When people get to senior management level in business, they often think that everyone expects them to be really good at everything they touch, and to know everything - about not only the job they’re doing but about everyone else’s job too.
The truth is, most people get to senior management level because they’ve learned from others along the way. They’ve identified valuable mentors, or people with skill sets in areas where they themselves aren’t as strong and have allowed themselves to be a little vulnerable. They’ve admitted they don’t know everything and have asked for help.
And that’s one hundred percent OK. Acknowledging that you can’t do everything yourself is a strength, not a weakness. Recognising your limitations and leaning on others in order to achieve a mutual outcome is the smart thing to do.
One man who understands this philosophy is Brett Houldin, Group CEO of cravable brands. Brett is responsible for driving the turnaround of the Group, which manages over 600 quick service restaurants across three popular brands: Red Rooster, Oporto and Chicken Treat. As the CEO, Brett sits on the board of QSRH and leads teams across Finance, Technology, Supply Chain, HR, CRM, Insights and Legal.
He recently chatted to The Outperformer about how collaboration excellence and alignment are the secrets to successfully leading and managing such a large team. Brett’s considerable experience since his humble start at PriceWaterhouse Coopers the day after he finished school has seen him amass considerable insight and wisdom when it comes to:
Knowing the detail and speaking with conviction
Here are some of the most important take aways from the interview.
“Start from the point of view that you don’t know everything,” says Brett. “You can’t do everything yourself, but there is always someone who can help you get to the top of the mountain – you just need to find them and reach out. Identify whom, within your current stakeholder set or beyond, you can rely on to help you achieve the outcomes of the task at hand.“
Brett believes that maintaining an open dialogue with everyone you can is an important part of this process and that investing time now to remove any barriers to approaching people will pay dividends later.
“You never know when you’ll need to bring someone into the equation,” he says. “Having the right people who can trust is critical, and by bringing them into the tent so you can utilise their skills is the best way to achieve mutual outcomes,”
“As a finance person, you might not be involved in all the areas of the business,” says Brett. “You need to identify who the key people are in other areas and decide how you can reach out to them and spend time with them. Organically, you’ll increase your exposure to more things, and the next time you need a sounding board, you’ll know exactly who to go to.
“People are busy, but if you can lean on relationships and bring people together to focus on the right things, you will achieve your overall goal. Remember that it’s less about who is in the tent, and more about how you bring them in. Make sure they’re motivated to help you.
Brett believes that communication is the cornerstone of effective collaboration. Timing, tone of voice, and the way you phrase your request are critical.
“Be consistent and transparent,” he advises. “You have to be authentic or you risk someone not understanding why they have to help you. Explain the why, and make people feel like they’re part of the same team.
“Accountants tend to be inward-focused, so help them see the bigger picture, which is to work together and co-share outcomes. You can’t just ask someone to do your job for you.”
So if being vulnerable and admitting you don’t know everything important, how do you align this with your need to stretch and position yourself for growth?
“You’re wasting your time if you’re just waking up every day and doing what you need to do for that day or that week,” says Brett. “You need to know where you want to go and how you can challenge yourself. What does growth look like for you and your career?
“It’s ok to be vulnerable with people you can know you can trust. Use them as sounding boards and then ask yourself what more you could be doing to get where you want to go. Otherwise, you’re just treading water.”
“Ask the silly questions, but don’t ask them twice,” says Brett, believing that it’s good to push yourself in order to get where you want to go. “You’re not going to kill anyone by sticking your neck out, so bank the experience every time, but make sure you also put the work in to get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
“The role of finance professional is to know the detail – that’s your bread and butter,” says Brett. “You can only wing it for a certain period of time, and after that you have to be able to speak with conviction. Do the homework, and make sure you know the hot topics before you get in a room.
“Remember though, that no one wants to hear the detail, they just want to know that you know the detail. No one wants to listen to you regurgitate the general ledger.”
When it comes to successfully leading a team, it seems that the old clichés apply. “Lead by example and get into the trenches,” advises Brett. “It’s important to focus more on people than on the activities - it’s more about the team than it is about the task.”
And developing the skills that that team is a key role of a great leader.
“Overload your high performers because that demonstrates high performance to the rest of the team,” says Brett.
Brett’s entire interview is on our webinar page, which can be accessed by our members. If you’re not yet a member, signing up to our community is easy, and opens up a whole world of learning from leaders like Brett.