4it futureELITE webinar
“Transforming your career into success”
4it futureELITE – A forum for inspirational leaders in IT to share the story of their career and offer advice and guidance to ambitious professionals in the world of technology.
CIO at Qualocity
“The boy in short trousers does transformation”
Stuart loves how tech can change the customer experience and deliver tangible benefits to an organisation and he enjoys defining the path ahead and delivering results. It’s why he called his company Qualocity, a combination of Velocity (defined as speed in a given direction) and Quality (of outcome).
With 18 years heading up technology functions, Stuart brings a good breadth of leadership, depth of technology knowledge and expertise in delivery within regulated environments. Typically his work includes strategy and roadmap definition; departmental structuring; programme definition and delivery; with responsibility for people leadership, technology specification, operational delivery and has include business change functions in some cases.
Transformational Programme Manager at Barclays
“My career path to date”
Claudia is an MBA qualified professional with significant Programme & Relationship Management experience in global banking spanning 24 years.
She has a wide breadth of transformational experience, delivering complex, technology-based, enterprise-wide programmes in a regulated environment with annual budgets of up to £20 million, ad is recognised as a talented leader and given the opportunity to take part in two COO sponsored programmes.
A particularly popular Q&A session left several questions remaining to be reached by the close of the event. Our speakers have very kindly provided written answers to those and have also spent time augmenting some of their answers to questions dealt with in real time during the session.
Questions we did not reach:
Do you recommend any good leadership courses? This might tie in with Stuart’s point earlier of using networking for collaboration and gaining experience rather than networking for jobs.
The types of leadership courses I have found useful are ones that provide the time to explore and discuss particular concepts with other participants – for instance the first time that I came across Myers Briggs I found that very helpful. A stand-out for me was doing ILM level 5 coaching with Azure Consulting and would highly recommend them.
The types of networks I have found most useful are the ones with closed discussion groups (by that I mean on WhatsApp, their own apps rather than LinkedIn) and that have some face-to-face element too, for example dinner-based discussions.
Pre-pandemic, there used to be a lot of “agile meetups” and I used to attend Agile York and Agile Swindon. They tend to include sessions on servant leadership which aligns well with Daniel Pink’s “Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose” framework (you will find his TED talks on that if you google it).
We all learn in different ways and Claudia recommended some good books in this area. There are also a wealth of podcast material which can be good for when you are commuting (remember that!) or walking the dog.
The best leadership training I have done is on company sponsored external courses and of course doing an MBA, which is both pricey and lengthy. There’s a lot of good information out there already though. As Stuart points out Ted talks are a good source but also just searching on the internet for things like ‘Types of Leadership’. You’ll get plenty of hits with ranges from 3 types to 10. I remember a Harvard Business Review article that was very good. In fact HBR is a good source of management learning itself. Reading them you’ll realise there are so many different types of leadership, and you should be applying different styles to different people at different stages in their career, or different styles to different problems. Whilst the servant leader is generally the preferred ‘How can I as a leader help you achieve’, depending on the urgency of the problem – servant leadership may not be the best option. The other thing to bear in mind is the culture of your workplace. If you’re advocating servant-leadership and it’s a very autocratic culture you may want to try to start changing minds at the top.
If it helps, I can certainly recommend Andy Moore – Consultant – Leadership, Communication and Innovation. He’s just lead a yearlong internal leadership course that I attended, which was excellent – really focused on the individual rather than ‘do this, this way’. He’s open to contact via Linked In.
What would you consider most important objectives when executing a strategy / project (Would it be the People, Profit and / or our planet)? There is a shift of focus relating to sustainable project management, hence the question.
People, process and systems are the most important factors and, without sounding too capitalist, the ability to measure everything (cost and benefit) in £. Not because money is the only consideration but because it is a unifying measure and I believe most if not all things can be measured that way (including in a not-for-profit).
Can we measure “planet benefits” in that way? That is a real challenge but we have to find some way to make sure that if we are aiming in that direction to make sure our outcomes are real and not just “greenwashing”.
Within technology we are there to enable the overall business strategy and the sustainability strategy ultimately needs to be set there. As technology leaders we have influence in that area but rarely the casting vote.
Working with a friend of mine I came up with a model I called the Diamond Approach (there are 4 ‘C’s to the quality of a diamond – cut, clarity, colour and carat) and we changed this to be Customer/Client, Colleague, Company (fit & business case including opportunity cost) and Community. It is based on other such models in the world of business management but linking it to a diamond (something precious) it seemed to stick and resonate. She used it to demonstrate to her team that all strategy decisions should consider the Diamond 4 C’s. I also rely on PESTLE analysis – it’s a model I’ve come back to time and time again.
