Lex Showunmi began his career in security before transitioning into business ownership.
3S Partnerships supports fellow businesses in conflict management dedicated to raising their conflict intelligence. Here we find out how Lex came to work in this field and how he inspires others to overcome adversity.
You grew up in a dysfunctional and challenging household. You also suffered from depression and bulimia in your teens. How did these experiences influence your career choice?
I don’t think any of the above had a bearing on my career choice as such. Security wasn’t what I wanted to do in the beginning. I was planning on pursuing a career in music initially, and security was a side-line to earn some money while I worked on becoming a rap superstar.
The most significant influence on my career as a security professional has been my protective nature. As a child, I always looked out for people who were vulnerable or getting bullied – I cannot stand bullies. For instance, when I was 7 or 8 years old, a girl in my class had a condition that caused green wax to drip from her ears. A child from another class was teasing and pushing her, and I stepped in to shove him away. His older brother came out of the toilet, saw me pushing his little brother and quickly jumped to the wrong conclusion. Yes, I ended up in a fight with both brothers.
This innate protectiveness is what made me stand out in security as I wanted to keep people safe wherever I worked. I’ve always been a friendly person, so the two together made me unique in a time when door supervisors were called bouncers. Especially when some less than dubious individuals owned security companies and even more dubious characters ran the establishments.
As a trainer and conflict management facilitator, you help companies to create harmonious environments and increase their revenues. How did you gain this knowledge and develop these skills?
The knowledge and skills to unlock the hidden value in businesses were honed working as a London Door Supervisor. The first moment when the knowledge and skills came together successfully was in 2003. I was headhunted to lead a team of door supervisors at a venue which was having issues with their clientele and needed clear direction with a firm hand on the tiller.
After an initial assessment, I implemented changes in policy and procedures that raised customer expectations and behaviour. I also changed the way security interacted with members of the public. Mainly, we showed customers the response we wanted by displaying good manners, customer care and friendly communication ourselves, which transformed the existing narrative. Alongside the friendly meet and greet, I insisted that security open and close doors for everyone going in and out as it subtly indicated a touch of class. Door staff still had to be firm with individuals who wouldn’t comply, but it was from here that I developed my ‘Assertive Niceness’ approach which plays a huge role in our conflict management and security services today.
The biggest resistance to change did not come from the customers, but the manager who was under pressure to meet targets while we weeded out the troublemakers. I reassured him that in 6 weeks, the next time the bar was full, he’d be making money and have no trouble. When that day came, the manager who used to be consumed by the stress of possibly losing his license due to all the trouble, walked up to me with a big smile on his face saying, “this is nice, isn’t it?”.
2003 was my turning point; I’ve since gone on to have even more significant successes unlocking hidden value for businesses. One that stands out is a venue I looked after in Camden. The bar began taking an extra £40,000 per week within 18 months as a direct consequence of a strategy I implemented in January 2008. By the summer of 2010, it had its first £100,000 week. The size of the increased revenue in Camden was atypical for sure, but the strategy is proven to work.
What is the most common type of conflict you see in the corporate world?
Leadership-based conflict from authoritarian management styles which demotivate employees. A close second is micromanaging. Both show a lack of trust in staff and their abilities, which can lead to resentment and low morale.
Ultimately, it comes down to self-worth. A leader whose worth is determined by accomplishments they’ve had a direct hand in, also known as ‘leaving fingerprints’, may find it hard to allow others to have the spotlight. Once they realise the success of their team reflects favourably on them and is a testament to their leadership skills, they start to loosen the reins. Coaching and mentoring are essential here.
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