Transcript: Jora Gill (CTO) – Making the right decisions in business (Max#41)

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Kevin: Welcome to Maximise Potential the podcast to educate and motivate through a range of original interviews designed to help you maximise your potential. Brought to you in association with the award winning recruitment group Jenrick.

Welcome back to Episode 41 of the Maximise Potential Podcast. On Episode 27 of the Podcast we interviewed Jora Gill a globally renound CTO who provided us with an incredible insight into the approach he has taken to maximise his career and today we are very pleased to join Jora once again. In today’s interview we gain an exclusive insight into how Jora keeps his thinking fresh, gains new ideas and perspectives which ultimately enable him to make extremely effective decisions. We explore the pressures that are put upon Senior Managers and discuss how decision making approaches need to differ throughout the short, medium and long term and how each of these play an integral role in enabling you to develop a highly motivated team and by doing so reach your long term organisational goal. I feel fortunate that within this interview we have captured a CTO willing to open up about the issues that he is facing on a daily basis explaining how he overcomes these and advances his organisation at the same time. Please enjoy.

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Jora it is an absolute pleasure to welcome you back to Maximise Potential Podcast again.

Jora: No it is great thanks Kevin.

Kevin: Considering the wealth of change that you are going through it is probably easier if you lead in with us and I don’t know give us an idea about what are the most pressing issues that you are facing every day and maybe that will help actually steer the podcast today.

Jora: It is interesting every day is a different challenge. And I know that is a bit of a cliché but it is walking in here and just wondering what is going to happen in your day. We are going through a tremendous amount of change as an organisation and that change is bringing on new challenges that our organisation hasn’t faced before. Challenges that you know there isn’t a blueprint written down and there isn’t a book or a manual to solve it is how you tackle those challenges and I think the learning for me is how I go about it because some of these challenges are very new for me as well. How I go about meeting those challenges and what tactics and what methodologies I put in place to actually overcome some of the challenges we currently have. And I think it is also a realisation that you can’t solve it all in one go and its picking you know the right challenges at the right time to solve and looking at it from a short term, medium term and a long term perspective and just picking your, if we take challenges as battles, just picking your right battles and solving those and then moving to the next battle. Otherwise you will end up really just not sorting anything out you will end up with too much on your plate and we live in an information overload and I must admit that I find myself overloaded with information even trying to make a decision is difficult because of all the options so you have to have a process to help you make those decisions.

Kevin: Well go on what is that process? How do you make the right decision?

Jora: I think you have to be consistent the way you make your decisions otherwise people are going to see you, well they are going to see you as unstable and they are going to see you one day he has made this decision and the second day he has made a totally different type of decision and I think as far as my team is concerned they are going to find it difficult to read me. The way that I go about making decisions is first at a logical level because you know you will put down the facts and you will say logically hopefully we can make a decision here. And I think when that becomes difficult to make a decision between the two offerings I think you would go to an emotional level and you have to go with your gut and you have to say look I have been fairly successful in my career by doing that now why would I stop now. The third area is actually to bounce ideas off and I love just bouncing ideas. So I know brainstorming recently has probably not got the name that it once used to have but I love drawing on whiteboards, you know bringing in people into my office and going I am thinking of this does this sound crazy? And bouncing sort of ideas off a different set of people. There are certain angles that I just won’t see and other people will see so I will bring them in and bounce ideas.

Kevin: Two points there I would like to explore a bit more. The first was what you said about the second level of decision making and how it is at an emotional level. I would like to ask you about that a bit. And then the next bit in terms of brainstorming and looking for the perspective that you have not necessarily seen and how you invite people in and by the nature of doing so you are admitting you don’t have all the answers. Talk to me about the emotional bit first of all.