Thanks for sharing your insights as a transformational leader Claudia. As a senior project manager working in telecommunications, I often come across the same problem when leading the project teams. The challenge is empowering team members who are at director level, to take their responsibilities in the project seriously. What leadership style would you use and how would you encourage collaboration with senior members of the project team?
Claudia will be able to provide some good practical advice in this area, but just to add to that…
Much of the work I do is around launching and delivering transformational programmes, enabled through digital/technology which is precisely what I am doing in my current assignment.
For c-level or senior management team, being very sure that we are all sharing the same vision, being clear on the outcomes required and their responsibilities to set the right environment, provide skills and resources and in steering decision making is important. I often start by asking them about their performance targets – this would include and often start with the CEO because they will being asked (and rewarded) for the delivery of specific outcomes by their board.
On a practical note a good hackathon or PoC can bring to life what technology can do in a way that a powerpoint deck cannot.
As Stuart notes above, really get to know what’s in it for each stakeholder, how the delivery will benefit them and others. Also as I mentioned during the session I often consider the Trust Equation and consider if am I failing to demonstrate any of the elements to the stakeholder I am trying to influence? If I am, such as reliability, they may not have worked with me before and had a poor experience with another programme manager, so I have a conversation with them. I ask about not only what they want to achieve but also their fears, how the work will be delivered and how the result will benefit all. I try to give them confidence in my ability, I ask them how they want me to communicate with them (a RACI matrix can be useful here), both for updates & escalations.
If I need their or their teams input, then I outline the importance and what it’ll mean if they don’t provide it to the right standard or in a timely fashion, offer to give good notice when I’ll need their input.
Good judgment on escalations is always helpful. Don’t escalate minor/cosmetic items but do for anything significant. Say what the problem is, the impact, DO note what options there are and say which you think is the one likely to be the best & why. You can’t just throw a problem over the fence, you have to give the stakeholders everything they need to make an informed decision. Doing all this will improve your ‘brand’ and get you know a positive reputation which will help in the long run.
You are correct about people’s reluctance to change, even those working in change functions! How do you convince senior / Exec level staff in the validity of what you are proposing and how do you get them “on board” with the idea?
Adding to my points on the previous question…
One of the things I am doing at the moment as I am launching an extensive transformation enabled through a range of different technologies, is to jointly work with the senior management team on the pack we will take to the board for sign-off against. This is a blend of facilitating and leading, with the aim that they own it as much as I do.
We are aiming to do a PoC with a group of suppliers to check and embed understanding, expectations and responsibilities / flush out any challenges early.
I mirror what Stuart has said above and he’s right any opportunity to do a PoC is so valuable on many fronts – it really gets minds focused and saves a lot of pain later on. In addition to that I’d reiterate my comments above. Really do your homework regarding the business case, not just want you want to do and the benefits of doing it but also what if you don’t do it – PESTLE analysis can help here. Let them know how it’ll benefit them, achieve a business outcome or make their life easier. Also have a think about the motivation cycle I note below – folks can initially be afraid of embarking on a new way of doing things, the fear of the unknown.
Stuart made a point about developing as a leader when he stopped making the decisions and started leading the brains? Can you enlarge on the features, the hallmarks of a good leader? And how do we learn this stuff?
This is a big question! But I would summarise it as someone who provides what their team needs in order for them to be the very best that they can. And in doing so delivers the best, relevant, outcomes for their business.
I would point back to “Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose” at this point, as a leader making sure your team has what it needs to fulfil those, I think is critical.
This is not a soft and fluffy activity, there are some hard decisions and actions that you may need to take to achieve that across the team, top to bottom.
Creating and reflecting a clear sense of direction is likely to be high on your agenda. Equally understanding your different management styles and their impacts is important. For example, there will be circumstances when you will necessarily need to be super-clear and directive and you will want to appreciate the likely positive and negative impacts from that and handle with those.
Again I’d mirror Stuart’s response and add a couple of further points. I find reflection a useful tool, “what is it I’m trying to achieve here with this person, is there anything preventing a successful outcome, am I clear, am I giving them confidence I’ll support them”, when we say “failure if fine but fail fast and move on” do I really mean it? Do they need more training, support? Consider what motivates them, as Stuart has said Daniel Pink’s ‘autonomy, mastery and purpose’ is one of the best books I’ve read on motivation.
Another point I’ve been considering recently is ‘the motivation cycle’. Before we start anything new we are often worried/fearful of the unknown and may not be as motivated as we could be. Once we get started we are usually very motivated (a bit like actors that say before going on stage they’re scared but once on they come into their own) but it does dwindle and we have motivational peaks and troughs. Look to see how you and your team can spot those, looking at the peaks, what tips could be employed to get them out of a trough? Read about other leaders, not necessarily in business management books/podcasts/programmes but in sports, politics etc. Even watching an old film like Invictus about motivating the Springboks to win the world cup can be beneficial. Don’t worry about taking on board everything they say or do, just the bits that resonate, ones you’d find useful.
