share everything! If we’ve ever spoken and I’ve shared some of my story with you, you’ll know I focus on incremental gains. I have goals which are very personal to me, I look at those goals on a consistent basis and think ‘What change do I need to make to get closer to those goals?’. It doesn’t have to be massive action; small gains, incremental steps all in the right direction – they all matter. They all mount up and get you where you want to be.

20. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

Why has it taken me so long to answer these questions!?! And the answer to that is although I live on social and I’m constantly putting my opinions out to the world. I’m actually very private and a bit of an introvert. Answering some of the questions has proven trickier than you’d think it would be!

21. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

I’m not sure but I think this might be the toughest question of all! There are some really interesting people who are becoming known in the Recruitment world but who would I like to get to know better? Darren Westall from Paiger because he’s doing fantastic things to help make the lives of recruiters easier. Joanne Lockwood because she has so much to give. Every conversation with her makes me feel like I’ve opened my mind further. And finally, my partner in crime within the recruitment world, Amanda Davies, who witnessed my procrastination at completing this task and has teased and nagged me for not getting on with it – we’ll call it payback!

Thank you to Christina Robinson for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Want to listen to Christina Talks? Subscribe to the podcast here

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