I had a conversation today with someone about pensions. Now I am not a personal financial advisor, and I gave no advice, but it did make me think about what I do do.
I have been taught that a good Finance Director knows everything, and that a really good one will get everyone else to do it for him (or her). I am not so sure any more. I think a good Finance Director knows how to find out everything he doesn’t know, and that a really good one will help others to do the best they can. After all, a really good Finance Director knows the financial situation, has a good idea of the aims of the business, and a pretty good idea of what every department is trying to achieve. I agree that generally it is up to others to make things happen.
More than any other department, Finance is judged by a very simple metric, is the business performing as well as it can. It’s existance is not about sales, or marketing, or brand awareness; and yet a good Finance Director is assessed on how well the business as a whole is doing.
So what has this to do with pensions? Well, it reminded me that I don’t know everything about pensions, but I do know the questions to ask to ensure the business is compliant. I also know what to ask to see what plans the business has in place to make the most of its staff and goals to see if it is as successful as it can be.
A good Finance Director is good with numbers; a really good one knows what questions to ask. How good your business is depends on how well you can answer the questions.
There are two levels of leadership in most organisations, executive and non-executive. Executive leaders are usually responsible for the day today management, and non-executive leaders act in an advisory or “occasional” capacity. Non-executive leaders often meet as a Board, whether of a business, a charity, or even a school.
Usually, non-executive leaders are responsible for the strategy, and executive leaders for the operations of the organisation. Board meetings are often the time and place where strategy is determined and translated into operational aims and objectives. For example, the non-executive leadership may take the strategic decision to start working in a new territory. It is up to the executive team to agree operational aims and objectives, such as sales targets, market share, or brand awareness.
Ideally, non-executive leaders are chosen because of their experience, wisdom, and ability to consider long term implications. Good executive leaders are able to act swiftly on short and medium term issues.
To me, the most interesting aspect of being a non-executive leader is the monitoring of operational activities. The biggest mistake a non-executive leader can make is to get too involved in operational details; equally, it can be disastrous if the executive leaders start to change the strategy.
The best saying I heard about being a non-executive leader was “Noses in, Fingers out”. It has been excellent advice.
In life and business there are three basic tensions, Cost, Time, and Quality. Is it possible to achieve high quality, at low cost, in a short period of time? Probably not, so if you see an opportunity that promises this, it is probably hiding something.
To reduce cost usually requires a reduction in quality, or a longer timescale.
To reduce the timescale usually requires an increase in cost, or a reduction in quality.
To improve quality usually requires an increase in cost, or a longer timescale.
So what is the best way to balance these?
I would suggest that you start with identifying what you can’t change. For example, do you have a fixed budget, a timescale that can’t be changed, or an expected level of quality? And start there. Once you have a starting point, your options become clearer.
You can generally agree on two of the three factors, and have to accept the third. You want it high quality and now? You may have to pay for it… You want it now and cheap? You may need to accept low quality…
If you are challenged on why the cost is so high, the timescale too long, or the quality not up to standard, think about what you can do to one of the other two factors.
I have learnt a lot about learning recently. I have learnt that we don’t teach anymore, but help children to learn. We each have our own style of learning; some need to repeat information in order to memorise it, some have a photographic memory, and some need to “do” in order to learn.
Learning is something we (should) never stop doing. And the way we learn will continue to be as unique as each one of us. Some of us learn words to songs by listening, some by watching the video, some by singing along. Understanding complicated theories or tasks might be learnt by doing, copying, or being told. There is no one right way to learn.
My point? Well, my point is linked to the increase in mobile technology that uses video technology. Having been radio listeners for years, the public can now see what is going on around them due to the incredible advancements in technology. We can now watch the news, enjoy entertainment, follow sport, and communicate with each other from where veer we are.
I have really started to think about mobile technology and, in particular, being able to share and learn using new technology. I hope it will never replace face to face meetings, and will enhance our interpersonal skills. Like all inventions, it has the power to be used for good and bad. It’s up to us.