Jora: So the emotional bit, if we take project managers and I have a number of project managers sort of working for me. You know if I had written analogically what a project manager should be I would have exactly the same project managers and they would all be successful and I am a CTO and I would have a blueprint for what a CTO is supposed to be and all CTO’s would read that blueprint and we would all be successful. The question is when you take a set of managers and they have got nothing in common they are not the same sex, they are not the same race, they are not the same background but they are equally successful why is that? Why are they all successful and I think it goes beyond talent and I think the next stage beyond talent is experience and then I think the next phase beyond talent and experience is emotional intelligence and they have different types of emotions that they run on that they can react to a situation. I mean recently I have read a book its quite an old book but its ‘First Break All the Rules’ and this was Gallop had done a survey of thousands and thousands of managers and they are trying to figure out you know what makes a great manager and they put in all of the information and they came out with no conclusive proof. Because what they saw was it was inconsistent but those managers were still great managers. So you know, I sort of read this and I sort of read a lot of books, I think I said this in the last podcast and again you know the reason I read a lot of books and I read books that sort of logically don’t follow a pattern is to get new ideas, to help me make decisions because that will help me stay flexible and help my brain stay flexible. And I think part of decision making is well you have to look at the options but you will also change at a point in time and I think you have to keep reinventing yourself to help you make better decisions. Take great organisations like Apple used to be a technology now what are they? Are they a music company? Are they still a technology company? Are they a mobile company? And I think it is the same with the person, I think if you stay rigid and why I bring people in and why I like to test my own emotions and test my own logic is every time I bring them in I get a different view and see things from a different angle and that allows me to make a better decision. I’ll still make a decision because that is what I get paid to do but I will start looking at it from angles that I had never looked at it before. That is my process, it sounds a bit strange, but that is my process.

Kevin: No it sounds very refreshing, very transparent. What I was going to ask you is how does it help your relationship with your team?

Jora: It shows a weakness in me and I think that is a good thing. I think when I started off in Project Management I felt that I had to have all the answers, I felt you know you have made me a Project Manager that must have been for a reason and that means that I have to have the answers. As I sort of grown as a person and in responsibility I have realised actually that is the weakness to think that you have to have the answers that shows you are weak. To actually open yourself up that shows you are strong. As I talk to more and more senior people I find that they are very similar. They will all sort of be very open, very frank but also very gracious in terms of sort of going ‘well what do you think’ and we are always bouncing ideas against each other. It shows, actually it shows a level of respect, and I think we, was it Peter Drucker famous saying ‘it’s the age of the knowledge worker’. So if you have got all these knowledge workers sat there why wouldn’t you use them as knowledge workers. So I use their knowledge and gain their insight to help me make decisions.

Kevin: And when you do have to finally make that decision there are decisions that you can make for a quick win or decisions that you can make for the long term good. And often the long term good normally means short term headaches shall we say. How do you deal with that?

