Level Up Leadership: Andrew Black

Listen to the podcast (FULL TRANSCRIPT):

Level Up is designed to help you get to know the leaders of Experian and gain insight into the skills needed to grow your career.

You can subscribe to The Level Up Leadership podcast on iTunes, Google PlaySoundCloud and Spotify.

Most recently, we spoke with Andrew Black, Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand for Experian Asia Pacific. In this role, Andrew leverages a blend of established capabilities and exciting new initiatives across Credit Services, Decision Analytics, Data Quality and Targeting. He believes in driving success through a commitment to growing the team, excellence in execution and fostering a high performance environment.

Here are a few takeaways from our discussion with Andrew:

Don’t underestimate the value of a good company.
Andrew has stayed with Experian his entire career and has made a home here. He enjoys his work, the people he gets the opportunity to interact with and the fulfillment he experiences as Managing Director. Wherever you find yourself in your career, it’s important to never underestimate the value of a company that treats you well.

 Start preparing for your next role now.
Don’t wait until you are ready to move on to start preparing for your next role. The last thing you want is to feel ready for movement and realize your opportunity has passed. In addition to preparing for your next role as soon as you step into your current one, here is Andrew’s advice for moving upward in your career:

  • Be transparent and communicate with your manager about what goals you have for yourself
  • Prioritize your visibility within the company and elevate yourself wherever possible
  • Know the next step and what goals you have to accomplish to get yourself there

Make people want to work for you.
Leading with fear leads to a toxic work environment. The best way to lead is to make other people want to work for you. Andrew believes that if people truly want to work for you, they will not want to let you down and productivity will be higher. Here are a few ways you can start building good relationships now:

  • Make an effort to get to know everyone you work with
  • Establish trust and don’t rely on fear tactics to get results
  • Create an environment where it is OK to fail, learn and move on

Embrace new starters and what they bring to the business.
Often times, companies will hire new employees and simply tell them to learn the business and catch up with the rest of the team. Andrew’s philosophy differs greatly—he looks at new employees as fresh eyes that can tell him what he can do better. He meets every new hire under him and in doing so, has decreased the attrition rate from 25 percent to a shocking 4 percent. Here are a few reasons why you should be thinking the same way:

  • New starters can see the company the way consumers do—moreso than current employees
  • Today’s new employees will be tomorrow’s leaders
  • Employees that feel valued will stay longer and contribute more

Be comfortable with people being better than you are.
As reiterated by so many Level Up guests thus far, trusting your team to complete the tasks you can’t is crucial. Andrew’s advice is to start getting comfortable with people being better than you are—because there will always be someone who is. Here’s why that isn’t such a bad thing:

  • Everyone specializes in different things and where you’re weak, someone else is strong. Collaboration will bring out the best of your team members.
  • As a leader, your goal should be to elevate and help your team members grow. Their strengths and successes should be an accomplishment for you.

Being humble vs. being overmodest
While a lot of Level Up guests can agree being humble is a common trait amongst leadership, we can also agree that sometimes, we need to speak up about our accomplishments and the success we have experienced—especially when it comes to negotiating promotions, pay increases and more. So how do you walk the fine line between being humble and being overmodest?

  • Understand that you are not bragging; keeping track of your accomplishments is necessary for upward movement
  • Think of it as showing leaders that your work aligns with their goals instead of “bragging”

We were so happy to have the opportunity to chat with Andrew for Level Up.

Check out interviews with other Experian leaders.

