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Agile Leaders Conversations

Agile Leaders Conversations Ep 9 – Mr Andrew Shuttleworth, Head of Business Development, Agorize

Complement Agility in People with Agility in Systems

In episode 9 of Agile Leaders Conversations, hear Mr Andrew Shuttleworth, Head of Business Development of Agorize share his insights after reading ‘8 Paradoxes of Leadership Agility’ and advice from his wide experience in the IT field across countries. He also urges all leaders to step up early and grasp opportunities to step out of their comfort zone. This episode is not to be missed.

Connect with Andrew at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewshuttleworth/

YOUTUBE VIDEO

TRANSCRIPT

Chuen Chuen:

Welcome to Agile Leaders Conversations. Agile Leaders Conversations is a series of dialogues where we engage industry leaders in discussions of how they see and apply agility and navigates paradoxes as they lead and pivot in a new normal. My guest today is Mr. Andrew Shuttleworth, Country Manager of Cloud Ace, Singapore. I’ll hand over the time to Andrew to share a little about himself.

Andrew:

Hey there. Thanks for inviting me for the interview. Good to chat on a Saturday morning. Myself, I’ve been in Singapore for three years. I came here with a large multinational. Before that I was based in Japan for actually 18 years, so most of my career. I studied Marketing and Japanese at school, it became a goal for me to move out to Japan, and that happened with my first company.

Andrew:

But after 18 years, an opportunity came to move to Singapore and I kind of jumped at it. I actually had never been to Singapore at the time, but South Asia and Singapore kind of always been on my, I guess, target list of places potentially to take my career to the next level. So I jumped on it, moved over here on, and just passed the three year mark. So I guess I’ve done quite a lot in three years, it seems like longer, but happy here now, and enjoying building the business with Cloud Ace.

Chuen Chuen:

Andrew and I connect again on LinkedIn. I think that’s how I made a lot of connections with professionals on LinkedIn. Andrew was very kind and helpful and not only supportive when I first launched my book, also gave me many invaluable feedback on how I can make it better and even looking at my website as well. So really thankful for any feedback that I can always get along the way.

Chuen Chuen:

I think it really shows how Andrew interacts with people, always giving value. So I fully appreciate that part very much and all the more making time on a Saturday morning for this conversation to happen. So Andrew, would you share with us what are your general thoughts of the book after reading it?

Andrew:

Sure. I have to admit, I often download samples for a lot of books. I guess I used to read a lot more business books and things. These days I really don’t make time for reading at all so it’s actually kind of a, I think a miracle, but also a testament to the book that I actually made my way through it. It was one of those, again, I just, I connected with you on LinkedIn and thanks for that, and I went ahead and downloaded the sample. But I thought, “Hey, this is something that’s really good for me to read.” The topic resonated with me, but also the book is… I found it really well authored in the way it was kind of to the point, but not going into kind of too much detail. I find a lot of business books, they just kind of bore you with too much detail. They’re kind of padded out way more than they need to be.

Andrew:

So I went ahead and bought it straight away and I think I sat down on a Sunday afternoon and just worked my way through it. So certainly it resonated with me, but I think the way it’s written and the way it’s designed as well is, is really well done.

Chuen Chuen:

Thank you so much. This is exactly the intention behind writing Eight Paradoxes of Leadership Agility. Make it simple because knowing that leaders, these days, we are all very busy so we really need something very easy to consume, something that we can just take and go and immediately apply in our lives. So it’s very good to hear that it resonated with you. So was there a paradox that resonated strongly with you and would you share a little about that?

Andrew:

Yeah, I think there was a few and I was reviewing again this morning. The book makes it super easy to review and I kind of highlighted three to kind of get started with, but I’ll jump back to one. The first one was the tasks versus people. Then as I went through, I found that also executing versus inspiring and enforcing versus empowering kind of also tie into similar themes. I think probably tasks versus people is important for anyone that’s a leader, maybe a newer leader. Because obviously we don’t start off as leaders in our career. We start off as individual performers, and we get to where we are because we’re good at doing tasks or good at achieving things.

Andrew:

But anyone who’s had to make a leadership journey knows that being a leader and being an individual performer are two completely different things. And that’s really the biggest paradox I think you have to get over when you become a leader. Because getting tests, getting things done is simply a matter of bang, bang, bang. You’ve got a to-do list. You get through it, and yay, you’re the hero, you’ve done what you do.

Andrew:

But you can’t treat people like right. If you treat people like that, you’re not going to be a very successful leader. So I think for me that was kind of one that hits home most.

