Interesting guest post by Kevin D Murphy Internationally experienced Payments Executive. Business Leader, skilled in business turnarounds, strategy implementation & consumer finance esp. credit cards! Managing director at Colthurst Card & payment Solutions Ltd and Strategic Advisor to Financial Services businesses. More articles from him here.

Recently I was reflecting on my various stints as Chief Executive of various businesses both here in Ireland and internationally. There are some universal lessons that apply across all, regardless of business, industry or location. These will resonate with those tasked with the challenge of leading a business, especially in a time of transformational change.

1. Have clear goals and strategies for the business -set these early on and make them easy to communicate

When I was leading a business in one of the largest Irish banks, leading a team of more than 700 people, it was key that we developed company goals to make them tangible, easy to communicate and easy to understand for all members of the team. One year we condensed these down to 3 key metrics: achieving a 4 on our Employee Engagement Scale (5 being the highest); earning a score of 90% on the Customer Satisfaction scoreboard and reaching €100m profitability. Our slogan for that strategic cycle became ‘4, 90,100’ – it was short, memorable and easy to articulate effectively to all staff and stakeholders.

2. Get the team in place as soon as possible – don’t compromise and make the hard calls to get the right team

Changing teams is never easy, especially if teams are entrenched in certain ways of working within a business. However, in order to get things done, it’s crucial. As Chief Executive of a consumer finance business, I brought in a team of new, experienced directors to lead the business into a new strategic phase.  I needed this renewed vigour, and depth of experience, to help me carry out the turnaround that was necessary.  It’s not about change for change’s sake; instead it’s about ensuring that people are playing to their strengths within their roles and that accountabilities are clear

3. Delegate and empower your team

Following on from point 2 above, bring in professional, highly experienced people. Empower them in their roles and make it abundantly clear where their accountabilities and responsibilities lie. As CEO, this is one of the first areas I focus on when trying to set a business up successfully.

I find the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed) business model particularly useful for this. It’s a tool that is used for identifying roles and assigning clear responsibilities during an organisational change process or when setting annual goals. When you have this model in place, it’s a lot easier to assign roles and it creates clear accountability with regards to who is delivering critical business KPIs.

4. It’s all about making decisions (especially the tough ones)

No one likes to be the bad guy but if you want to earn respect and lead with integrity and conviction there are times when tough decisions must be made. All the easy decisions get made before they get to the CEO!Keep the lines of communication open, and ensure that individuals / teams are informed as to why certain difficult decisions have been taken.  In a vacuum of knowledge, rumours and speculation take hold.  If people are well informed and understand the basis for the decision this can avoid negativity and have a greater chance of success

5. Get your operating model and governance structures right

I find that people frequently underestimate the importance of having and using clear governance models in business. This is closely aligned to the RACI model as it’s about having clear accountability across the business. Setting appropriate governance steerings, forums, meetings etc with the right attendees and right input ensures that key decisions can be made by the right people, at the right time. I’ve been at too many meetings with too many people who really had nothing valuable to add to the agenda (and my patience for these long, unproductive meetings is pretty low to be honest!) Everyone attending the meeting should have a reason to be there so that they can contribute meaningfully to the session.

Once appropriate governance routines are in place, and the business operating model is established, this allows for clear accountability in decision-making. The process is clearly laid out and communicated to all.

While it’s not rocket science, I’ve found this way of working useful for me across the various businesses I have led. In tandem with trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance (which I frequently struggle with!) these structures and disciplines really help to make the most efficient use of my time and allow me to effectively lead large teams and businesses. I hope you find them helpful and insightful.

Edited and prepared by Oscar Michel, Masters in Journalism, DCU.

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