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7 Questions with Sean Chamberlin
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7 Questions with Sean Chamberlin
Name: Sean Chamberlin
Current title: National Leader - Strategy & Advisory
Current organisation: ASG Group
Experienced executive with a history of being on the leadership team of 4 technology start-ups and 4 multinational corporations. Qualified in all of ICT, Finance, Marketing & Social Science.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member of a large enterprise?
The most challenging aspect of Board membership is keeping abreast of the changing landscape and viewing those changes as an opportunity to build ever sustainable competitive advantages. COVID, cyber security, Cloud advancement, environment concerns and evolving customer expectations all mean that large organisations must constantly question the 'status quo' and find ways to improve by leveraging those changes to increase the value we provide to our customers.
2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became a Board member as a result of my passion for driving transformational change in organisations. I have never liked accepting mediocre performance and have always had an interest in thinking creatively for ways to massively uplift performance by re-thinking business models and capabilities. It is this passion that logically lent itself to becoming an advisor to senior executives. Once I established those trusted relationships with senior execs then the next step must be to become one myself. Becoming a member of smaller not-for-profit Boards was also a great catalyst for gaining similar roles in larger organisations.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My work days always start with some reflection on what I want to achieve for the day - this helps me change my focus from activities to business outcomes. Once I'm clear on the business outcomes that are most deserving of my attention then I can create a list of tasks I need to work on to achieve those outcomes. I always start with the difficult cerebral thinking first thing in the morning. Then the rest of the family gets up and once they are off to school I like to get some exercise in - I find it really helps to energise me for the day. After that it's flat out until mid afternoon at which stage I normally shift into 'who needs my help' mode and I spend the remainder of the day finding ways to help others be more effective at achieving whatever they are aspiring to.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I recently learnt a significant lesson in leadership when I was attempting to lead the implementation of a major program of work that would upgrade ICT systems. An employee came to me and said they would rather work with the previous outdated systems that they understood than have new improvements thrown at them all the time. This really reminded me that as an executive we are often passionate about change and comfortable with it, but many of our staff feel threatened by change and prefer the comfort of familiar processes and systems. Now I take people's personal motivations very seriously in any change initiative - everyone impacted needs to be understood and motivated to come on the journey. That can only be done through genuine empathetic listening.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?
The key to doing governance well in large organisations revolves around establishing sufficient diversity amongst the Board members and then respecting the different skills and styles of thinking that each person brings. Most Boards are well covered for Financial and Legal skills, but they often lack in representation that sufficiently covers technology, strategic thinking and the voice of the customer. I always value highly people that think differently to me because they come up with ideas that I may not have come up with myself. It's this ability for a Board to be both diverse and cohesive simultaneously that is so critical.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?
Board members are responsible for the direction of an organisation - what is the Vision, where do we need to take the organisation. IThe CEO and Executives and then responsible for executing on that vision and making it happen. While the Board needs to ensure appropriate mechanisms are in place to ensure the Execs are focusing the organisation on the key objectives and that activities are aligned to the strategy, they also need to trust in the Exec team to take responsibility for The What & The HOW of business operations.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?
As a Board Member of the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival, I remember the time when we first realised that the COVID outbreak represented a significant threat to our ability to conduct film festivals and even possibly a threat to our very existence. As a Board we had to question everything we were doing in order to find ways to re-invent the organisation to continue to meet its goals but with a totally different approach. This involved radically changing both our internal operations and our external customer facing services. It all turned out exceptionally well in the end due to our great staff however it represents a constant reminder that we must never rest on our laurels and always strive for ways to improve the value we provide to our customers.