Working with Rob Frost
It was never my intention to work with Rob Frost for twenty years. I started working with him back in 1987 for a period of “6 months to a year” on the Breaking Bread project, with a view to finding “a proper job” after that! The ensuing years opened up other opportunities – such as becoming the co-ordinator of Easter People, managing the Tours including Gospel End, Pilgrims, Jubilate and Hopes & Dreams as well as smaller projects such as walking expeditions and holiday events. And so as the longest serving member of the office team, I guess I must be one who came to know Rob the best in a working capacity over the twenty year period 1987 – 2007.
Working with Rob has been not only an amazing privilege, but an incredible journey of creativity, hard work, fun and adventure! At times it was like a rollercoaster ride as we experienced the thrill of seeing vision becoming a reality and saw exciting new projects birthed and come to fruition. Yet we also rode the waves of disappointment and despair when difficult issues arose, and we seemed to lurch from one crisis to another, due to lack of finance or circumstances beyond our control.
However, Rob was always an optimist and had the amazing capacity to keep “the show on the road. He was a visionary, an entrepreneur, a risk taker and a shrewd businessman. He would have done well as some corporate chief executive, earning a fortune, and jokingly would remark on this from time to time …. but he knew his calling and loved his work, and rejoiced in the freedom he had to be who he was, specializing in his many giftings.
As a visionary he had a constant flow of ideas for new projects or books and dreams for the future. It was quite amazing and often mind blowing to work alongside someone with this kind of brain! It was refreshing on the one hand with a constant breeze of new challenges and options, which kept us all alert and on our toes, encouraging us to see the bigger picture. This was good, but irritating on the other hand as this kind of gifting sees the big picture and the end product but not always how to get there! This brought with it its own frustrations involving moving of goal posts and revisiting a situation with a change of plan once something had been decided and put in place.
Many a day he would arrive into the office of a morning saying “I woke up in the middle of the night and had another idea about that programme we were working on yesterday”. I knew then that we were in for a big shift in all the work that had been done the day before and for which I had given up 3 hours of my evening to complete! I have to admit that often this resulted in a much better and improved way forward to where we had been – but would have preferred less hassle!
As an entrepreneur Rob would delight in the creativity, action and buzz of starting and setting up new initiatives, projects, ideas and putting things into place, but once up and running he then was very
happy to move onto something else having “been there and done that”. Even just two days into a new tour on the road he would be quizzing me about what I thought we should be doing for a tour the following year!
Even though Rob drove me to distraction a lot of the time, we had a great working relationship because we were so different, but in fact complemented each other. He had the big vision and ideas; I concentrated on making these visions become a reality, by trying to put some practicality into some of these unwieldy and often ridiculous ideas, some of which were so bizarre and mad cap I was stretched to the limit in terms of my ability to making these things work!
Rob was a hard taskmaster and often had the unrealistic expectation that everyone worked at the same pace as he. He would pile the work on, the more one would accomplish, the more he would give, not realising that it would sap the energy of the poor colleague who would inevitably “go under” with a huge workload. He would then be very apologetic and become very pastoral suggesting that they take the next couple of days off (but strangely expect the work still to get done!)
Rob was certainly an action man and would have the drive and desire to make things happen and wouldn’t waste time in the process! You knew that if you gave Rob a situation or a problem, he would do his very best to resolve and sort it with you. He was also a “man of the moment”, and more often than not, wanted things now, saying “this is really urgent – it’s come to the top of the pile” …. often expecting everyone to jump to their feet and deliver there and then, totally oblivious of any pressure that he may be exerting on people.
He would reel off a whole lot of jobs to be done, emails to be sent, press releases to write, phone calls to be made, strategies to sort, decide he had brain-ache, go for a 30 minute lunch break and expect it all to be done when he got back and wondered what the problem was when it hadn’t! Having been re-energised and re-charged with his 2 for 1 big breakfast, he would be ready to roll again with some more ideas and another flow of work as well as deciding to reshape and reschedule what he had decided earlier that morning. He would be unaware that his poor colleagues would need to get some sustenance in them and de-stress before they could continue! Often, it was just as well that no action had been taken whilst he was out at lunch as he would come back and change it all anyway!
We never quite knew whether it was better with Rob in the office or out, as in the office he was like a whirlwind, but out of it, whether at home or away, you could guarantee that he would phone up about 8 times in morning as he moved from one issue to another. Trying to get work done was pretty impossible!! We had an “early warning system” when we knew Rob was about to come into the office and ensured that we had all cleared the desks, saved programmes we were working on, completed emails because we knew that once he had arrived, chaos ensued! And that was the morning or the afternoon gone!
When in full flow, he would have three or four of us running around in circles after him as he leapfrogged from one subject to another as he “emptied his brain” of things to do, actions to take, phone calls to make. He would do an amazing multi-task effort all at the same time and would dictate letters, make phone calls – sometimes concurrently with one ear to the mobile and the other to the land line, get someone to line up a conference call to happen in the next 10 minutes involving about 10 people to brainstorm the next project, Meanwhile he would pull out file after file looking for various papers and documents he wanted, and then decided he that he needed to look at all the Easter People photos for the past 18 years and see them spread out on a table so that he could select what he was looking for!
He would then be looking up things on the web, book air fares for the next 6 trips, proof the next prayer letter, then would interact with the youth team, have a laugh, make a joke, sit with his feet on the desk and drink his weak black tea, which he would never finish.
Because he was often determined to get things sorted and “now”, he had the annoying habit of asking several people to do the same job at the same time. If he was out of the office he would often phone up three of us one after the other, explain the task, whether it was booking flights to the channel isles, phoning up a load of MP’s for his next TV series, or dong some research for his next book. It was often only half way through a job did we find out that there were several people on the same case!
Rob knew how to work hard and play hard. He was always up for others to join him in his “down time” whether to the movies, pizza in his lounge with a video/DVD or a (2 for 1 special meal deal at Weatherspoons). He never drank, although if he was feeling particularly stressed or wanting to be “one of the drinking crowd” he would step out and order a Kaliber alcohol free lager!
He would unwind with his re-telling of the day, often with grossly exaggerated stories recounting conversations and situations and sought to find the amusing side of things, often convulsing into guffaws of raucous laughter. He would find these times with members of the office team hugely therapeutic in “getting his blood pressure down” – often as he chomped his way through a huge burger and chips or an apple pie delighting in his cholesterol intake as it recharged and re-energised him and made him feel a whole lot better. The only effort he made was to have diet coke!
Rob was always grateful for all that was done by all of us in the office – from volunteers to part-timers, to full time, long suffering staff and would take time to say that he had appreciated all that we had done. He often said that he was a rotten boss, a hard taskmaster and expected the impossible. This may have been true at times, but we wouldn’t have wanted him any different. He was a great boss, a man of great esteem, unique, and a privilege to work alongside. He enjoyed being a friend as well as a boss and was very caring towards his colleagues, ensuring that each was valued, appreciated and affirmed.
A truly amazing guy. I wouldn’t have missed working with him for the world!
Marian Izzard is Deputy Director of Share Jesus International
metconnexion, Spring 2008, p.7