Chuen Chuen:

Great. I think Andrew, you really speak about the common pain point for many leaders. Because as we rise up the ranks, changing from an individual performer to a people leader, the skills required are actually quite different. This probably is one of the most, the biggest shift that continues to allow leaders to be successful in the future. So that’s really a great point that you have brought up.

Chuen Chuen:

There was also a definition on leadership agility and of paradoxes in the book. I’m wondering from your perspective, from your lens, how do you define leadership agility or paradoxes?

Andrew:

Yeah, I also reviewed that this morning as well, and I think. I’m not sure I have my own definition, but I think needless to say, I mean agility is important. It’s understanding I think as people often say, change is the only constant. You have to get used to just being able to change. I think as humans we’re naturally conditioned to kind of finding a comfort zone. I think you have to understand that if you’re in a comfort zone, there’s a cost of that comfort. You’re losing the ability to develop through experience. So just adapting to the fact that change is going to be a part of your everyday life, change does cost time and money and investment and brain power, but that’s just something you have to get used to. I think if you understand that and you embrace that, that’s when you become an agile leader or an agile person.

Chuen Chuen:

Yep. The mindset, a lot about the mindset and accepting and coming to terms can be … becoming to terms is not the right word. I think, accepting, accepting that we always have to change, and also be mindful that staying in the comfort zone is very comfortable, very great, but it comes with a price.

Andrew:

Yeah. I think that’s a lesson for anyone when you’re thinking about change or you’re thinking about doing something is, what is the cost of not doing something? Because it seems, we always look at the cost of doing something because it’s easier to evaluate because it’s right in front of you. But the cost of not doing something is actually maybe not as obvious, but if you really think about that, I kind of think we’re all animals. We’re all driven by fear in many respects. So if you can turn that cost factor, the cost of not doing something into a fear, and so the driver, that really helps you kind of push through that change.

Chuen Chuen:

Yeah. Yeah. I like this definition too. In the book, I talked about the good stress versus bad stress. So how can we convert a bad stress into the good stress or the driver that you say? So perhaps the fear of something, converted into motivation and drives us forward. I think moving forward then is the only option most of the time given that right now, the rate of disruption, rate of change I think it’s getting faster and faster. So definitely good reminders there.

Chuen Chuen:

But what about paradoxes? How do you see it? I mean, in your area of work, how do you know that’s a paradox when it shows up?

Andrew:

I mean, I think definitely in leadership when you’re managing people every day, often as leader, you actually know the answer or often you’ll think you know, the answer. Oftentimes you do, but oftentimes you’re wrong as well, or there’s maybe multiple ways of doing things. So it’s important not to kind of just jump to the easiest course of action and maybe telling someone what to do or telling someone what you think. You really have to kind of take a step back, be a little bit patient as someone told me kind of many years ago in a course, learn to ask better questions and learn to help. I mean, it’s kind of a coaching role. You have to teach people to help themselves. But in the course of day-to-day business, when you’ve got a deadline or you’ve got goals to deliver on by the end of the week, it’s very difficult to actually do that when you just want to deliver on your goals.

Chuen Chuen:

That’s another great point. Looking at the role of a leader differently that we have to equip people with the right skills so then they can make the decisions for themselves. But at the same time, the struggle for leaders is that we get so busy and sometimes we forget. Sometimes spending time with people to teach them or to equip them with the skills takes more time at the beginning, but maybe the payoff comes much, much later and it’s all worth it. So right now, how has the COVID-19 situation changed the way you conduct your business and lead teams?

Andrew:

I think an important part is, it kind of leads on to what you were just saying about spending time with people. In some ways, it’s been good because you can work very efficiently. We’re a tech company, so we’re fine working remotely. We’re fine with digital tools, and we’re kind of enjoying it, but I do question myself, “Okay. Is there anything that we’re missing as a result of this situation of kind of not being in the office?”

Andrew:

We’re a relatively small company so I’ve also been thinking, “Okay, does this change if you’re with a small company or change, depending on if you are with a bigger company?” So for example, if you’re with a bigger company, there’s a lot more people to meet. You kind of have conversations, I mean, around the stereotypical water cooler or elevator, whatever. I think those interactions are quite important for building a human network within a larger company.

Andrew:

For instance, a smaller company, I can kind of meet everyone every day when I’m in the office and equally I can actually meet everyone remotely now that we’re working remotely. In fact, it’s somewhat some ways easier because you actually have to set aside specific time for specific conversations. Whereas in the office, you don’t always necessarily do that. Conversations just kind of happen and they’re not necessarily scheduled, and maybe that’s not actually the most efficient way to do things because maybe you’re in the middle of something else. The other person may not be in their mindset, they may be doing something. So our conversation may be not as fruitful as it could be. Whereas if you have time set aside in your calendar with an agenda and people know what’s going on, or even it’s a regular daily meeting, the conversations can actually be a lot more focused and fruitful.

