What’s being a managing director all about? Here Hilton Freund of payday loans provider Wizzcash reflects on his time in senior management.
- Think big and say yes
As I’ve got a bit older, I’ve realised that, in both my personal and professional life, there’s a phrase I hope I never have to utter to myself: ‘what if?’. As managing director of payday loans company Wizzcash, I don’t want to reflect on a career full of missed opportunities or projects I could have explored.
So I’ve made thinking big and saying yes one of the most important lessons I’ve picked up from being in a senior leadership role. Set yourself free from the safe harbour of home and don’t be afraid to be bold – in your decisions and your ideas. There is an old phrase: you can do anything if you put your mind to it. And I couldn’t agree more.
- Kill jargon and phraseology
I’ve come to slowly hate jargon. In business, buzzwords like ‘pain points’, ‘going forward’ and being ‘agile’ (whatever that means) are bandied around with, well, abandon. I can’t tell you the number of meetings I’ve been to where I’ve come out being more confused than when I went in.
Sorry if I go on a bit of rant here, but jargon makes me suspicious. When people use it, I find myself questioning their motives. I wonder what their true agenda is. Jargon doesn’t help. It only serves to confuse, to muddle the message. When you’re in a managing director role, you come to realise just how important communication is. For a brand, jargon is bad because it makes you look like you don’t have any ideas or don’t have an identity. When you’re in a senior role, jargon is bad because it makes you look like you can’t express yourself properly. You become a walking cliche machine. One that can’t get a message across.
As an MD, I need to speak to people every day – whether it’s to a shop floor of staff or a board or at Pret when I buy a sandwich at lunch. And I need them to understand me. So speak as you find, speak in clear, precise language and use terms everyone knows. Be real and authentic. Don’t drown your messages in a cloak of meaningless words. The secret to proper communication is, quite simply, to be real.
- Celebrate mistakes
Well, kind of. It’s completely normal to make mistakes. Slipping up is part of life. Sometimes, though, when businesses make mistakes, they ignore them, pretend they didn’t happen or, even worse, spin them so they’re presented not as a mistake but, somehow, a success.
I’m not sure if this glossing-over of mistakes is a good thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not. Turning a mistake into a success is barmy. Ignoring a mistake is nonsensical. That’s because mistakes are powerful little things. They are little nuggets that, once broken into, will help you get better at what you do.
So when I say ‘celebrate mistakes’, I mean be honest about your challenges. Talk publicly about what went wrong and how you’d do it better the next time.
- Don’t fall out of the loop
I don’t like being out of the loop. Whether it’s how well Pep Guardiola is doing at Manchester City, whether Jeremy Corbyn is still head of the Labour Party or who the new Top Gear host is going to be, even if I’m not that interested, I want to know. Being in the loop helps keep you sharp, on top of things.
In my working life, I notice that it’s very easy to fall out of the loop. For one thing, you’re very busy. For another, there are people who do things for you. So it’s easy to take your eye of the ball when you’ve got a hectic schedule and you have a whole team ready to help you out. So I try to stay on top of things as much as I can. My industry is financial services, so I read blogs, the FT, subscribe to Google Alerts for key terms, listen to money programmes on the radio, you name it, I’ve probably got a subscription to it. Or downloaded it to my phone.
- Value your people
Let’s end with an obvious one. I say obvious – sometimes this gets forgotten about. Value your people. Finding time for your team – your immediate team but also your wider workforce, external consultants, suppliers and the chap who delivers the post is crucially important. Leadership comes from dealing with people, getting to know them and being a source of valuable support.