This week’s Life Lessons come from Joanna Swash. Joanna is the Group CEO of Moneypenny, the world’s leading outsourced communications company answering calls, live chat and digital comms for thousands of companies across the UK and the US. We caught up with Joanna to hear more about her role as a leader, the importance of trust, and how to set the right pace for you and your team.
As the CEO of the world’s leading communications company, Joanna operates at 100mph and at 110%, managing teams both in the UK and in the US. She also understands the need to offset this super charged life with break-tests and a change of pace. She says, “if you are going at Ferrari pace you need to have Ferrari brakes, so you don’t crash and burn. It is important to remember this and to keep taking a step back”. This act of taking a step back was something she experienced in her career move from Director to CEO of Moneypenny. Joanna describes this move as “an amazing opportunity, but it meant stepping away from running things and taking charge of the future of the business. I knew that my strength was in innovating and looking to the future of the business, expanding to the US, for example and I trusted the people around me whole-heartedly, but that gear-change to being in charge took some focus”.
Joanna is a firm believer that the role of leader centres around facilitation and empowerment rather than direct intervention. As she stated clearly, “your role is to lead, not manage […] A leader should be the glue that keeps people motivated and moving in the right direction, celebrating and supporting when required, but delegating and empowering them to achieve personal and professional goals”. With her attitudes about leadership serving as the antithesis of micro-management, Joanna offers her advice for spotting when your leader is too involved in what you’re doing. “Top signs are constant reporting and updates, lack of clarity, copying in your boss on absolutely everything”. Once you’ve established if your team leader is micro-managing, Joanna suggests taking the following steps to restoring the balance in your working relationship: “approaching them about it is essential for your progression but you can pave the way through clarifying your role and boundaries, presenting a positive plan of action for your career. Focus on what you do want to happen and not what you don’t. Ask permission to be left alone for a short period and have a review at the end of it with your manager”.
As Joanna mentioned earlier, a fundamental element to the success of your team relationships is trust. She expanded on this belief, stating that “trust is everything. It is the most important business asset that you have […] We trust our people to be the best that they can be”. She also spoke of how trust is directly linked to the relationships with your customers. Speaking of her own experiences of trust based customer relationships at Moneypenny, “managing business communications for a client is akin to them handing the keys of their business over. Their business becomes Moneypenny’s business”. Particularly when looked at through a coronavirus lens, trust has been more vital than ever in ensuring the continued proactivity of organisations over the last year, as employers have been left with no choice but to trust their employees to work effectively from home. Joanna described this phenomenon, stating that, “ these pandemic times have enabled businesses to react with agility to challenges, allowing people to do what they do and, in many cases, do it better. It relies on an open and honest culture which has to be nurtured”. She also spoke of how this heightened honesty has made it harder for large organisations to hide what they’re doing, and if they’re not authentically serving their employees or customers. Joanna stated how “there is no more hiding for big business – consumers want to know more and they expect more, and employees want to know who they are working for and believe in them”.