Full Transcript

Mike: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Level Up Leadership podcast. My name is Mike Delgado.
Patty: My name is Patty Guevarra.
Mike: This podcast is designed to help you get to know the leaders here at Experian and also gain insight into the leadership skills and traits needed to grow our careers.
Patty: In this podcast, we’ll talk mentorship, career navigation, handling rejection, work/life balance, mental health, diversity and inclusion, and so much more.
Mike: A lot of our recordings are done through Webex, so sometimes the audio quality is not perfect. We apologize. We’ll get better in time, but we hope you get a lot of information out of these shows. We certainly have.
Mike: Enjoy the show.
Patty: Today we’re excited to chat with Andrew Black, managing director of Australia/New Zealand for Experian Asia Pacific.
Mike: Andrew, thank you so much for being our guest today.
Andrew: No problems. Thanks for having me on.
Mike: Andrew, can you share your leadership journey with us?
Andrew: Yeah, sure. My leadership journey has all been within Experian. In fact, my career has all been with Experian. I actually joined what is now the EDQ business when it was a small, privately-owned startup in Australia.
Andrew: When I was… I moved over to the London office with what was QAS, and after a couple of years in sales I got the opportunity to move into sales management, which was my first real opportunity to lead a team.
Andrew: What I found really quickly familiar was, having a career in sales, you actually realize that as you’re progressing through sales, you’re actually kind of leading the customer to an outcome that you want anyway. I actually believe that leadership starts well before you actually move into an official leadership role.
Andrew: Look, I loved it ever since I moved into it. I’ve always enjoyed working with people, and I just progressed through different levels of management; director, general manager and now managing director, across both the UK, Australia, and across most of our business lines.
Mike: Did you know early on that you wanted to be in a leadership role?
Andrew: I knew I loved working with people, and that was a thing that inspired me in being in sales as well. I really enjoyed sitting there thinking, “I wonder what’s driving that person. I wonder what they’re really thinking. I wonder what’s motivating them.” I loved that about being in sales, and I found that that was a very natural progression, that love for thinking along those lines, into leadership.
Andrew: I wouldn’t say that I sat back and thought, “Right, I need to plot my journey into leadership.” In fact, my first leadership role was more of a tap on the shoulder and say, “Hey, why don’t you have a run at this?”
Andrew: When I got into it, if I’d known then what I… If I’d known before that what I realized when I was in leadership, then yeah, I would’ve plotted it out because it was something that came really naturally and something I really enjoyed.
Mike: That’s awesome.
Patty: What are some skills you really honed in on to refine your leadership?
Andrew: I think there’s a number of skills. I think probably the best is that self reflection and ability to take feedback is probably the most important, and it never really stops.
Andrew: I think the biggest learning I ever got in leadership was when I went from managing a small team, the people that I saw every single day, to managing a larger team that was across a wider geographical area. I’d always done reasonably well in my 360 feedback, then all of a sudden, that bit back heavily, and I realized… I didn’t actually realize why, but it was the ability to actually go and get that feedback and reflection, and realize that actually when you start with going to different leadership roles, you have smaller amounts of time with the people that you work with, and therefore, the mistakes that you make or the way that you leave people feeling have a much bigger impact.
Andrew: I think it’s that ability to keep reflecting, never get complacent and take on feedback.
Mike: Yeah, I think it was interesting in a couple of our Level Ups, people mention the importance of feedback. I’m trying to remember, Patty, who talked about making sure that the feedback’s coming from the right sources, like trusted-
Patty: I think that was Alba, yeah.
Mike: Alba talked about trusted colleagues. When you’re looking at the feedback, because sometimes it could be very, very painful to read the notes or things people say that may not know you thoroughly. They’re kind of like… they maybe have seen emails from you, especially thinking about you being a leader or people that are maybe not in your location, so they don’t even see you on a day-to-day basis, they just maybe hear you on calls, see you on webinars, getting an email here and there throughout the week.
Mike: I’ve got to imagine that people in those positions, they don’t know you as closely, so I’m kind of curious when you receive the feedback, how are you looking at it?
Andrew: Yes, it’s a really good question, because I think you can easily naturally jump to the defensive and think, “Well, hang on, that person doesn’t know me.”
