Here at the London Post, we value inclusivity, and as part of our commitment to publishing stories that both need to be heard, and come from a variety of sources, we bring you our new series. We will be looking at Black businesses and entrepreneurs from around the globe, especially those setting a positive example for future generations and disrupting the status quo. For this feature, we spoke to Lee Chambers, entrepreneur, award-winning psychologist and founder of Essentialise.
Lee Chambers is a British born entrepreneur, psychologist and life coach. Born in Bolton, in 1985, he has had his fair share of successes and challenges. He grew up in a working-class family and was a first-generation university student. He has spoken candidly in the past about the challenges he faced with his mental health during his time at university, which led to him failing and being taken home. Despite this, he returned to finish his studies and graduate in International Business Psychology.
He has had a varied career path since, founding video game company PhenomGames in 2008, which he recently sold, and launching Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing last year. If building businesses wasn’t enough, Lee has also worked within local government, with world-class athletes, and within the charity sector. He has continued with his education, earning a Masters in Environmental Psychology, and additional qualifications in Nutrition and Sleep. Using his knowledge, he created his own life coaching framework, known as the DECIDE model.
Given all that he has achieved in his relatively short life so far, possibly the most inspiring element is that in 2014 he lost the ability to walk due to chronic illness and battled back to learn again. Now he coaches disability football teams as a way to give back to society. He is also well regarded for speaking in education about his journey and empowering the next generation about the future of work, wellbeing and resilience.
We interviewed Lee and asked him several questions to get a deeper understanding of the man behind the business. Read on for some insight, ideas and inspiration that you can apply in your life.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset, and set up my first little business selling Amiga games by mail order when I was 12. I’ve always been fascinated by statistics and building frameworks. I spent a good part of my childhood playing business simulation games like Theme Park and Netropolis. I even set up a mobile sweet shop at school before being stopped by the teaching staff as I was carrying more stock than school equipment. I firmly remember my business studies teacher at school saying at the end of year awards, “That Lee Chambers is going to make something of himself one day.”
I studied business through school and college and studied International Business Psychology at University, so it has also been part of my educational journey. The biggest driving factors for me are that I’ve never responded well to taking orders and working without an aligned purpose. Creating my own business has allowed me to work on something that I’m passionate about, and that is well worth the instability of not having a traditional career. Ever since being made redundant in 2008, I have had the mentality that my own business gives me the ownership and accountability to work on my terms. For me, it is freedom, expression and challenges all combined together to enjoy work as part of my life and journey, rather than be something that I do to get by.
What do you love most about the industry you are in?
One thing about being in the employee wellbeing and conscious leadership industry is that there are many people looking to make lives better, and they come from a heart-centred place which resonates with me. There are a lot of talented individuals looking at psychology, physiology and neurology, helping us start to understand just that bit more what it means to be human.
It’s a pleasure to be in a forward-thinking industry where helping people is at the heart of what we do. At Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, we collaborate with a number of other providers and practitioners in the industry, which is another great thing about our industry. With everyone bringing different skills, their own authentic delivery, and their personal lived experience, this allows for partnerships which amplify the impact we can make to human health, relationships and performance.
What traits do you possess that makes a successful leader?
If you had asked me this as the young version of Lee Chambers, I would have told you someone that is very authoritative, confident and outgoing. Funnily enough, I don’t particularly embody any of these in the traditional sense. The traits that set me apart as a leader are the willingness to lead myself first. People follow the messenger before they follow the message, so I’m actively living the change that I want to make and helping others to start to lead themselves.
I ask powerful questions as I firmly believe that everyone has potential and most of the answers inside themselves. I take time to listen and understand everyone that I work with. Appreciation goes a long way. And I actively encourage and empower others to step into their potential, as personal growth and development should be there for everybody to take advantage of and thrive.
Finally, I have a level of credibility as I make sure that I communicate well, and do what I have said I would do. I have a level of charisma because when I’m talking to people, I’m there in the moment, not distracted or thinking about something else. I try to inspire hope in my team, that we can change the world with the work we are doing. And I bind this all together with one trait that sums up all that leadership is truly about; love for other humans.
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. The majority of 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 learned 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 mindset and experiences.
It has also shaped me as a leader and as a parent. Where possible, I stray away from advice and try and 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 several 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 bio-individual, 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 the sustainable foundations for a business or 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 a 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 does the future hold for Lee Chambers?
The future for me is simple, to continue on my path to make the world a happier and healthier place. I’m already growing Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing to be able to make more of an impact. I am launching a mentoring service for young black males, to increase the visibility of who you can become, and inspire the next generation of dynamic and disruptive entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers and more. Every human has fantastic potential just waiting to come out; let’s break down these barriers and obstacles for future generations who will be solving tomorrow’s challenges.