7 Questions with Hywel Jon Benbow
Name: Hywel Jon Benbow
Current title: Vice President Global Data & Analytics
Current organisation: GEMS Education
Hywel is an analytics leader with experience across a range of domains. Hywel strives to make organisations data-driven, bringing a passion and dedication to making data a central part of decision making. He provides strategic guidance around all things data with a primary goal of delivering insights that create positive change and deliver business value.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Sometimes the most challenging situations can produce the most rewarding outcomes and results. I think getting the relevant buy-in for change can be challenging, it is critical that people are on board with your ideas to be able to deliver on the required outcome. Developing a culture, specifically a data culture in my remit, is never an easy task, it takes time and requires multiple stakeholders and teams to engage and change. Once in motion, the results and subsequent outcomes can be delivered quicker, the impact is more widespread with the insights adding considerably greater value.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I would describe my journey as a mixture of hard work and an element of luck. I have always been determined and dedicated to delivering results and have been lucky enough to be given the opportunities to show what I can bring as a leader by different colleagues. With their trust and support and the results I’ve delivered, I have been able to flourish in these roles.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I normally start my day with a coffee and spend 30 minutes checking off emails, a lot of this depends on when my son wakes up so I’m normally up at around 6 am at the latest. With a wide range of projects on the go or in development, I don’t really have a set routine, much of my working day is determined by the timing of meetings, what the team are delivering and what is on the horizon.
I tend to use a Trello board to help keep things on track, adding and updating tasks as I go and then discussing with the team how best to work on them. After work, I’ll spend time with my family, play with my son, see my wife and cook something up in the kitchen (sometimes catching up on a few emails on my phone). I think it’s important to switch off from work and make sure you have a good work/life balance and I’ll do this as best I can by playing touch rugby or football, heading out on my bike for a ride or watching a series with my wonderful wife.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Treat your team members with respect and be flexible to their needs. Keep them involved in any developments and communicate clearly. Having a team that are all pulling in the same direction means you can have conversations and discussions that are open, challenging and beneficial. Being flexible means people will always pull together and do what is required to deliver the goods. I think it is also important to keep your team motivated by inspiring them to learn new things, try new approaches, while not being afraid to fail. In analytics trying and failing is vital, it’s all part of learning.
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?
‘Legacy’ by James Kerr is a wonderful look at how the culture and a collective mentality are key to succeeding at the highest level. I’m regularly coming back to it and dipping into it for reference. Carruthers and Jacksons ‘CDO Playbook’ has also been a great reference guide to support some of my ideas and the actions I have taken, whilst
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Invest in your team by giving them the time to develop and learn. Be open to having discussions around why you chose a certain approach or approaches within the enterprise. I also strongly believe that as a leader you should allow others to take on responsibilities and positions of power, in the right situation I always encourage my team to step out of their comfort zones, as I believe that’s key to their professional development and creates a stronger team.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Not a story as such but I think it’s important to be yourself and treat others with respect. Many of the people I work with are exceptionally talented and their knowledge and experience in their own area will most likely be greater than mine so it’s important to listen, learn and educate yourself whenever possible. One person doesn’t have all the answers but collectively you can come up with quite a few.