Andrew: You know, someone really early on said to me something that stuck with me that said, “Perception is reality when you’re in a leadership role.” You need to be a leader of people that don’t get to know you if you want to expand out your leadership role. Therefore, what those people think of you and what they see and what they perceive is the reality of your leadership style. The worst thing I think you can do is jump into defensive mode and feel like they don’t get to know you. You’ve got to then hone your skills and work on your skills to be able to have a meaningful leadership role over somebody who doesn’t know you.
Mike: How often, Andrew, should someone be seeking out feedback?
Andrew: I think it’s something that you… it depends what you’re doing. I think you can spend too much time looking for feedback. You’ve got to crack down and do the job as well, and you’ve got to give yourself a chance to grow in your role, so I don’t think you want to be looking for it all the time.
Andrew: I also think that if you’re constantly asking for feedback, people can get a bit of almost that survey fatigue, where the feedback you’re getting becomes not that meaningful because people haven’t had as much chance to really think about it, and they’ll just give you their first reaction. That’s the worst thing you can act on.
Andrew: I think if you’re slightly afraid of public speaking, then yeah, you want to be looking for feedback after your public spoke, those kind of things. Outside of that sort of event, then I would say probably a couple of times a year you’d really want to be looking for how’s things progressing. Things change so fast in this business, which is one of the things I love about it, but that does mean that what you were doing six months ago might not be enough now, and it probably definitely isn’t enough until six more months’ time.
Andrew: I would be looking for some solid feedback probably a couple of times a year.
Patty: Yeah-
Mike: I just wanted to say one more… I’m sorry, one more thing, Patty.
Mike: I love the fact that you mention two of the big skills are making sure that you’re seeking feedback, which helps to inform self reflection and self awareness. I’m kind of curious, aside from feedback, is there anything else you do to help you continually be self aware and self reflective about the things you’re doing?
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, the other one I know is a pretty obvious one, but it’s one that we don’t do enough, is you’ve got to find that environment that actually allows you to reflect. I’m very lucky I live in Sydney and we’re surrounded by beaches, and when I’m out and surf by myself, that’s the time that I find that I can do that. It might be on a running machine, it might be in the shower, whatever it is.
Andrew: One of my daily rituals, if you like, is that when I drive to work, I’ve got a half-hour/forty-minute drive. I won’t be on the phone or have the radio on low, because you just need a bit of time to yourself. You live a busy life, you’ve got kids. As soon as you walk into work, your schedule takes over. I think it’s getting that time to just think it through.
Mike: Brilliant. I think that’s great, totally.
Patty: Going back to feedback, receiving it is one thing, but how do you deliver feedback to your team, specifically negative feedback?
Andrew: Sorry, can you repeat that?
Patty: How would you handle delivering feedback to your team members, more like negative feedback and having difficult conversations? How do you handle that as a leader?
Andrew: Yeah, look, I wouldn’t say it’s one of my biggest strengths. I work with people that are a lot more comfortable giving negative feedback than I would be, but I do know that it’s a really, really important part of the job.
Andrew: Whenever I’m preparing to give negative feedback, and I really emphasize prepare. I don’t think that you should ever go into those scenarios lightly. I often will sit there and I’ll think about where I know that person wants to go, so if that person, their motivation might be they want to be excellent at their job, they might want a reward, they might want recognition, they might want a promotion, and I’ll make sure that that is a very key part of the feedback, that I link it to where they want to go and show that I know them enough that I’ve thought about this feedback and I’m giving it to them for the right reasons.
Patty: Okay, and how would you describe your management style?
Andrew: My management style. I try to create an environment where people want to follow me. In a perfect scenario for me, I’ve got people who work for me… and when I say work for me, I mean levels down as well… that genuinely don’t want to let me down. If I can create that environment, and that is the way that you do that is you need to know people, you need to understand what they’re up against, you need to use reward and recognition correctly. You need to genuinely really care about people’s development and growth and promote people on merits, and all of those things, and I think if you do that consistently and you have a genuine care for people, then they will get into a scenario where they don’t want to let you down. It’s not that they don’t want to let you down out of fear, it’s that they don’t want to let you down as in they know that you look after them so they want to look after you.
