Top job: Lesley Cotton, Group HR director, Paramount Restaurants

Where were you working before this post, and what were your duties?

My role at Holmes Place required me to formulate and execute the HR strategy. I led a team to drive business performance through people capability across 46 UK sites, with European responsibility across 15 sites in four countries.

What qualifications do you hold?

Chartered Fellowship of the CIPD.

What are the duties in your new role?

I will be creating and delivering the HR strategy, leading a team to increase value across 77 sites. The team consists of five members. However, I am in the process of assessing the business requirements and looking to recruit specific HR skills to drive delivery. I report to the CEO.

What are the main challenges for HR in the next five years?

Attracting and retaining the very best talent within a diverse talent pool. It’s important to understand the various ways to motivate employees, while driving the highest standards of delivery to meet the requirements of a demanding customer base, whatever the nature of the business. All of this must be done within a profitable commercial framework.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Quick thought process combined with a good memory. I probably should’ve just said a sense of humour though.

And the most overrated?

An over-dependency on e-mail – there are times when it is essential, but wherever possible, dealing with people face to face always gets the best results.

What is the worst thing about HR?

HR practitioners who keep discussing the value of HR.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Quite a few over the years, some of which were very sad, such as dealing with illness and accidents. I’m sure most individuals in HR have also had to deal with bereavement.

Who is your ultimate hero?

Steven Redgrave, because of his sheer determination, perseverance and courage.

How do you fill your spare time?

I like to catch up with family and friends. That normally includes eating and drinking, so I have to include going to the gym or running around where I live, which is a very pretty village.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Energetic, caring, demanding.

What is your most popular web page?

Anything that gets me away from work, normally any websites connected to restaurants, hotels and holidays.

What song gets you on the dance floor?

Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan.

What is your worst habit?

Trying to fit 36 hours into 24.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Taking on the Three Peaks Challenge with an all-male director team at Holmes Place. I did complete it, thank goodness. My bath and bed have never been so appreciated.

What three items would you take to a desert island?

A library, skin-care products and photos. I’d try to smuggle my iPod on as well.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Victoria Wood or Julie Walters (left). They have lots of humour, insight and honesty.


  • April 2007-present: Group HR director, Paramount Restaurants

  • May 2004 to Nov 2006: Group HR director, Holmes Place Health Clubs

  • Feb 2002-April 2004: HR director Morgan UK (fashion retailer)

  • 1984-2002: Management trainee, then various HR roles, Marks & Spencer

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