Agile Leaders, Agile Systems
In business transformations and optimizations, a common problem we see is the misalignment between people and systems. When this happens, the organization’s agility is compromised. The solution then is to increase the alignment between the people and systems of an organization so that they both can function together in synergy. This promotes organizational agility.
In episode 9 of Agile Leaders Conversations, Andrew Shuttleworth, Head of Business Development, joins us and shares his favorite paradoxes. He also urges all leaders to step up early and grasp opportunities to step out of their comfort zone.
Connect with Andrew Shuttleworth at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewshuttleworth/
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Andrew Shuttleworth: 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. We’re good at achieving things. 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.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: 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 navigate paradox as they pivot in a new normal. My guest today is Mr. Andrew Shuttleworth, country manager of cloudace Singapore.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: I’ll hand over the time to Andrew to share a little about himself.
Getting to Know Andrew Shuttleworth
Andrew Shuttleworth: Hey there! Thanks for inviting me for the interview. Good to chat on a Saturday morning.
Andrew Shuttleworth: I’ve been in Singapore for three years. I came here with a large multinational. Before, I was based in Japan for 18 years, so most of my career I studied marketing and Japanese at school became a goal for me to move out to Japan. That happened with my first company. But after 18 years, an opportunity came to move to Singapore, and I jumped at it. I actually had never been to Singapore at the time.
Andrew Shuttleworth: But South Asia and Singapore has always been on my target list of places to potentially take my career to the next level. So, I jumped on it, moved over here and just past 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 cloudace.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Andrew and I connected again on LinkedIn. I think that’s how I made a lot of connections with professionals on LinkedIn. And Andrew was very kind and helpful. Not only supportive when I first launched my book, but also gave me many invaluable feedback on how I can make it better.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: I even look at my website as well. So really thankful for any feedback that I can always get along the way. And I think it really shows how Andrew interacts with people- always giving value, so I fully appreciate that part very much and making time on a Saturday morning for this conversation to happen.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Andrew, would you share with us what’s your general thoughts of the book after reading it?
Andrew Shuttleworth: Sure. Yeah. I have to admit, I often download samples for a lot of books. I guess I used to read lot more business books and things. These days, I really don’t make time for reading at all. So it’s actually a miracle but also a testament that I actually made my way through it.
Andrew Shuttleworth: I connected with you on LinkedIn. And thanks for that I downloaded the sample. But I thought, this is something that’s really good for me to read. The topic resonated with me, but also found it really well authored and to the point, but not into kind of too much detail.
Andrew Shuttleworth: I find a lot of business books, they just bore you with too much detail. They’re patted out way more than they need to be. 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. Certainly, it resonated with me, but I think the way it’s written and the way it’s designed as well is really well done.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Thank you so much. This is exactly the intention behind writing each paradoxes of leadership agility- make it simple. Because knowing that leaders these days are all very busy, so w e really need something very easy to consume something that we can just take and immediately apply in our lives.
Task vs People
Chuen Chuen Yeo: 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 Shuttleworth: Yeah, the first one was the tasks versus people. And as I went through, I found that also executing versus inspiring and enforcing versus empowering also tie into similar themes. But probably tasks versus people is important for maybe a newer leader.
Andrew Shuttleworth: 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. We’re good at achieving things. 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 you have to get over when you become a leader. Because getting things done is simply a matter of “you’ve got a to-do list, you get through it, and yay! You’re the hero. But you can’t treat people like that.
Andrew Shuttleworth: If you treat people like that you’re not gonna be a very successful leader. So for me, that was the one that hits most.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: 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 require are actually quite different.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: And this probably is one of the biggest shift that continues to allow leaders to be successful in the future. So that’s really a great point that you’ve brought up. There was also a definition of leadership agility and of paradoxes in the book. I’m wondering from your lens, how do you define leadership agility or paradoxes?
What is Leadership Agility
Andrew Shuttleworth: Yeah, I’m not sure I have my own definition, but needless to say, agility is important. It’s understanding “change is the only constant.” You have to get used to just being able to change.
Andrew Shuttleworth: And I think as humans, we’re naturally conditioned to finding a comfort zone. 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. And yeah, adapting to the fact that change is gonna be part of your everyday life.
Andrew Shuttleworth: Change does cost time and money and investment and brain power. But that’s just something you have to get used to. And I think if you understand that and you embrace that, that’s when you become an agile leader or an agile person.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Yeah, the mindset and accepting that we always have to change. And also be mindful that staying in the comfort zone is very comfortable, but it comes with the price.
Andrew Shuttleworth: Yeah! And I think that’s a lesson when you are thinking about change, or you’re thinking about what is the cost of not doing something?
Andrew Shuttleworth: Cause it seems, we always look at the cost of doing something because it’s easier to evaluate what’s right in front of you, but the cost of not doing something is actually not as obvious. And if you really think about that, I think we’re all animals, right? We’re all driven by fear in many respects.
Andrew Shuttleworth: So if you can turn that cost factor to the cost of not doing something into a driver, that really helps you push through that change.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: I like this definition too. In the book, I talked about the good stress versus bad stress. So how can we convert the bad stress into the good stress or the driver that you’re saying?
