Twenty company secretaries gathered recently for dinner under the auspices of the Leadership Development Programme. Our guest speaker for the evening was Graham Staples, Group Company Secretary at Schroders plc, a constituent of the FTSE100, and Europe’s largest independent listed asset management company.
Graham has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry, and shared a number of insights on key lessons he had learnt as he had progressed in his career. He advised that colleagues should:
- differentiate themselves by excelling, and making a difference;
- work to their skill set;
- ask to take on tasks, or otherwise not be surprised if they ‘didn’t get’;
- build relationships and empathise with the colleagues with whom they would work later in their career;
- retain control over their area of responsibility;
- understand their business and, if possible, run a business unit to develop commercial skills;
- handle the relationship with the NEDs, and act as a bridge between them and the Executive.
As if that wasn’t enough, Graham (an MBA) also shared a list he had drawn up of ‘the things they don’t teach you at business school’.
- Trust is everything. If you can’t be trusted, ultimately you will not succeed.
- Always look at things from the other person’s perspective – how would they read what you have written, react to an announcement etc. Empathy is a great skill.
- People are not rational. They do not always take the obvious (or right) course of action.
- In stressed situations, people act even more irrationally!
- Things do go wrong. Mistakes are forgiven; but generally only once for each mistake, so learn fast from them!
- Commonality of cause can enable people to achieve great things, especially in the face of adversity.
- Never burn your bridges. Today’s enemy could be tomorrow’s boss!
- Master the art of communication (and that doesn’t mean slick presentations).
- Arrogance will destroy you in the end.
- Always be aware of the influence you have on others. You may be surprised that it is greater than you think, and therefore should be used wisely.
I have now started work on my own list!
Graham’s reflections provided a great opportunity for colleagues to accelerate their learning of what they needed to do to get to the top, and stay there.