Question for both: did your ambition to succeed impact other areas of your life (sorry if this is personal)
Yes – I alluded to this in my talk. I ended up as sales manager for a small company and was over-keen to grow that company into new places, this caused a real lack of work life balance and the relationship problems that go with that.
The CIO role is a busy role, there is always more that could/should be done so I never managed to make it a 9-5 job. This is particularly true in the early days in a role as you establish your leadership with your team, who may also need to develop.
Remember also why you want to succeed. I am assuming job satisfaction and happiness are an important factor…..and likewise they will be an important ingredient in achieving success too.
Ironically, as a teenager, my plan was to be a ‘kept woman’ or as they say a WAG or such like in 21st century vernacular! Life events for me didn’t turn out as planned on a number of fronts and work and the sense of engagement, interaction and accomplishment have been important to me and my identity. I keep a couple of mantra’s at hand for my team though – “consider what you’re doing, if you’re a brain surgeon there’s no margin for error or delay but if you’re not…”. Also, “I won’t be choosing your care home, it’ll be your family so keep them on side”. We all get bogged down now and again in the weeds, but rely on good friends to help you see the bigger picture. Also I’ve seen people who’ve hardly put any effort in become very successful, it’s not always about quantity sometimes it’s only quality that’s being asked for.
One other thing, I’ve been thinking about recently is my voice, it gets higher & louder when I’m stressed, so I think about it after meetings, was I stressed and if so why? Was my voice flat and boring – again why, what’s not motivating me about this item? What can I do to reframe and get back on track?
Questions we looked at in the session:
As a women, it’s difficult for me thinking about moving from Project / Programme management to CIO, the next step even after being in IT for 25 years. How do you plan that?
Look at the skill set for CIO, see what you’re missing or needs developing, network with others to fill those gaps. Have a plan. Think about what you can bring to the role that’s different, advantageous, your unique selling point. Make it be known to those that can influence, you want to move into that role
Can you share your book list Claudia please?
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway – Dr Susan Jeffers
- Elevator Pitch – Linwood Barclay
- Who Moved My Cheese – Spencer Johnson
- Banking On It (Starling Bank) – Anne Boden
Claudia, could you share your equation for building stakeholder trust. I couldn’t write it down quick enough.
Trustworthiness is Credibility ( do you know what you’re talking about) + Reliability (do you delivery on your promises) + Intimacy (can people feel safe when speaking with you about difficult things), divided by Self Orientation (being both focused and caring about what you do) – you can search for this in any browser
How did you manage to handle pretending to be someone else in that first leadership role/first big meeting
There will be people who you look up to through your career, sometimes it can be really useful to take a moment and think “how would x handle that?”. That could be in terms of the way they solved a problem, or the way they handled a meeting, etc.
Observing and then using some of their techniques and then, in time, making them own I believe is a valid learning technique. I would include it under the “being resourceful” – sometimes we may not have the answers, but borrowing someone else’s approach might get you there.
Absolutely agree with the above comment – I often refer to it as ‘sharing best practices’ no need to reinvent the wheel if someone already has a suitable model to use.
How do you reconcile leadership training to be authentic with “fake it until you make it”?
Fake it until you make it can be a useful tool to build confidence, we’re not advocating telling untruths but to seem more confident than you really are. We might not know something 100% but we know enough to make a fair decision – I often consider Pareto Analysis (a search on any web browser will bring up this model) – if I know 80% and that’s good enough/fit for purpose
We hear a lot about social mobility – did you encounter any barriers in this regard?
I’ve had people comment unfavourably about my strong Leeds accent before, sometimes I point out that despite it they can clearly understand me!
Some people look to hire themselves in their teams – they feel comfortable with that but I like to hire people who know something different to me, will offer a wider team skillset or perspective.
Some folks hire past colleagues/friends, they know what they are getting from day one, someone they trust. In my career, no one has reached down to me, or given me a leg up, I’ve had to find my own way forward. Getting better educated, keeping up to date on technology, ways of working has helped me enormously. I have seen people advance because they’re in the right social group or a family member is senior and gives them a helping hand (or so I believe), but life’s not fair and you’ll always have challenges. Pick your battles, if you can’t win, move on but do try to raise the glass ceiling when you can. Doing things like this seminar is my effort to raise that glass ceiling, if I can encourage someone to go further that’s great.
How important in your progress was the personal choice you seem to have made to go for the top?
Ooh I’m a long way from the top, but I do have an engaging and a relatively important job (making a difference to people’s lives) that I’m pretty well compensated for. However, I want to keep going and keep reaching my full potential as that grows – potential isn’t something that’s static!