Who were the biggest influences in your early career and what did they teach you?
We have been very lucky with the people we have had running Accenture over the years. We have had many great leaders. Our managing partners have acted as role models for all of us. We look up to these people and, over the years, that has allowed us to generate more people who are both rounded and specialised.
My role models have been the people I worked for “growing up” in the business. A number continue to help me right up to today.
We have an open door policy. The organisation is flat in that there is no real hierarchical structure. Most people here are very approachable.
What are the most important lessons you have learned over the years about managing people and strategic leadership?
Every single person is different. To get the best out of a team, you need to understand each person really well. I learned that very early from the people I worked for here.
It can sometimes be difficult to listen, especially if you are Irish, because we like to talk. But, you have to listen carefully and you also have to understand the whole person.
That can be challenging if you are operating in a pressurised work environment. Our work at Accenture tends to be fairly full-on, but it is crucial to spend the necessary time with each person, to understand them and to know when to listen and when to shut up.
In terms of personal development and upskilling, how do you stay current in your sector?
Somebody here once said: “When you finish at Accenture, you realise what you miss.” We have an extraordinary amount of material, content and other resources at our disposal, because we have to be current as a company. Otherwise, we become irrelevant.
Rather than reading book after book, I start with small chunks of information and then I dig. I avoided Twitter up to about four years ago, but I now spend quite a bit of time on the platform.
With Twitter, I find that, if you’re in the flow, you can pick what you want and leave the rest.
I use some terrific online journals for the same purpose – picking and choosing what I explore, be it Artificial Intelligence (AI) or immersive [media]. My reading material at any given time tends to be about subjects I don’t yet fully understand.
What are your hobbies outside of work? Do you have any tricks to help you switch off after a stressful day?
I enjoy sports, particularly rugby. I get a kick out of the competition. Being passionate about something means I can really focus on it. I can put everything else aside and “be in the now.”
When you travel for pleasure, where do you go and why?
My wife is from the States and my in-laws live in Florida, so we spend quite a bit of time there. The weather is lovely and we can spend time on the beach as a family away from work.
I enjoy travel and, having lived and worked in London, I enjoy going there now as a visitor. I like the city during the day and the outskirts at night. We have a particular pizzeria we used to go to in Maida Vale moons ago. I haven’t returned to it in about a year, but we will make it back.
What kind of music do you listen to?
I am a U2 obsessive. I listen to the band at home and in the car. I watch U2 on YouTube in the evenings. You watch a video of the band playing one song live, and then YouTube feeds you more suggestions. It’s like one of those “all you can eat” barbecues. You sit down for 10 minutes and you’re still there an hour and a half later. I find that very good for de-stressing.