Andrew: I believe that’s the most powerful form of leadership is when you have a group of people who feel like that. You can push people pretty hard as we’re leading up to key dates or goals or we’re going after big ambitious goals. You can push people pretty hard when you’ve got that start.
Andrew: Does that help?
Patty: That’s a really good philosophy.
Mike: Yeah, that’s really good.
Mike: I want to add something to that around your time management and the things you’re very intentional about, because you just mentioned making sure that your team knows that you care and that can be very, very time consuming. It requires you to be intentional about making a phone call, sending an email, talking to somebody at a meeting or having a one-on-one and letting people know what you really appreciate about that person.
Mike: I’m curious, Andrew, as you’ve moved up in the organization, you’re very, very busy. You’re working on big projects with big teams, you’re talking to other leaders, you’re getting a lot of things done in the organization, so you’re doing all this stuff and then you’re also needing to make time for your team and also making sure that your team knows that you care about them. I’m curious how do you map out your week or your month to be intentional about doing those things?
Andrew: There’s a lot of levels. Firstly, I’m really comfortable with having people who work for me who are better than I am, and so I’ve got people who are great at running parts of my business that allow me not to lie awake at night worrying about what their job is. I think that’s a hugely important piece is allowing a leader to get some mind space, is you need to have great people who surround you and you really need to trust them, because if you don’t then I think you’re flat-out. It’s very hard to have a sincere engagement with someone who might be one or two or three levels down if your mind is flat-out. I think that’s a really key piece.
Andrew: I also think it’s just what you prioritize. I massively believe that if you have an absolutely engaged group of people in your business who feel motivated, who feel enabled, who feel proud to be part of the business, where you’re striving for success, then that’s probably the most powerful thing that you can have. That’s above product brands, whatever it might be, it’s just great people.
Andrew: I manage to find the time… like I have a one-to-one with every single new starter who joins our business. We’ve hired 80 people in the last 12 months, and I met every single one of them-
Mike: Wow!
Andrew: I’ve been in-
Mike: That is fantastic.
Andrew: … business for about a month. What I found is… I found really, really quickly that you actually learn… they’re all so grateful. You sit down in front of them and they say, “Hey look, I’ve never met someone who’s been running the business in the last companies I’ve worked for,” and they get a lot out of it and they really appreciate it. What they don’t realize is that I’m getting as much out from them because they’ve got the best perspective on our business, and they’ve often come from somewhere else and they’ve seen a bunch of other companies. They walk in and they’ve got these first impressions of your business. It’s actually something that I get a heap of value out of, much more than sitting around with my management team trying to plot what we should do next, is actually sitting with a new starter.
Andrew: I think that although yes, it is a massive time commitment, it’s a really valuable one.
Mike: I think that’s fantastic. What a beautiful case study of showing that you care, to actually, “I want to meet every single person that’s joining my team.”
Andrew: The business impact is enormous, so 12 months ago, our first-year attrition, so people who have joined our business and left in the first 12 months, was sitting at 25%. The end of this year, it’s down at 4%.
Mike: Whoa!
Patty: Wow!
Mike: Dude, that is awesome!
Patty: That’s really great!
Andrew: It’s a huge impact.
Mike: That is phenomenal to be able to bring the attrition rate that low.
Mike: What else is it? Obviously, you care and you want to meet people. What other factors do you think have led to that success?
Andrew: We’ve got about 240-250 people in our business and we brought 80 people in, so we’ve very deliberately seen new starters as not people who are coming to join a business to just fit in with the crew and move on, we see new starters as our biggest opportunity to evolve our business, to drive momentum, to look for innovative ideas. We really embrace new starters and we embrace what they bring to the business. It’s not a, “Hey look, here’s the sheet on Experian. Get yourself up to speed and fall in,” it’s a, “Look, this is how we work around here, but what can you add? Question things. Go for it.”