How to Convert Bad Stress Into a Good Stress
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Perhaps convert it into motivation and drives us forward. And I think moving forward then is the only option most of the time, given that right now the rate of disruption is getting faster. Definitely, good reminders there.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: What about paradoxes, how do you know there’s a paradox when it shows up.
Andrew Shuttleworth: In leadership, when you’re managing people every day, you actually know the answer, but oftentimes you’re wrong, or there’s maybe multiple ways of doing things.
Andrew Shuttleworth: So, it’s important not to jump to the easiest course of action, telling someone what to do or what you think. You really have to take a step back. Be a little patient, as someone told me many years ago, learn to ask better questions and learn to help.
Andrew Shuttleworth: It’s a coaching role, right? 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 wanna deliver on your goals.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: That’s another great point. Looking at the role of a leader differently that we have to equip people with the right skills, so 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. And sometimes, spending time with people to equip them with the skills takes more time at the beginning. But maybe the payoff comes 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?
How COVID 19 Changed the Business
Andrew Shuttleworth: Yeah, I think an important part leads to what you were just saying about spending time with people?
Andrew Shuttleworth: In some ways, it’s been good because you can work very efficiently. And we’re a tech company, so we’re fine working remotely. We’re fine with digital tools and we’re enjoying it, but I do question myself. “Is there anything that we’re missing as a result of not being in the office?” And we’re a relatively small company.
Andrew Shuttleworth: So I’ve also been thinking, “does this change if you’re with a small company or if you are with a bigger company?” For example, if you’re with a bigger company, there’s a lot more people to meet and have conversations- elevator (for example).
Andrew Shuttleworth: And I think those interactions are quite important for building a human network within a larger company vs a smaller company where I can meet everyone every day when I’m in the office and equally I can actually meet everyone remotely. In fact, it’s somewhat easier because you actually have to set aside specific time for specific conversations. Whereas in the office, that conversations are not necessarily scheduled. 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 be doing something.
Andrew Shuttleworth: And so, conversation may be not as fruitful as it could be. Whereas if you have time with an agenda, and people know what’s going on, the conversations can be a lot more focused and fruitful.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Yeah! I think, what you are saying is actually, people centeredness is very important. And right now in the COVID 19 situation where you don’t have those organic conversations for you to build those human connection. You actually have to take a more disciplined approach to make these happen and really set time and agenda, so that your meetings are productive and clear for all parties that attend those meetings. And then you can continue to build those connections.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Lately, I ran a short poll on LinkedIn asking people to rate how many percent of corporate professionals are agile leaders right now. And the results then were quite low. Less than 20% of people considered corporate professionals agile. So how do you see it? Do you think leaders are agile enough right now?
The People are Agile, but sometimes the System is Not
Andrew Shuttleworth: I’m in a bubble because I work in the tech space, and I think in tech space, you have to be agile. Probably, I see things through biased glasses. To be honest, I find people are agile, but at the same time, when I deal with customers, it’s not a matter of people not being agile, it’s the systems we have are not agile.
Andrew Shuttleworth: And often for good reasons, it could be security concerns. It could be just due diligence, making sure things are done. There’s a lot of pressure on things like protecting personal data. Making sure that systems are not hackable. And these things take time, efforts and investments.
Andrew Shuttleworth: So I think, there are two parts. People agility and system agility. We need to also look at the system agility. I find that people I work with are pretty agile, but I’m probably looking at a biased example.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Yes you bring out a really good point. People agility in the mindset and the system agility. So the people could be agile, but the system 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?
An Advice for Veteran Leaders
Andrew Shuttleworth: Two different groups, right? So veteran leaders, I’ve got a lot to learn from veteran leaders as well. But 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 gonna be relevant a few years from now that things change?” So something that can be the best practice to 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 get comfortable with what you know. Again, that goes back to just accepting change is the only constant.
Andrew Shuttleworth: And for aspiring leaders, the most important thing today 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 help drive things forward is by stepping up and doing something. 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. So for aspiring leaders, just step up, take ownership of a problem, help someone else, and learn leadership skills. Because you’ll find a stage in your career where you need to know leadership.
Andrew Shuttleworth: And if you get to that stage and you haven’t had a chance to practice your skills, it’s gonna be really tough for you. If you do want to develop your career at some point as an individual performer, you can only get unless you’re really the top expert in your field.
Andrew Shuttleworth: Of course we all want to develop our careers to take care of our families and ourselves in retirement. Leadership is gonna be important part for everyone. And so the sooner you can start to polish those skills, the better.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: I’m sure by now many viewers would be interested to get connected with Andrew. So Andrew, how can they do that? If they wanna connect and share more.
Andrew Shuttleworth: Yeah, I’m a big user of LinkedIn. You can also Google me and find me on other sites and things as well, but LinkedIn works well. Always happy to connect with people on any topic and exchange ideas.
Andrew Shuttleworth: 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. 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.
Andrew Shuttleworth: 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 said on any topic, just feel free to reach out.
Chuen Chuen Yeo: Great!. 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 Shuttleworth: Great! Thanks for the opportunity.
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