Welcome to Collingwood. Can you tell us about your career to date, how did you make the transition from a background in Finance and IT to come to work in leadership consultancy?
Thank you. From filling in numerous personality assessments I’m always told I have a strong commercial driver but also a natural way with people. Consultancy allowed me to work in strong commercial environments (finance, IT, manufacturing, defence, retail) and also specialise in leadership and organisational change. This allows me to explore the most effective ways of delivering a commercial strategy, while bringing people along on the journey. I suppose it comes from first understanding yourself, then finding opportunities which really make you want to get out of bed in the morning.
Collingwood operate at a leadership level in terms of our Search services but what other synergies are there between the services we currently offer and the consultancy services you provide?
Culturally our aims are very similar – to truly acquire the best person for a company to accelerate their performance, or to align and strengthen the organisation and its leadership capability to achieve growth. Both services also help us to offer tailored solutions to build long term relationships with clients and feel the pain of change alongside them.
Our target markets are also similar. Both sides of the business work with the executive or board level to define the need strategically first through a thorough diagnostic process. Having the ability to design with a future growth focus allows for a more sustainable solution for the client. For example, we will acquire talent for the future needs of a company, both strategically and culturally, and our leadership transition programmes support new leaders in gaining commercial benefit quicker and more effectively, so delivery of the strategy has a greater chance of success.
Were these also your reasons for joining Collingwood?
It’s important for me to join a company which fits culturally. Collingwood has a strong ethos which is driven by purpose and core values which align to my own personal ones. It’s a cliché to say that we are ‘client focused’ but that honestly shines through here at every level and with every interaction. The people truly care about the clients and the journey they are on, often providing more value than was originally agreed just because it’s ‘the right thing to do’. This is how I like to work so this was very appealing.
Could you give clients some examples of the types of challenges you’ve helped organisations overcome?
The common challenges are the causes of organisational change. These usually fall into the categories of business turnaround, realignment, accelerated growth, start-ups or sustaining success.
I have worked with companies who have been realigning their direction due to a change in customer behaviour or the need for a less transactional, erratic revenue stream. Both these clients had to work hard at defining and communicating their need for change because those who were close to the customer didn’t understand the commercial drivers for change, yet they were the ones who would have to deal with the customer day to day and explain the changes. There was a strong focus in these programmes to involve and engage employees at all levels, to educate them on the change and importantly, reinforce what wasn’t going to change as it was an uncertain time for them. In both instances the change was successful, the company share price increased and larger, more profitable contracts were won which made the business performance more sustainable and predictable.
I have also led turnaround and accelerated growth programmes. The need here is different as there is a strong urgency for change already established but there is high uncertainty and change fatigue from multiple acquisitions or previously failed change programmes. Overcoming the resistance and cynicism in these programmes is imperative if the change programme is to succeed. In both these cases, the companies succeeded in refinancing and selling the business for a figure which was inconceivable at the start of the programme.
In all cases though, the important thing is to take the time to understand the client, their pressures and constraints, and develop strong, honest relationships with them. This way you can work as a team and respond quickly and effectively to the changes which need to happen for the programme to be successful. Managing organisational change isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s a lot easier if you’re part of a strong team delivering it.
What’s been the toughest organisational challenge you have worked to overcome?
Undoubtedly the toughest would be working to create a high performance culture among 5 competing firms who had created a consortium overnight. The deal is sensitive in nature so I can’t go into it, but the commercial challenge was, from day 1, to produce revenue to the consortium parent companies while delivering savings to the client from the outsourcing arrangement. The companies and individuals had never worked together before, the client was 3 disparate entities who each had differing needs, and the challenge of balancing delivery today while building culture and sustainability for tomorrow couldn’t have been more prominent. Through working in such a highly stressful environment and carving our way through together, some of my strongest and closest working relationships were formed. The contract was successful and profitable on both sides, even gaining referenceability and contract renewal in following years. Definitely an environment of survival of the fittest!
What has been your proudest career achievement to date?
I’ve been lucky to work with individuals and teams who are willing to push themselves and try new approaches to improve themselves and group results. I find this incredibly rewarding as I can see them grow and get such personal and commercial satisfaction from doing things they wouldn’t have done without some external support. My proudest moment was seeing the progress of individuals, teams and the overall organisational results from a client in Australia. Leading the programme from 12,500 miles away took significant sacrifice and commitment from both sides, but the team did an incredible job.
How can prospective and existing clients find out more?