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7 Questions with Tristan Pelloux
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Tristan Pelloux
Name: Tristan Pelloux
Current title: Director
Current organisation: Strategwhy Ltd.
Director at Strategwhy, independent management consulting, and Editor at Fintech Review, online media on the fintech industry. I founded both ventures after an international career in financial services, latterly in Corporate Strategy at Virgin Money UK in London. And obviously because I am truly curious and passionate about strategy and innovation.
Also a Board Member of Audencia Alumni, the alumni network non-profit of Audencia Business School, and a Business Mentor to entrepreneurs across Europe.
1. What have you found most challenging as a board member of a large enterprise?
Finding the right balance between advising the executive team, being useful by bringing a different perspective, and sounding too much like you are telling people how to do their job. You need to be viewed as a trusted advisor that the team can lean on and get the right support when needed. You overcome that through careful stakeholder management and a few frank discussions. First and foremost, the relationship should be based on collaboration: we all want the same thing, for the organisation to thrive. From that point onward, there should not be any challenges you cannot overcome together!
2. How did you become a board member of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
After my graduation from Audencia Business School, I was still heavily involved in the life of the school. I was an alumni ambassador for the UK for nearly 4 years, organising events to animate the network. I also went back to my school several times to talk to students about various topics, and I am still a student mentor. Becoming a board member for the alumni association felt therefore quite natural. I thought that I could leverage my first-hand experience of being involved in the alumni network, alongside my experience working in Corporate Strategy and interacting with the Board of Administration at Virgin Money UK. It was actually helpful for my day-to-day job at that point! And I have learnt valuable lessons over the years.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
That might sound counterintuitive to some, but if I do not have early meetings planned, I do not put an alarm in the morning. Instead, I rely on my biological clock, letting my body decide when I have rested enough. I still wake up around 8:00/08:30 but for me a good night of sleep is key to have my brain functioning at full capacity throughout the day.
I do not have a fixed schedule during the week, balancing a few things depending on the day
- reading, writing and developing Fintech Review's profile;
- pitching and working with potential and existing clients and partners for Strategwhy;
- mentoring entrepreneurs and students when needed;
- being involved with the Board for Audencia Alumni when necessary;
When I am not locked up in my tiny home office, I exercise at least 3 times a week at various times of the day depending on my schedule... and I enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with my partner when my day ends around 8/9pm!
The secret is that if you are passionate about what you are doing, the days fly by. "Find something you love, and you will never work a day in your life" is really true!
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Everybody is different, and therefore I have found that stakeholder management is as much an art than it is a science. You can always plan and schedule, but in the end you will need to approach each stakeholder differently. I have learned that over the years, and it is still a very valuable lesson. That is also true for a team. Not everybody is driven by the same things, so you need to learn that and work with it.
5. What are some of the keys to doing governance well in a large enterprise?
You need the right dose of challenge coming from the Board. The Board needs to have some spine to stand up to the executive team when needed, without being too much in the opposition. The relationship should be based on collaboration. There obviously needs to be true independence - not just on paper - from the executive team, to avoid it being just a tap in the back at every decision. A number of systems and processes need to be in place, like performance management or remuneration committees ultimately signed off by the Board. Doing governance well should be about a carefully thought checks and balances system.
6. How do you differentiate between the role of board member and the roles of CEO or executive team member of a large enterprise?
The Board is here to provide an outside-in view on the enterprise, providing feedback to the executive team. When you run a business, you can have the tendency to be absorbed in the day-to-day, the head in the handlebars, and miss the bigger picture. The Board is here to advise on the direction, and tell you when they think that you are not quite on track. It is a checks and balances mechanism necessary for the functioning of any large enterprise. It is a bit like the executive team are the astronauts, while the board members are ground control. Both are necessary for a successful space mission.
Meanwhile, it allows the executive team to summarise their plans and thoughts, which is a valuable exercise, and get external feedback and validation.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a board member of a large enterprise so far?
It is always interesting and a valuable experience to be "in the trenches" with someone during a crisis. The one that we are living is not the exception. You end up learning a lot, you see organisations going through a lot. And you are reminded that organisations are just a sum of individuals with their own personal circumstances. I guess you learn more in these types of stories because you are challenged much more than when it is business-as-usual.