Leading in Asset Management with Dr. Monique Beedles
We recently sat down with thought leader Dr. Monique Beedles to share insights from her latest book, ‘Leadership Assets’ on what leadership capabilities asset managers need today.
From your perspective, what are some of the big leadership challenges asset managers face right now?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen a shift in the conversation away from the technical challenges of managing assets, to how to best engage shareholders and decision-makers. Good communication with stakeholders is vital. It doesn’t matter how many excellent technical documents you have – without proper stakeholder engagement, it’s very difficult to achieve your asset management goals.
How should asset managers engage with stakeholders?
Asset management can be quite complex. The challenge is to simplify concepts, and where data is required, to present relevant data that make sense to everyone. This includes customers and community members who may have little technical understanding – for example, people want to be able to turn their taps on and get clean water, without needing to know all the technical details of how the water got to their tap.
Sometimes, we might think we need more technical information to persuade people. However, it really comes back to the need – why is investing in a particular asset by a certain timeframe important? Asset managers must focus on the stakeholder’s priorities and that of their customers by providing evidence-based recommendations that address their real-world situations.
Where possible, take the time to have a conversation and engage with people in an active way, rather than just send an email or provide a document. It’s easy to be very focused on getting the technical task done and to forget about selling stakeholders on why it should be done. It’s important to make that human connection and to engage people on the journey.
What leadership skills do you think asset managers need to be successful?
Despite asset management being a multidisciplinary profession with many career paths, I believe there are three common sets of leadership traits or ‘smarts’ that are essential for asset management professionals:
- ‘Tech Smarts’: This is using your technical training – be it in engineering, accounting, finance, IT, human resources or a trade – to understand the nature of the problem; to gather relevant and timely evidence such as performance data, condition monitoring reports and financial statements; and to apply a range of tools, which might include things like real-time data analysis or machine learning, to create solutions to the problems you’ve identified.
- ‘Business Smarts’: This is about seeing the solution from the decision maker’s perspective, rather than from the technical perspective alone. If you’re a local government, how will your recommendation impact services or council rates? If you’re a corporate, how will it affect customers, profitability and the share price? We need to put the technical challenge into a business context and demonstrate how it affects the desired strategic outcomes. This may require you to drill deeper into your data and connect the evidence you’ve gathered with the business value for internal and external stakeholders.
- ‘Street Smarts’: This is how you engage with people in a wider audience, navigate the complexity of human networks and the prevailing political landscape, and understand what’s truly valuable to your stakeholders. Beyond the technical solution and business case, there is a human case, which is about creating real meaning and not just financial value. These types of capabilities aren’t necessarily part of our initial technical training and need to be developed throughout our careers.
How can organisations develop these ‘smarts’ in their asset managers?
There’s no need to wait until someone is in a leadership role to work on developing these. Besides undertaking formal training, on-the-job learning – augmented with mentoring and coaching, can help asset managers focus on their personal strengths and weaknesses and have learning experiences tailored in a way that’s specific to them.
What message do you want to leave with asset managers looking to grow their leadership skills?
Be curious. Ask, ‘What if?’ and ‘What else do I need to know?’ It may be that the real problem that needs solving hasn’t yet been properly identified. In today’s world, data and information are widely available and rapidly accessible. It’s up to you to harness what’s relevant and to clearly tell your story to those that matter.
Dr. Monique Beedles is an internationally recognised thought leader, bestselling author, and leadership coach who has built a successful career in asset management.