7 Questions with Gerald Randall
Name: Gerald Randall
Current title: Group CEO
Current organisation: Old Mutual Botswana
Presently the Group CEO with subsidiaries in General and Life Insurance in Botswana.
Cross functional leader with international experience in Insurance, Wealth Management, Investment Management and Consulting.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
We spend a lot of time dealing with complexity. Sifting through financials to optimise our balance sheets, risk management and leverage our resources for financial success. In between this, it takes some work to keep close to people throughout the organisation and make sure that the company culture is maintained. After all our people are the lifeblood of an organisation and through them the organisation succeeds.
In addition to keeping close to our people, the COVID19 pandemic has brought about unique challenges. Not only remaining close to our people, but enabling them to deliver effectively in a new working environment. We have been very fortunate in that we started innovating around paperless systems and remote communication before the pandemic. Nevertheless, a challenge.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I always wanted to run an organisation. I cannot recall a time that was not my ambition. I did however recognise that it comes as a result of placing yourself in a position which lends itself to the opportunity. I received great guidance early on in my career, I was told to go work for a manufacturing company and learn everything about every function. The reason for this is that it gave me a wide span of understanding on how the full value chain of an organisation works. I always wanted a career in Financial Services, but I heeded the advice and I am glad I. I learned a lot about the need for functional integration and collaboration in the years I worked in manufacturing. I left the organisation as General Manager. Moved into Financial Services and was determined to learn everything I could about various lines of business in Financial Services. I have as such worked in Banking (Investment Banking and M&A); Trust company services, Investment Management and Wealth Management. Coupled with my dedication towards continuous learning, it gives me a wide understanding of the interrelationships between various lines of business in Financial Services. I believe it equipped me well for a group executive role in Financial Services.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to be up early. Generally around 5 am. Once I am at the office, I spend time on critical emails, send out key/critical requests to my team, then prepare for the meetings of the day.
I tend to have lunch in my office (but not at my desk), normally sifting through the Daily business news.
I try to get away from the office at a time I miss afternoon traffic. When I get home I spend another hour or so working from my home office.
When I am not travelling, I have dinner with my family.
I do often have evening events and meetings and this is not always possible. Before I close off my day, I check for last minute critical messages and emails which I attend to.
With COVID19 and largely working from home the boundaries have certainly blurred and I find that I am at "the office" earlier and leave significantly later.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I have been working on strengthening empathy as a leadership trait for many years and even through the leadership development with Stanford the importance has been stressed. However, during the COVID19 pandemic the need for leaders to show empathy has really landed with me. At an executive level we not only are familiar with working remotely and often in some obscure locations, but we are also equipped to do so. Even with the ambiguity and challenge we are familiar with delivering at high standards. Our homes are equipped with leading technology and facilities to allow for remote working. The transition to working remotely in 2020 was not difficult for my executive team and I. For many of our people this was a tremendous challenge. The lines between work and home had been clearly defined for them and the new demands on their personal space and family environment was tremendously challenging for them.
Empathy as a leader went a long way to keeping morale up during this time and also finding innovative solutions to assisting our staff to continue to offer the level of performance we require from them.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Like most executives I have read the major books associated with leadership and execution.
I do however believe that the business world is a fast paced environment and books which were written decades ago, still have relevance, but not as much in the environment in which we live now. I thus tend to read business journals which have newer research that assist in decision making and guiding leadership. A book which I have recently however found a good read is Mindset: The new psychology of success by Dr Carol Dweck.
Leadership, Decision making and strategy fascinate me, especially the interrelationship between the three. I tend to read books related to these topics and particularly the interrelationship.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Hire an A team and hire for mindset, potential and attitude. Clearly there are many development systems and they are important in an organisation to build leadership capacity, but more important to hire right, always.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I have been on a journey over the past few years to transform the culture in our organisation. Certainly not a poor culture, but where I see the business environment going, a necessary change. Processes, systems, research, reporting, etc. are all important to get to the key points requiring change, but the most important thing in changing a culture is authentic leadership. If your people believe in the leadership team and what they are aiming to achieve, to the benefit of everyone in the organisation, there will be large swings in the culture of the organisation. With that comes great business success. Walking away from 2020, we have shown better results than in any previous year.
Good leadership is evident in tough times.