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TELS Talks – Paolo Riboni interviews Paolo Riboni

TELS Talks – Paolo Riboni interviews Paolo Riboni

The first TELS group leader works with people, and defines himself as “a worker who has serious fun”. His professional role? People and Culture.
What better way to start a blog called “It’s all about People”?
Thanks Paolo, and happy reading everyone.

First of all, Paolo, how did you meet Mr TELS?

Mariarosa (Gatti, CEO of Tels Società Cooperativa, Ed.) was my catechist when I was in Primary School, and when I was 17 she helped me discover Hedge End, and England’s less posh, but more genuine side. From when I was 20 to 24, we travelled together to Ireland, Wales and England in search of Leprechauns, Dragons and Prophets. Then at 25 she asked me to become the first TELS Group Leader.

To say thank you for everything she had given me and helped me discover, at 29 I introduced her to Elena, my wife (Giacomotti, COO of Tels Società Cooperative) and together they founded I Viaggi di Tels.

What added value has I Viaggi di Tels and the TELS Team brought to your life?

My first answer is: a wife, and an extraordinary friend. I continue to admire them for their initiatives and the passion which, together with the TELS staff, they continue to dedicate to the creation of a better world in their own small way. This year, I have had a lot more time to spend with Elena and the rest of the team compared to previous years, and it has been surprising to find even more devotion and enthusiasm from all of them.

The second answer is: staying power.

TELS existed with Mariarosa for about 15 years before it found its name, and started to shine with an even more intense light in the early 2000s. At the beginning it was an all-female company: Elena, Mary, Betty (Cominotti, graphic design, inexhaustibly creative, now the owner of Il Navertino in Borno, Province of Brescia, Ed.) and Alice (Galbiati, Marketing Manager of Tels Sociatà Cooperativa, Ed.). From that period to today, I’ve seen both the people and TELS itself grow, fight, and never give in (I personally don’t think 2020 has even been their most difficult year). Thriving with them today in the team are also Marica Mantegazza and Simone Bertelegni, ex TELS students, and their Australian colleagues Ivan Fowler and Michael Richards.

The TELS brand of staying power is what Paulo Coelho defined as:
‘It’s better to lose some battles in the struggle for your dreams than to be defeated without ever even knowing what you’re fighting for.’

Would you recommend travelling with TELS?

Of course I would!
The TELS Method has been refined over the years, and is a continual work in progress. It’s all about attention to detail, the central position of the person. It allows anyone (of any age) who takes part in a TELS journey to acquire extra skills in their search for their own self, and in their personal growth.

Speaking of the TELS Method, what colour would you define yourself as?

Yellow and red, above all red. In TELS they call the People Person par excellence. But over the years I have learned to add other colours to my palette, which is what the Method is for.

In your profession, what skills do you use that you learned from travelling with TELS?

Today, if you don’t speak English, they won’t even let you begin a job interview in most companies, but the difference between someone who speaks English and someone who knows English is not just a matter of pronunciation, vocabulary and rules. It’s your language culture that makes the real, and how structured you are. I bear myself with the assuredness of a healthy personal and linguistic growth which, as far as TELS is concerned, is made up of strong bonds with people in England who really helped me grow.

Maria (you have a copy of the Maria Fuga Cooking Club at home, don’t you?), Tony and Marianne, Linda and John, Bert and Joyce (the host families which have become Family for Paolo and TELS over the years, Ed.), are people who have given me/us affection, not just knowledge of their language.

In daily life I often stumble across something that makes me realise there’s that seed within me which TELS and the Method aim to sow in all the kids and people they ‘run into’, for any reason at all.

Enough about you: can you confirm that the Reunion is set to become reality?

Before I tell you about the Reunion I have to add a third answer to the first question, which is: ambition.

TELS, and Mariarosa in particular, taught me to be ambitious, in the best sense of the word. That’s why over the last few years, together with the Team and other ex-students of TELS, this really ambitious idea has been trickling through, a grand Reunion where everyone who breathed the good, clean TELS air as kids can get together now as adults, professional, and parents, and share their stories. To get together again, after a year that has kept us so far apart. So yes, I confirm, the Reunion is going to happen by the end of 2021.

It might only be virtual, or it might not, but we will get together, dressed in yellow, red, green, blue… and silver, of course!

Almost all of the so-called Gurus of company management and leaders in global change agree in saying that success depends on one’s ability to ask oneself the right questions. Paolo, do feel like asking yourself one more question?
But above all, who should we expect to meet in interview number 2?

I would like to ask myself: ‘what motivates you the most in this moment of your life?

Answer: when you hit 50, many people start to think about how to give back to the world a little bit of what they have been given in life. I’m not 50 yet, but I’ve been thinking for a while now that handing something down to future generations, and thinking of their future rather than mine, makes a whole lot of sense.

If you think about it, I Viaggi di TELS has been doing it for 35 years…

Oh, you want to know who you’ll meet in the next interview? I’m not telling you, but I’ll give you some clues: she’s a great lady, one of the first TELS Group Leaders too, who now lives in Switzerland, and works in Talent Management… Ciao!


Paolo Riboni, 47, holds a degree in Political Sciences (Major in Afro-Asiatic Affairs), and lives in Pavia. He worked in Scotland in the early years of his career, before coming back to Italy and putting down roots with Elena and their bubbly adolescent Cloe. Paolo has worked with many multinational companies, in the field of Human Resources. A colleague a few years ago gave him the definition “People and Culture” for his innate ability to bring people together through culture, and create bonds based on reciprocal respect and intercultural empathy. Over the last few months, in transit from one professional experience to the next, he has devoted his time to TELS as a consultant for the Reunion and It’s all about People projects.