Chuen Chuen:

Yeah, I think what you’re saying is actually the people centeredness is very important. Right now in the COVID-19 situation, where you don’t have those organic conversations happening for you to build those human connection, you actually have to take a more disciplined approach to make these happen and really set aside time and even set the agenda so that your meetings are productive, and that is clear for all parties that attend those meetings, and then you can continue to build those connections.

Chuen Chuen:

Lately, I ran a short poll on LinkedIn asking people to rate how many percent of corporate professionals are agile leaders right now. The results then were it’s quite low, is only less than 20% people consider corporate professionals agile. So how do you see it? Do you think leaders are agile enough right now?

Andrew:

I think maybe I’m in a bubble because I work in the tech space and I think in a tech space, you have to be agile. That’s probably, I see things through biased glasses, to be honest. I kind of find, I think people are agile, but at the same time, I guess when I deal with customers, it’s not a matter of people not being agile necessarily. In many cases, it’s the systems we have are not agile as well and often for good reasons. It could be security concerns, it could be just due diligence, making sure things are done right. There’s obviously a lot of pressure on things like protecting personal data, making sure that systems are not hackable, et cetera, et cetera. These things take time, effort and investments, and I don’t know if there’s a way around that.

Andrew:

So I think, yeah, two parts, really; people agility and system agility. I think we need to also look at the system agility, but again, I find that people I work with are pretty agile, but I’m probably looking at a biased sample.

Chuen Chuen:

Yes, you bring up a really good point. People agility in the mindset and the system agility. So the people could be agile, but the system might or might not support them so that they can create the greatest ROI. So probably these two things are always moving in tandem, developing in parallel as well. So what’s then your advice to veteran and aspiring leaders out there, especially those in your field?

Andrew:

Well, two different groups, right? So veteran leaders really, I’ve got a lot to learn from veteran leaders as well, but I think hopefully as a veteran leader, people know that there’s always more to learn. You’re never done. Even what we’re talking about today, is it going to be relevant a few years from now? Things change so something that can be a best practices today may not be a best practice tomorrow, and you have to constantly relearn and look at what’s relevant today. So I think you can never, I guess, just get comfortable with what you know. Again, that goes back to just accepting change is the only constant.

Andrew:

For aspiring leaders, I think the most important thing there is, get up and take a leadership role. But even in the UK, when I was being brought up, people often hesitate to step forward and take ownership of something. And the only way you learn leadership, and you help drive things forward is by stepping up and doing something. I think young people have a lot of advantages that they can do that with less risk. You can do it in things like volunteer associations and things like that. It doesn’t have to be in your job.

Andrew:

So yeah, just for aspiring leaders, just step up there, take ownership of an issue, a problem, helping someone else, and start to learn leadership skills because you’ll find a stage in your career where you need to know that leadership. If you get to that stage and you haven’t had a chance to practice your skills, it’s going to be really tough for you.

Andrew:

If you do want to develop your career, at some point as an individual performer, there’s only so far you can go, I mean unless you’re really, really the top expert in your field. Of course we all want to develop our careers to take care of our families and ourselves in retirement, so I think leadership is an important part for everyone. So the sooner you can start to polish those skills, the better.

Chuen Chuen:

I’m sure by now many viewers would be interested to get connected with Andrew. So Andrew, how can they do that if they want to connect and share more with you?

Andrew:

Sure. I’m a big user of LinkedIn. You can probably also Google me and find me on other sites and things as well, but LinkedIn works well. So always happy to connect with people on any topic and just exchange ideas.

Andrew:

When it comes to my field of work, I work with cloud and in particular Google Cloud and a lot of what we do is in the field of AIML and big data. I think in that field in particular, agility is required because it’s a new field. People are learning as they go and they don’t necessarily know how to take advantage of these technologies, and there’s no kind of rule book at the moment. So I’m particularly interested to speak to people who may be interested to explore those areas in their business. But like I say, on any topic, just feel free to reach out.

Chuen Chuen:

Great. So I will leave Andrew’s contact details and LinkedIn URL in the blog post. Thank you so much again for your time, your invaluable feedback and going the extra mile to share your advice with everyone, including me. Thank you so much, Andrew.

Andrew:

Great. Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.

Check out the rest of the episodes.

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