Jora: I think I mean having joined a new organisation it depends how you are perceived in that organisation. When you have joined a new organisation and people don’t know you, you have to make those short term decisions that are perceived as being good decisions even though you may know as long as they are not causing you a huge amount of damage in the long term you have to win people’s trust and people have to say this person makes good decisions. And most people look at your short term decision to evaluate you because they haven’t got a picture of what you are trying to do in the long term. So initially you have to make those short term decisions but then I think as you have built trust in the organisation and built trust with those around you then I think you start moving more into the long term. But then you have also built a criteria or a set of objectives of what you are trying to do in the long term. And I think without that set of objectives I don’t know how you can make long term decisions so I think this day and age people are very focussed on the short term because they have been in a world of instant gratification. We live in a world where people have to be connected on Facebook straight away they can’t wait. If Facebook is down for 10 seconds you know it will be in every sort of major newspaper in the world. So we live in a world that requires its people to make short term decisions, instant decisions there and then. Therefore you have to make those short term decisions initially just to build trust but secondly you have to spend a lot of time understanding your organisation and understanding your objectives of what you are trying to achieve. You have to write those objectives down and then you have to say these are my long term objectives. Then you can base your longer term decisions on a set of criteria. And people today have no time. So people don’t have time to sit down and write down what the long term objectives are because they are so busy making short term decisions and making instant reactions. So you have to buy yourself time. Any manager has to buy themselves time. So what I try to do is you know at least three or four hours a week and that is my thinking time of what we are going to try and do in the long term. Now I have written down my long term objectives of this organisation and I can communicate those in a sense that makes people understand what is he trying to do. And then I can say yeah but this decision is based on a long term objective. And once you have decided your long term objective you can’t sway you have to strict to it hence why you need to spend a lot of time really deciding what your objectives are, the implications of your long term objectives and the sacrifices you as an individual and you as an organisation and you as your team will have to make. And that is really difficult. It sounds easy. It is really difficult. And I think you have to really believe in those objectives so objective setting in most organisations is a once a year exercise. So January or February we go right we had better set our objectives you know we are going to go into 2012 lets have our objectives for 2012 and then you will come up with a set of objectives. And then you will go back to your day job. Now what I am saying is that you have got to go beyond that, those objectives have to be at the logical level of what you are trying to do for the organisation but at your emotional level as well. That you have to really believe in those objectives and you have to say I have to achieve this if I am going to be successful and my organisation is going to be successful and you can’t sway from that. Once you have got those objectives at the emotional level you will leave them. When they are at the logical level you will be swayed.

Kevin: How do you get them to the emotional level?

Jora: I think you have to own the objectives. So there is a case that, now I am going to contradict myself about brainstorming, I think there is a case of brainstorming where you write down your objectives and then you will take that away. And then you have to go well do I really believe in this objective. So it sounded like a good idea, you know one of my colleagues said it was a good idea or I said it was a good idea in the brainstorming but I don’t really believe it and then you are going to become you know your brain is going to be saying this is very logical but your heart is going to be saying but I don’t really believe in this objective. I would drop the objective. I know it is sort of a strange thing to say but unless it is at that emotional level and you really do believe in it then don’t take that objective forward.

Kevin: So is that literally the level it just has to be at?

Jora: I think it is something inside of you, it feels right. You know you feel this is the right objective. It is logically right and it feels right and it is exciting, I want to achieve this objective.

Kevin: Okay right exciting. So what you can passionate?

Jora: You have to be passionate about it. So you know people will go what are your objectives and you know somebody will go well my objectives number one is this and number two is this and number three is this. And there is other people going hey look I am going to turn the world around, my objectives are fantastic. And you feel the emotion that people have with their objectives and therefore you can see that they are passionate about their objectives. So when I set my long term objectives even though they don’t sound rational I will go round telling everybody my objectives. I will tell my wife, you know I have just joined this organisation and I am about to transform it. And she will go how are you going to do that. And I will go through these objectives and then I will meet people who I know, I will meet people in the organisation and I will say hey we are going to change this thing around look these are the objectives that we are going to have and you live it. And I think that sort of excitement starts drawing off to people and my team here who goes this guy really believes he is going to do it. He sounds, that affection, people start believing in you then.

I have four major objectives in this organisation. In my management meetings we just talk around the four objectives and I draw round those four objectives and doddle round those four objectives when I am on a plane. It is living those objectives. I am just excited about those objectives. It sounds odd but you know I am just so excited about this set of objectives. It is okay my four objectives we are going to be world class in my organisation in operational excellence, we are going to be the best. Some of the best organisations that I see as far as technology and operational excellence are the telecoms organisations we are going to be as good as any telecom organisation. The way we deliver our service, the way we measure our incidents, the way we look at our problem management we will be world class at it.

