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Lessons from the C-suite: Brian Trollip, Dishoom

The managing director of Bombay-inspired restaurant group Dishoom offers his leadership tips and his view of HR at the top.

I started out… Wanting to be a lawyer. I came from a family with little to no money, so I took a job at a restaurant local to university to pay my way through my studies. It was exciting and challenging, but I found myself becoming happier and happier working at the restaurant.

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I knew this was the right career path for me when… I realised just how much learning is on offer within the hospitality industry. I
can’t imagine being part of a business that isn’t focused on its people. In my experience, the warmth and love shown to guests by the hospitality industry is only exceeded by the incredible bonds built between the teams that deliver the hospitality.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way… I’ve generally been pretty clear-headed when it comes to setting my goals and the way I’d like to go about achieving them. This can be a good thing.

But the biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way is that it’s far more helpful all round to ask the question first. This is much more effective than pretending to know the answer before doing work that someone else has already done in order to figure it out.

My proudest achievement… I can’t claim the achievement myself, but I’m really proud to be part of a business that pulls people together the way that Dishoom does. I genuinely believe that everyone here tries their best and I have faith that people tend to do the right thing when no one is looking.

My biggest mistake… Not balancing life enough over the years. I’ve been guilty of going months, even years, without seeing friends or family because I thought I was too busy. I’m now certain that in order to be happy and effective in a sustainable way, balance is essential. As leaders, we need to keep an eye on our teams in this regard.

My biggest inspiration… That’s impossible to whittle down to one thing or person. In terms of a mentor I’d have to say that Shamil, one of Dishoom’s founders, has shaped a lot of my thinking and ways of working. His sense of duty to others is remarkable and his ability to find the win for everyone in almost any situation is pretty special.

Keeping me awake at night right now… I’m trying to figure out where the chips have landed – and in fact whether they’ve landed at all – after what has been an extraordinary couple of years. It’s important to me that we’re better tomorrow for everyone than we were
yesterday and that’s not always easy to achieve during such interesting times.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next five years will be… Maintaining clear and meaningful conversations, both within our organisations and with the world around us.

'Nobody gets to the top if they don’t look after their own wellbeing first.'

I need my HR director to… I have no doubt that he’ll keep driving high standards in a brilliantly big-hearted way while ensuring that every person in the business knows that they’re fully supported. He’s pragmatic and works hard to get the best out of everyone.

More HR directors would become CEO if… If they really wanted to, is the short answer. An excellent HRD will manage relationships with the rest of the senior team so well that they’re often the first phone call that someone else in the senior team makes when they want to talk something through.

A great HRD will also be very well plugged into the business at all levels, fully understanding what motivates people at all levels of the business. All of that combined provides enormous potential for personal growth.

What I’m reading right now… An interesting session on leadership by Bill Clinton on the Masterclass app.

My top leadership tip… I’m not sure that anyone gets to be at the top of their game if they don’t look after their own wellbeing first.


This piece appears in the January/February 2022 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.