Naike Bochatay
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15 July, 2013

Recipe for success in today’s business world

(Photo: Pontus Wallsten)
(Photo: Pontus Wallsten)

What does it take to be a successful leader in today’s world? This was the question addressed by Joe Garner, former Head of HSBC UK retail bank, during his very appreciated and interactive keynote, opening the 2013 Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy conference in Caux, on 13 July.

Joe Garner discussed the issue of ‘Leading business towards 2020: the importance of character in a transparent world’. According to him, the recent financial crisis has resulted in ‘a massive pressure for change’ in the business realm, drastic erosion of trust, and in increasing corporate scandals. Old management tricks cannot work anymore, as the world is now different. The economy has changed; customers have evolved and are better informed thanks to the Internet, and Joe Garner asserted that ‘We are at the beginning of the impact of technology. I think that the search engine will turn out to be more revolutionary than the steam engine.’ Finally, employees need to be inspired by their supervisors: they do not simply apply rules anymore.

In such a world, how can managers succeed? Joe Garner’s solution at HSBC was to gather his brand new team and have everyone share ‘what they love, what they fear, and what they have in their pocket.’ On this occasion, they realised that ‘We can deal with all these issues [of life] as human beings. So, we concluded that we could deal with anything, but that the business world had frozen us. As long as we keep our humanity, things pass.’ Because of that, it is paramount to create work environments ‘where people can be themselves, where people can be people first, and bankers second’, and where they do not overly rely on rules and processes. The best way to strike the right balance between rules and trust is, in Joe Garner’s view, to have good management. Quoting Norman Schwarzkopf, he argued that ‘Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy’.

These new trends are, according to Joe Garner ‘here for the long term, and they are not gonna go away.’ Using personal anecdotes, his sense of humour and studies, he illustrated how managers can succeed by trusting people and focusing on their humanity, a message that was well received by the audience, as shown by the enthusiastic applauses that followed his intervention.

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