Andrew: We allow people to really think like that, and obviously we spend a lot of time on on-boarding and we really think about welcoming people into the organization and making sure that they feel comfortable and really focusing on allowing them to be as good as they can in their first year, which is often not how people feel when they join an organization. I think that a lot of times, you feel like the new kid for quite a while. We very quickly get rid of that feeling for people and allow them to feel like they can be part of a positive change.
Mike: I think a big part of that too is the fact that you’ve raised up good leaders, because you have to depend on the people that are leading other teams, that you can’t be into the nitty-gritty, the day-to-day, so you’ve brought on good leaders.
Mike: I’m curious about, as you are watching people in the organization and choosing people to lead teams, what skills, what qualities, traits, are you looking for in people to be a leader, that you would trust to lead your teams?
Andrew: I very much look to bring leaders from internal, so I very, very rarely bring people in from the outside, because I think that it’s such an important role, and you want to see people not only what they can write on a CV, but you want to see how they think and how they treat other people.
Andrew: We have a bit of an underlying rule in our business that we don’t care about tenure, success, seniority. Everybody has to have an underlying respect for each other. It’s just something that we talk about at every level.
Andrew: Those people that you’ve seen have that level of respect. It doesn’t matter if they’re running around for a deadline, or whatever it is. That’s a key element, because you know that when everybody understands that everybody respects each other, you can actually layer up a fantastic culture on top of that, and there can be a bit of banter and a bit of fun and everyone knows it’s coming from a good place. That’s probably the key element is someone that we’ve seen proven in that area.
Andrew: Also, I love to see somebody who’s been there and done it and they’re really comfortable jumping back in, that’s in the trenches, rolling their sleeves up. We try and have that sort of business that it’s not really hierarchical. We’re small enough here in Australia and New Zealand that we can still have a scenario where the GMs that run the different business units are out in front of our clients on a weekly basis. We look for those people that are really comfortable jumping back into the roles that they’ve jumped from as well.
Patty: It’s really cool hearing how you choose your leaders, but I also want to learn about the leaders that actually chose you. You said that you’ve spent most of your time at Experian. Did you have any mentors before you became a leader and did you learn any lessons from them that made you the leader you are today?
Andrew: Yeah. I’ve certainly had mentors along the way, but I’d say I’ve probably had more role models than I’ve had mentors. I think role models don’t necessarily need to be people who are above you in an organization, so I happen to be lucky enough right now to have one of the best MVs I think Experian’s got sitting alongside me as one of my peers.
Andrew: I love looking around people who… I love being surrounded by people who are successful, and I think Experian’s obviously got a lot of those people.
Andrew: Over the years, I’ve always tried to learn from styles and approaches of people that I respect and who are successful. But I think probably the biggest learning that I ever got really was from a mentor who is actually my manager, who taught me that when you move into a role, you really need to start preparing for the next one, even though you don’t want to move at that point and you’re really comfortable where you are, you don’t want to arrive at a point where you want your next job and then start thinking about and preparing for it. That’s something that has always sat with me, so as I sort of move into a job, I’m already thinking, “Okay, what opportunities do I want to open to myself in the next few years, and how do I start building for that now?”
Andrew: I don’t wait, and I think that’s probably the biggest learning that I got along the way. That is something, when I bring it back to a leadership style, it’s something that I’m always passing on to people, so when people seek feedback from me, I try to give them feedback based on whether that would be a no-brainer for the next opportunity, not feedback on their current problem.
Patty: Okay, so having that kind of mindset where you’re always planning for the next thing and being as busy as you are, have you ever dealt with any kind of burnout?
Andrew: To tell the truth, not really. I think that Experian does a really good job of balancing that out. I think the business uses reward and recognition incredibly well.
Andrew: I think it’s impossible to be 100% all the time and you shouldn’t try to be, but I think that Experian’s always provided a solid balance as a business.
