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7 Questions with Jessica Gregson
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Jessica Gregson
Name: Jessica Gregson
Current title: Partner
Current organisation: Subsector Ltd
I am a Partner at Subsector, a consultancy that helps organisations to innovate in complex circumstances. We're perhaps best known for the N2D Method. The Method is an algorithmic decision-making model based on jobs-to-be-done. Our tools give people decision making superpowers, or so we like to say.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member?
I sit on a few different boards, including my own company, so it's been an interesting time. The most challenging thing has been supporting individuals and teams who are dealing with both complex personal and business challenges. It's been as much about being a good listener and friend as it has about being a good colleague.
2. How did you become a board member? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I've worked for the last 20-odd years in a range of organisations, some large, some small. I've been a board member for the last 8 years, simply as a result of working my way up through increasingly senior positions, there is no magic formula in this instance.
My Non-Exec board positions have mainly come from being personally asked and then recommendation, it was not my original intention to become a Non-Exec or board advisor but on being asked it was something I was happy to explore and now really enjoy doing.
The most memorable moment was someone saying to me 'you're on my dream board member list' when they asked me to join. That was a great feeling.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I'm aware my morning routine sounds very 'Silicon Valley cliche' (despite being in Suffolk in the UK). It's meditation, yoga, complete a gratitude diary and take a long walk with my dog, Nellie (and my husband if he's got time.)
I try and structure the week so I do similar tasks each day. For example, I try and keep Mondays free for planning and administration, on Wednesdays I'll focus on marketing for the N2D Method, the rest of the time is devoted to our practitioners and clients.
At the moment, during lockdown in the UK, half of my time is spent in video meetings, and the rest working on specific pieces of work.
I try to take a decent lunch break and walk the dog again (having a dog is a brilliant hack for getting away from your desk in the day). As we're working from home constantly at the moment I'll try to have one or two very short breaks between meetings or tasks. Sounds mundane but it might be a quick job in the garden or hanging the washing out!
I'm trying to get better at drawing a line under the end of the working day. I say 'trying' as I am not great at this. When I do finish, we normally get out for a walk again and cook. I really enjoy cooking and so it's a good wind-down too. I'm not very good at sticking with box sets or watching entire series so the rest of the night might be catching something on tv, reading (fiction, rather than work-related books). I am also working on singing grades, which is something I took up during COVID but have always wanted to do, so I normally take a bit of time to do some practice. My neighbours might be less keen on this bit of the day. Outside of lockdown, some of this might be replaced with seeing some friends for dinner or a pint, I look forward to being able to do that again.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I think it's one that I just see with more clarity all the time. Most leaders need to slow down, give themselves quality time to think, not rush into action, take a breath. The ability to make decisions in a systematic way, challenge your own assumptions and take the time to think out the various options and scenarios is incredibly valuable.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a organisation?
You have to make sure that process and behaviour come from the top. It is no good complaining about teams not following processes or behaving in a way that doesn't support company values if you don't live them yourself. This is one of the hardest things that leaders have to get used to, they often want to be excused from the very things that they expect everyone else to do. There's a small degree to which you can get away with that, but you have to accept there are consequences if you lead in a different way to the response you expect.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a organisation?
The board should be able to help the organisation think about the future (which might mean looking at the past or present in order to do this).
Many boards are divorced from key details of the business unless there is a crisis. I'm not sure this is the right approach. There needs to be a clear connection with the truth of the business; the needs of the people the organisation serves - customers, talent, partners etc. I've seen lots of examples where the board are so far removed from this information that I wonder how they can possibly make good decisions for the organisation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member so far?
Meaningful is difficult, they are all meaningful at the time. I'm trying to think of something that might be useful to readers.
It's not a story, but a recurring memory. I've worked with and on boards where everyone has quite different motivations which means they all want the company to move in very different directions. I often talk about someone I worked with who was the only person on this particular board who absolutely wanted the business to sell very quickly. Steering every board meeting away from the inevitable discussion about sale became quite draining, almost humourous in the end - you need shared priorities to run effective board teams.