The qualities that once got you promoted could now kill your business. That’s according to Steve Vamos, non-executive director of Telstra and Fletcher Building Limited, and former CEO of Microsoft ANZ and Ninemsn.

“People like me got promoted because we were control orientated, mistake adverse know-it-alls. Being in control or looking like it, not making mistakes or hiding them well, knowing the answer or shuffling pretty quick if you didn’t — that’s what got you promoted. That’s fine when things aren’t changing and still have a place today,” Vamos said during a media lunch hosted by Oracle in Sydney last week.

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However in industries undergoing massive changes that way of thinking from our Industrial Age past will kill you over time, Vamos said.

“Instead of being controlling you have to be caring, connecting and enabling. You have to be connected to the world around you because it’s changing. People at the top know less than people who touch the customer and you have to acknowledge that.”

Vamos said today’s leaders have to think differently about their roles and leadership teams need to be joined at the hip.

“If you get to the root cause of why organisations don’t transform, don’t change, don’t adapt often and you’ll find it breaks down to the way the leadership team did or did not adopt and execute an agenda for change,” he said.

In particular the relationship between the Chief Financial Officers and Chief Human Resource Officer was put under the microscope during the discussion.

“As companies seek to grow, the two most likely obstacles they will face are a scarcity of funding and a shortage of human capital. To overcome these finance and talent bottlenecks, CEOs are increasingly coming to rely more heavily on both the CFO and the CHRO,” said Tim Jennings, Chief Research Officer and Research Fellow at analyst firm, Ovum.

Sue Kent, Head of Human Resources at consumer finance business, Pepper Group, said, “While HR deals with people and finance is focused on money, it is vital to build a solid bridge between the two areas. The biggest cost to our business is people and so making sure we retain the very best and make them as productive as possible is important for future growth.”

“It’s also important that no department has its own particular agenda. All must work together towards a shared goal. When information is presented to senior management, whether by one department or together, it needs to be consistent and accurate and this can only come from having a platform that spans the business.”

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Kent’s colleague, Cameron Small, Group Chief Financial Officer at Pepper Group, argued that an important factor for his company’s success was having a flat management structure. “Communication and collaboration is key, particularly when it comes to the HR and Finance departments. By understanding the priorities of each, informed decisions can be made that will help the organisation achieve its goals.”

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