Mar 19 2021| Leadership | interview
by Phil Eyre Founder
Do you know how to ride a bike? If so, it is highly likely that you learned from experience rather than by reading a book. In the same way, Leadership theories can be helpful, but there is no substitute for learning through experience and practice.
In this article, I asked Marie McNeela, Managing Director of Intertrust Guernsey, to share some of her leadership experiences and insights with me/
Who for you represents a model of a great leader?
A great leader is someone who we trust and respect.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern springs to mind, not because of her policies, but because she has the courage of her convictions. She lives and breathes her values. She challenges the assumed way of doing things in a way that many people have supported and followed.
However, great leaders are everywhere. They are in our schools, in our sports teams, in our hospitals, they are in all walks of our daily lives. These are the people that we know we can trust, sometimes based on our intuition, usually evidenced in how they act and how they’re performing.
What are your personal values and how are these reflected in your leadership?
Integrity, respect, compassion, and ownership - for both my personal and professional life.
Respecting others means taking the time to understand where they are coming from and holding them in high regard. I enjoy working with people that I respect and that respect me.
In the last 12 months, compassion, kindness, and empathy have come to the fore. Compassion is critical to understand the people you are working with; you are asking them to follow you on a journey, empathy helps you to understand those people and bring out the best in them.
Taking ownership and accountability is extremely important for a leader to build and keep the trust of others. When something happens, it might not be your fault, it might not strictly be your job, but we sometimes must take ownership and make it your responsibility.
I’ve tried to ensure that people have what they need to work comfortably at home, and they have the flexibility to work around home schooling or family obligations. Sometimes it is about being kind and doing simple things to make sure people know they are appreciated. Everyone could do with more kindness.
Also, I believe we must allow people to grow but that is a two-way street. People need to show you what they want, and they need to help themselves, but a business and its leaders should help to people to make their ambition happen. Coaching, mentoring and investing time in others are all parts of doing this.
What do you look for when building your leadership team?
A track record that shows that they know what they are doing is a given.
I want to work with people I enjoy being around – not people who just agree with me – but where there is mutual respect; people that challenge me and I also enjoy dinner with. Having a team you trust means you can share stress points, work them out and move on quickly.
Also being dependable, which is more than just delivering on targets, it’s about having each other’s back, working collectively where no one has a hidden agenda and where we are all working towards a common goal. As I have said before, trust is particularly important to me – to create trust in others, but also that I can trust those around me.
Is there a particular defining moment since your appointment at Intertrust that has shaped your approach to leadership?
I started building our leadership team as soon as I was appointed. Very early on, we were faced with a strong test of our leadership, centering on the direction and future of the business; we had only been working together for a matter of weeks. We pulled together and addressed the situation as a team.
The first wave of Covid then followed and that made me realise that the senior team I had built were working together for the good of the business. I think that first, early test helped to bring us together. Covid allowed our wider team to get to know each other and to show how leadership worked within the company.
Which leadership skill do you think you will need to draw on most in the coming year?
Communication is a critical skill for a leader and proactive communication shows you are taking ownership of a situation, that you have a plan, and you will find a solution.
Being part of a team that you trust, allows you to be confident enough to share what is on your mind. It’s part of a leader’s pastoral role to communicate with people so they can do their job, know their role and feel confident.
It is important to connect with people and not just communicate information - there is a significant difference.
Good communication helps people to be and feel included, and that they are part of the bigger picture. It helps them know what is expected of them in their role and what is going on in the wider company - it’s a common courtesy!
What is the best leadership advice you have been given and by whom?
My parents always told me to be true to myself. I also remember an MD when I first moved to Guernsey telling me to make the most of the time in every role because it’s never your role permanently, you are just a custodian, so enjoy it.
It’s all about trust
Throughout this interview with Marie, her emphasis on being trustworthy and creating a high-trust environment stands out. Trust and respect (“a positive regard for…”) are intertwined. Viewing and treating others positively both requires and creates transparency, honesty, empathy, a genuine interest in others, quality two-way feedback, supporting other people’s success – the fundamentals for a high performing culture. As Marie demonstrates, these values are not the stuff of words-on-walls; they are lived and experienced in real life.
The leadership challenge for all leaders is how to build high trust organisations, the basis for exceptional performance and enjoyable work. We are here to help you achieve this, contact us to find out more.