Andrew: I’ve been in this company since 2001. I’ve done 12 different jobs across two countries, and I can honestly say I’ve never been fatigued or bored in a role over a suspended period. Sure, you might have the odd tough Monday, but I don’t…
Andrew: I think the longest I’ve ever done a job is three years, and I’ve had more opportunities open to me in this business.
Mike: That’s awesome.
Mike: Andrew, how have you decided on your movement into different roles? Were these roles that you had your eye on? Were some of these roles, you had to do, “I want to do this,” and you talked to leaders and said, “Okay, this is your new role.”
Mike: I’m curious how you navigated your career.
Andrew: In the first half of it in my time here, I let my results do the talking, and I didn’t actually sit there and plan it out.
Andrew: I now talk to people about creating opportunities for themselves, and I’m a huge believer in that. If you can really get motivated and throw yourself at something and do it the right way and get results, you will have opportunities open to you because people are watching. You don’t need to take those opportunities, but I’m a big believer in continuously trying to create opportunities for yourself so that you can make the choices on where you go in your career.
Andrew: I think people who feel like they’re cheating the system and don’t really throw themselves at things and just do the bare minimum, they are actually cheating themselves because they’re killing all the opportunities for themselves. I let my results do that for me for the first part of my career.
Andrew: When I got into bigger leadership roles, I got a bit of a wake-up that that wasn’t enough and that I needed to develop out a network and I needed to let people who don’t me know who I am. Not in a bad way, but you do need to build out a network as you progress into bigger roles, because people who are making decisions on those things will be people that you don’t know as well.
Andrew: So I had to make that shift and that change, but honestly I don’t often know what I want to do next, but I do know that I want opportunities open to me. Whether I take them or not’s my choice, is the way I’d look at it.
Patty: How do you gain that visibility? Is it something that you actively did, or can you credit that to the people who were above you and elevated you so that you were more visible in the company?
Andrew: I got a bit of a wake-up. I went for a job once that I thought that I was in a decent position for and I was currently doing a decent job for the company, and I got completely passed over for that role. When I reflected on it, it was actually the people making the decision on that role just didn’t know who I was and the way that I thought and what I prioritized.
Andrew: I suppose what I’ve now done is I now realize that I need to make an effort to get to know those people and understand what they’re looking for and make sure that they understand what I stand for, what I prioritize, whereas previously I was just relying on my immediate manager to do that for me, and that’s a mistake. You can’t rely on someone else to do that job for you. You have to… and it’s out of a lot of people’s comfort zones. They think, “Right, I’ve got to go around my manager here and probably go to their managers and get some time with them and get to know them,” and it doesn’t feel natural and comfortable for a lot of people, but if you don’t do that, you’re relying on someone else to tell your story, and that hit me hard once.
Mike: That’s fantastic advice. I love that, because it is super uncomfortable to do something like that.
Mike: I’m also kind of curious, in that process, I think one of the great strengths of the Experian leaders we’ve met so far has been humility, and what’s really tough is somebody who is, like yourself, they’re very, very humble, they are doing really, really good work, but sometimes that work may not be getting the recognition, because you’re like, “I don’t want to brag, I don’t want to be sharing off all my wins, right?”
Patty: That’s such a good point, yeah.
Mike: How do you balance humility with also letting the right people know the accomplishments-
Patty: Look what I did.
Mike: … that you’re doing for the company?
Andrew: I get that. I think… you hear the language about dominant goals in the business, and I think it’s really important that you understand what the leaders of the organization’s dominant goals are, and then if you do that, you can then start to link up things that you’re doing or seeing and working on in the business that are relevant to the leader’s dominant goals. If Brian’s got a dominant goal to drive our market cap up to certain levels, then if you do have an interaction with him, it really makes sense to be talking about things that would play into that dominant goal, because it’s going to spike his interest.
Andrew: I think it’s about really understanding who you’re talking to and what they’re going to really want to understand, and then it’s not so much, “Look at me. Look at what I’m doing,” it’s, “I understand your goals, and let me tell you about the piece of the business that I’m in and how that’s working towards that.”