Our second objective is the way we deliver our projects. We will be world class delivers of projects. You know we will consistent, timely, we will have good quality and when you see our products and you want to use our products you are going to love our products because our products are going to be fantastic. So not only will we deliver on time and budget we also are going to give you quality that our end users are going to say I really enjoy using this product. We are going to be world class on strategic value. A lot of IT organisations talk about strategic alignment. Alignment is when you are aligning to somebody else’s objectives so you have got a set of objectives Kevin I’ll align to your objectives. How can I get emotional unless I really believe in your objectives. From a logical perspective I may believe in Kevin’s objectives but on an emotional state I don’t. So I changed it from alignment to value. Strategic value. We are going to bring in value. We are not your back office IT department who just does as we are told, most of the time we have to, we have to keep the lights on, we have to deliver projects. We are also going to bring in value to your organisation. We are going to be a partner. The lowest level is when you treat the business as a customer.

The next mentality is partner mentality. So you know we will look at your objectives and we will align to your objectives and we will be partners. The highest level to me is the advisor level from strategic value. So you go in there and you are going I really want to seek that organisation or that persons advice, they have fantastic advice. I am a big fan of Apple I love the genius part. Because their advisors they come in there so it is not walking into another organisation going can I help you sir. It is somebody actually advising you. So you go in they will fix your iPad or your iPhone and they will also give you some advice about how to use it quicker or have you tried this or have you tried that. And I would like on the strategic value to advise you. So that is my third objective.

And my fourth objective is people. Now people have talked about you know. Every organisation goes oh we must value our people. But I want to turn it into how do we actually measure that we are valuing our people. So out of those four objectives we are creating balanced score cards and we are going to start measuring are we the best in the world. Certainly we are not at the moment I’ll be honest with you. Then we are going to measure what is best in the world, what does good look like and we are beginning to measure what good looks like. And now we are measuring the gap and every six months we are going to set ourselves a set of goals that moves us up a few rings. We are going to achieve those goals, we are going to rip them up and then we are going to set a new set of goals and ultimately we need to get that set of objectives to be world class in operational efficiency, delivery efficiency, strategic value and people, building high performing teams. You know what do high performing teams look like. And we have been investigating those, we have been working with our HR partners on what those look like, and that is my objective and I get very excited about it. But I am also saying to my team on the floor you know you are part of this so you have to contribute to the objectives, you have to contribute to those four quadrants. We are being very transparent and we are advertising the fact on the floor. And that is going to be a tough, tough task for us. So yeah those are our four objectives.

Kevin: And that is all because you took it to a personal level rather than a logical level.

Jora: Yes. I mean let’s see how we make decisions. I mean people vote for presidents or prime ministers how many people read the manifesto of the Conservative Party and went yep I am going to be voting logically for the Conservative Party. Or how many people said actually David Cameron seems a nice guy he is the sort of guy I would like to have a beer with so I am going to vote for him. Most decisions are made at an emotional level. We read a lot about the logical decisions but they really are not made at the logical level. I was going you know why did people spend £500 on a phone most phones do the job, you know they cost £60 – £70. Apple came up with the iPhone. Why are people buying that phone? It’s an emotional level, they play with it, they like to show other people and it is a great phone. So most decisions are made at an emotional level. It can’t be purely emotional there has to be logic when making.

Kevin: Of course as you said in the beginning there is a level one which is logic before you move on to the personal side of it. But I think it is great to hear someone in your position responsible for the decisions that you have to make, responsible for the teams and the projects you have got to roll out, to have someone speaking in that manner.

Jora: Yes I mean once I was told I had to do a talk and there was two people doing the talk myself and another person and then I saw the other person who followed me and he was a fantastic talker, he was articulate, you know he made total sense and I was wowed, and I thought to myself wow I screwed up there you know that guy was just so much better than me. And then leaving the convention that I was talking at and walking away and a few people stopped me and they said that was a great talk and I thought well people always tell you that to make you feel better. And then we got more people and I said look guys the other guy you know he was, he had his data he had his figures he had so much better PowerPoint than I did, you know I just rambled on for about half an hour, he was so articulate you know I should have prepared more. And they said you know you spoke from the emotion, when you spoke we believed you and when the other guy spoke yeah he was logical, he was articulate but we didn’t really believe him. So a few of them said we would love to work in an organisation that you work in. I went wow I got these guys at an emotional level. So standing up in front of my team, my new team that connection will only be made at the emotional level. It won’t be made at the logical level. Maybe at the beginning it will people going well this guy really knows what he is talking about but over the coming months and the coming years that connection will happen at an emotional level. And I think that is the key to actually building an organisation that actually has substance and can last longer. The logical level just won’t last as long as the emotional level. So for me that is the ultimate goal, is when I have got them emotionally, I know I have got a great team. When I have got them logically I know they really don’t believe me.

