"The big learning moments of my career..."

12 December 2019 -

Construction siteFor these CMI Companions, self-reflection is vital in seeing how they can develop and grow from their circumstances

CMI Companions

Stephen Pierce, deputy MD, chief HR officer, Hitachi

“There’s a time to stay with a company and a time to move on. Knowing when to stay and when to go can be tough. When coaching, I often use the ‘rocking chair test’ to help managers. Imagine being retired and looking back over their career from their rocking chair; would they be glad they stayed or pleased to have moved on? Hindsight sometimes improves our vision of the future. You should know when to call time on a role that isn’t working out. Life is too short to do the wrong role in the wrong place for too long.

“Have a career plan when you can see the options for your journey ahead. I had a career goal to be an HR Director when I started as a graduate trainee in a food business. I couldn’t have mapped the plan for my journey until I started with that business and understood the stepping stones to achieving a senior role.”

Lesley Cowley OBE, chair, DVLA, Companies House, and The National Archives

“One of the proudest achievements in my career was being awarded an OBE, which was presented by the Queen. I had never imagined anything like that ever happening to me.

“My most recent achievement was winning the Institute of Directors Non-Executive of the year award. This was also very special to me, as it came during the period when I was celebrating having been a non-executive for five years. I was not sure whether things would work out when I embarked upon the non-executive portfolio stage of my career. However, as I told a colleague just the other day, I work very hard at being very lucky!”

Rosalind Penny, director of HR and organisation development, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

“In 2012, I was drawn to a senior role in policing which was ostensibly an organisation development role. However, the Force decided to move all operational training units under my leadership. This resulted in me having a large number of officers who were specialists in firearms, public order, dogs, blue light driving and VIP protection under my leadership.

“It was a challenge both to learn the need for rapid decision making and to gain the respect of the sergeants in particular, who would be key to my success. I made an early decision that I would not be effective in my role if I sat behind a desk at HQ working Monday to Friday. I chose to be out with the officers on live jobs, often in the early hours of the morning at weekends, in some of the hotspots for trouble. This gave me valuable insight, many opportunities to engage with officers in real-time situations and a deep respect for the way the Police run towards danger. In my long career, this was the time when I felt I was making the most contribution towards the citizens of this country.”

Dr Mark Pegg, director, Chalfont Associates

“It was 2003 when a team of researchers at Ashridge Business School wanted to reinvigorate the school’s leadership programmes, to bring fresh insight and deliver more impact. They asked a sample of board-level leaders a central research question: ‘What do you know now as a leader that you wish you had known ten years ago?’

“We found a high degree of common ground in their replies. Most said they wished they’d learned more about themselves. But the big theme was how many valuable lessons they’d learned from major events – good and bad – along their leadership journey. We analysed their responses as a set of critical incidents, which they defined as major influences; the instances where they learned the most about themselves and their leadership.”

Louise Hardy, non-executive director

“I wish I’d started doing voluntary work earlier – and this is something I say regularly in talks as advice. This is often a really weird one when you're in a room full of women who are probably doing a full-time job and doing most of the childcare. You can see people looking at me thinking: ‘I barely have enough time to sleep as it is!’

“By voluntary work, I mean within your sector. I started doing voluntary work about 15 years ago in the industry and was voted onto the Institution of Civil Engineers Council. I served on that for three years and then picked up quite a lot of other panel and committee memberships at the institution of civil engineers.

“I’m doing a keynote speech at the National Association of Women in construction. I go into Rainbows and Brownies and introduce them to engineering, explaining what an engineer is and how we build stuff and how we do town planning. It gives you a great deal back. The reason I built my non-executive career so quickly is because I had done the equivalent type of work in the voluntary sector. It will give you a good profile because you're seen to be doing other things within the industry and it keeps you connected.”

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