The agile mindset is essential for good transformation, says the Tandem Bank NED and Chair of Audit at Ford Credit Europe Bank.
“I don’t believe that great leaders are born. They can be developed through interactions and collaborations with teams and opportunities to develop and grow,” says Talita Ferreira, experienced CFO, entrepreneur, Chair of Audit and former CFO and CHRO of BMW UK Ltd and BMW Financial Services.
Founder of change and leadership consultancy Authentic Change Solutions, where she coaches and trains directors, Talita also holds two non-executive directors and Chair of Audit positions at Tandem Bank and Ford Credit Europe Bank.
As far as Talita is concerned, the right mindset, in a leadership context, is everything.
Advocates of a fixed mindset believe that traits and qualities are ‘fixed’ and cannot be learned or developed; hence the age-old ‘leaders are born not made’ debate. Coined by American psychologist Carol Dweck, a growth mindset focuses on believing that dedication and hard work achieve success. Yet Talita goes further. She cites the agile mindset, which is about self-transformation and continual learning. This resonates in many ways with today’s VUCA world.
“Agile mindset is the next evolution,” Talita explains. “It’s continual learning, focusing on three areas: customer centricity, purpose and people. Collaboration and development are at the core. If a growth mindset is about improving skills and knowledge over time, then an agile mindset is about responding to new opportunities and challenges and learning from mistakes.”
Agile mindset sums up Talita’s approach to transformation, which is, she explains, people and behaviour led. She reviews prevalent practices in the old system and develops new beliefs that are needed post-transformation. She continually adapts and responds to people, customers or clients, and organisational challenges throughout it all.
Talita has worked in multiple countries, mainly in financial services, over a twenty-five year period for several global brands, including KPMG, Investec Bank, Ford Credit Bank Europe and BMW. She is convinced that an agile mindset that centres on people is the key to successful transformation.
“Transformation is about people,” she says. “No matter if it’s digital, strategic or something else entirely, whatever transformation it is, it’s always about people doing things differently. So if you don’t focus on your people and bring them along with you, inspire them and empower them to behave differently, your transformation project will fail.”
Some 2016 academic research by McKinsey backs up her view. It found that around 70% of corporate transformations fail because they have left their people behind. This is either due to lack of employee engagement, inadequate management support or, as Ferreira believes, lack of significant investment in the employee change process.
“Organisations will invest a lot in technology if they are embarking on digital transformation, but they don’t necessarily invest in helping people adopt the change,” Talita explains.
Part of this is about aligning leaders and their teams with the change process. As Talita points out, it’s about creating a ‘burning platform’ for people to understand why change is needed and why they need to embrace it: what does it mean for me? Why do I or we need to change? “This burning platform message can be different for different people.”
It’s also about understanding any underlying fears; Talita refers to this as the ‘transformation can of worms’. “So tip out the can of worms and understand what that fear is because then you can deal with it head-on.”
She relates an example of a transformation programme she was leading for a client while working in Germany as a consultant. The company was undergoing significant transformation, and there was much fear around loss of control due to the new flexible working approach. How would they solve problems if their team weren’t all in the office at the same time? How could they brainstorm effectively? Once staff voiced these concerns and fears, it became possible to ease those concerns with best practice alternatives.
“Finally, it’s about creating a learning environment,” Talita adds. “Many organisations create a transformation plan and assume it’s static, but the reality is that it’s iterative. As soon as you involve others and you empower them to act upon change, there will be a need for feedback loops, shared learning and creating more change. This kind of peer-to-peer learning is essential in change.”
In collaboration with Chris Argent of GenCFO, Talita’s consultancy, Authentic Change Solutions is launching a new training course and practical toolkit for finance professionals called Future Ready Finance Leaders.