Kevin: And I can see that in terms of when it really comes to selling ideas because your role here is very much a change agent and we know that is an extremely difficult job to do when you are in an established culture of any business. But I can understand that if you have got that wonderful personal conviction behind you it must make that process so much easier.

Jora: It does and I think that is where the long term goals. So once you have to them at an emotional level if you break your objective or you don’t stand by it then you have lost them forever. So if you tell people that as a leader, if you tell people that people are the most important thing to me and then you don’t pay any attention to your folks at all except at the end of year review cycle people aren’t going to believe you the next time you stand up there you know when you set your next set of objectives and you are going people are the most important to our organisation they will just have their heads down be nodding no, rolling their eyes and going well he just has to say that. You have to live those set of objectives and once you have set them if you break them and this is where the long term comes in, then it will be very difficult for you to resurrect them again.

Kevin: So going back to our original question decision making and you expressed that some of the decisions you do have to make are tough but decision making must become an awful lot easier when you have this underpinning of emotional long term objectives.

Jora: I think the decisions you have to make are still tough decisions but the rationale behind why you are making those decisions makes those decisions easier.

Kevin: And is the key to this living it?

Jora: The key is living it, breathing it and eating it, that is the key. And loving it. I love what I do. I am sort of you know my first few months I really struggled because I hadn’t set those objectives and hadn’t got emotionally attached. Now I just love it because I keep going even when the times are tough, I am going Kevin we are going to be world class give us a couple of years and we will go ahead. We are just in a trough right now we are going through a tough period right now but we know we are going to be world class and I am just so convinced that we are going to be doing it that it just pulls me out. So that living it is believing it and that is what drives us on.

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Kevin: Jora Gill thank you very much again for joining us on the Maximise Potential Podcast and providing us with such an open honest and insightful interview. What I loved about that interview was the genuine excitement and passion you heard in Jora’s voice as he spoke more and more about the objectives he has set for his organisation. We wish you and your team all the very best Jora and we look forward to another update from you some time in the future. Also I have included a link in the show notes to the book that Jora makes reference to which was called ‘First break all the rules.’

So now for some updates. Firstly thank you to everyone who has left us a review on iTunes it is great to receive ongoing feedback on the Podcast so thank you all for taking the time to do so.

Next up is Twitter. We have been getting more and more active on Twitter throughout this year to please come and connect with us and tell us how you are maximising your potential in 2012 we would love to hear from you and you will find us at Maximisemylife.

Next I would like to give a huge thank you to the team over at Jenrick Recruitment for setting up that interview with Jora and please remember that if you are considering a career move or you are trying to source new staff for your organisation then Google Jenrick, spelt J E N R I C K and explore their website and also the services they are able to provide.

That is us done for this episode so I will sign off with a track from our music sponsor Xerxes and it is called ‘Ride the Fog’. Thank you again for tuning in and we will be back soon for another interview on the Maximise Potential Podcast. Bye bye.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Jenna Affleck, co-producer of the Maximise Potential Podcast. I'm really excited about being part of Maximise Potential. It's great being able to help other people be successful in life and it's also helping me maximise my own potential. The inspiring people we interview gives me the motivation to aim higher whether it be in my personal life or career and hope it does the same for you too. So keep smiling and enjoy the podcast!