Mike: Yeah, that’s really good advice because it is like one of those really tough areas that I think a lot of people find themselves where they’re doing a lot of good things for the company, they have a lot of wins, but then people can be very, very humble and they’re like, “I’ll just keep this to myself. This is something I can share with my own boss during my annual review or something.”
Andrew: Yeah, that is a really hard one. I think if you find yourself in that scenario where you are incredibly humble, then you probably need to see that as a development area, not the fact that you’re humble, but the fact that you don’t know how to get your results and what you’re achieving… I think it’s not just what your results and what you’re achieving are, it’s your mindset in how you get those results. They’re so important in Experian.
Andrew: We have a huge emphasis on people and we don’t celebrate people who climb over the top of others to be successful. It’s not just your results, but it’s how you go about your job is equally important. I think if you are so humble that you feel really uncomfortable getting that out there, then you probably need to seek help for that, as in go to your manager and talk to them. Have that as part of your plan, is, “How do I get myself known?”
Andrew: It’s not just, “Get my results known,” it’s, “How do I get myself known?”
Patty: Right. You mentioned that Experian doesn’t celebrate people who climb on top of other people to succeed, which is really great, but there are people who are like that, obviously. You have to come across those kinds of people from time to time.
Patty: I’m wondering if you have any advice about dealing with toxic people or toxic work environments, and how you would deal with that?
Andrew: Firstly, I, in my entire time in this business, I’ve never ever come across anyone who’s not replaceable, and I think that’s the worst scenario you can get into is thinking that anybody is not replaceable. That’s where toxic people are allowed to thrive is when you feel like, “Oh, we’d be in trouble if we didn’t have them because maybe they’re delivering.” The reality is, I’ve never seen a scenario where someone’s moved on from Experian and we haven’t carried and just marched on. That goes for all levels.
Andrew: I think my advice there would be you’re much better not having somebody in the business than having somebody in the business who’s maybe achieving some goals for you but is toxic, because they will be suffocating others. They will be holding others down. They’ll be sitting below a standard, and that’s something that can get away on you, so you’re much better without someone than with someone who’s doing that to you.
Patty: So, say for maybe individual contributors as a leader, how would you advise someone to go to their own leader to talk about that kind of problem?
Andrew: I think that comes back to the leader probably more than a self contributor, because if someone doesn’t feel comfortable having that conversation with their leader, then maybe the leader’s probably not giving off the right messages. They’re looking at an individual who is feeling like that, there’s toxic people in the organization that are not being called out or not being held accountable and they don’t feel they can go to their manager, then they certainly should be going either to another manager or further up the line, because that’s a scenario that you don’t want to let go, because otherwise you start to see good people go. That’s your worst possible outcome, that you’ve allowed toxic people to drive good people out of the business.
Mike: That’s right. That’s right.
Mike: Andrew, you mentioned the importance of sharing those key successes with people that are setting big goals for the business, to make sure that they’re aware of the things you’ve done to help drive the business. I’m curious also about, aside from the wins, the failures that come along and how you communicate failures, and also how you handle failures when people come to you with, “Hey, I was working on this campaign. It didn’t work out.”
Andrew: I think if you do reflect and you’re honest with yourself, you’ll realize you learn a lot more from your failures than you do from your successes.
Andrew: I genuinely believe that if you can create an environment where it’s absolutely fine to fail, you will have a much more enjoyable place to work.
Andrew: I like fast-paced. I like things to move. I like to say, “Yes,” to clients and then we work out exactly how we’re going to do it. I like to push ourselves.
Andrew: Andy Meikle, who works with us on our high-performance agenda, he talks about belief without proof, and that is getting people to say, “Okay, we’re going to set ourselves a goal that no one’s done before. There’s absolutely no evidence, if we look in our past, that suggests that we can do it, but we’re going after it.” If you can get that feeling of belief without proof into an organization, you will achieve things that are much bigger than an organization that doesn’t have belief without proof.
Andrew: I think that one of the absolute key ingredients to that is is you’ve got to be okay to fail, because otherwise you’re going to pull that thinking back and you’re going to start looking for evidence that you can do something before you set out to do it. I think failure is probably one of the most important elements in our performance.
Mike: No doubt. I think, to go with that, not having belief without proof, that goes to a lot of innovative business decisions, because if you want to be first to market, you don’t necessarily have all the data points. You don’t have the case study to go to to say, “Yes, this is what we should be doing. We have proof that this is going to work,” because at that point, you’re not going to be first.
Mike: I’m kind of curious, how do you navigate those times when you have to make a decision when you don’t have enough data?
Andrew: Yeah. Sorry, are you there?
Mike: Yeah, I can hear you.
Andrew: I’m sorry, it’s just gone quiet.
Andrew: I mean, this is exactly it. I think there’s a few things. One is… To that last point. You have to create an environment where it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fail as long as you learn from that failure, so that’s a really key element. It’s fine to fail, but let’s make sure we don’t do that two or three times in a row. That’s not okay. It’s okay to fail once and learn from it. That’s a very key element.
Andrew: Something I mentioned earlier, be really, really comfortable with having people who work for you who are better than you, otherwise you’re not going to be able to innovate. You’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to cover all of your blind spots with people who are great.
Andrew: Then I think there’s another piece that’s really important is if you manage, you lead through a hierarchy, so all your messaging comes through leaders of leaders, because the people who really innovate, they’re usually closer to the current problems. They’re usually in self-contributing roles. They’re usually sitting there working away in a team of people. They’re the ones that really come up with the innovative ideas. If they don’t know the person who’s leading the organization well enough to trust that it’s okay to fail, then they’re probably going to have a more conservative approach.
Andrew: It comes back to really being able to break down that hierarchy and have people who, right through all the levels of the organization, who understand that you’ve got their back if it goes wrong.
Mike: I like that. That’s really, really good advice.
Mike: I guess before we go, do you have any last-minute tips you’d give for the young leaders at Experian for them as they begin to navigate their careers?
Andrew: Yeah. First, I think my biggest advice, and you might argue that I don’t have much perspective on this because I’ve been at Experian all this time, but my biggest advice would be just do not underestimate the value in working for a great company. I went through the last 20 years trekking alongside a lot of my friends who came out of university at the same time as, and there’s no question that the people who’ve stayed in a single organization longer have progressed a lot more than the ones that’ve jumped across different businesses and had to recreate their brands and start from scratch in the sense of building up their profile.
Andrew: So you’re sitting in a great organization that does genuinely give you opportunity and it is growing and cares about people. That’s a huge jump up in your career is to have that platform.
Andrew: I think the other piece that I would say is for me, career progression is not really measured by getting new roles and promotion. I mean, that certainly is an element to it, but career progression comes in different forms, like mastering roles, like watching people who’ve worked for you progress.
Andrew: I think you should really look for progression within the role that you’re in, because I think that that is… the people that sit there and feel like, “Ah, I’m frustrated because I’ve been doing this job for three years and I can’t see where I’m going next.” I think that’ll hold you back, whereas actually, if you think to yourself at the start… you sit down at the start of the year and you say, “What would a great outcome for this year be?” and map that out, and it should, if you’re looking at leadership, it should look like, “I would love to see these people who work under me, I would love to see them progress. I would love to see that person smash targets they didn’t know that they could do. I would love to see this person grow.” You map those things out at the start of the year, and go after that. That’s career progression in itself.
Patty: That’s really good advice, thank you.
Mike: Thank you so much, Andrew, for your time. This has been fantastic.
Andrew: No problems. Thank you.
Patty: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Level Up.
Mike: If you’d like to see a summary of today’s show, you can go to the Experian blog. The short URL is just ex.pn/levelup.
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Patty: Thanks for dropping in and giving us a listen, and we hope to see you again for our next episode.