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What being a Global Leader in Consulting Means to Me

—20 June 2018
—Sean Connolly, CEO of Egremont Group, talks about what being a global leader in consulting means

Standing up in front of my peers recently to receive an award as a Global Leader in Consulting I felt strangely uncomfortable, in fact even writing about it makes me uneasy. As CEO of Egremont Group I have been fortunate enough to work with many inspiring teams and organisations during the course of my career, and so to be singled out in such a way feels peculiar. This lead me to ponder exactly what being a Global Leader in Consulting means, and the teamwork that created the foundations behind the scenes.

Transferring Capability

Over the past 20 years our industry has changed, but at Egremont our philosophy has stood firm. As a company we set out to transfer our capabilities to our clients. Far from hiding our IP and methodology we share it with clients who engage with us and we are open and transparent about the methods we use to facilitate sustainable change in our client’s businesses. Early on we realised that it would be much more valuable for clients to see that we work with them to overcome a problem by giving them the tools they need. Once we know they can use those tools and the problem has been solved, we move on.

Sometimes that means leaving the business and only coming back when there is another problem to solve, sometimes we stay to work on a new challenge. We don’t stay in a business, making work for ourselves. This means we get invited back, over 80% of our clients are people we have helped before. In fact, one of our largest and longest standing clients, Walgreens Boots Alliance started from a piece of work we carried out in Boots in the UK nearly 20 years ago.

Holding Up The Mirror

Bad news very rarely travels north and yet, that is exactly what we need to make happen. Put simply, we need to tell the leaders how it really is, but we can only do that if we have the trust of our clients. Only then can we really hold up the mirror to an organisation and show them what’s really going on. In today’s world of geographically diverse, multi-service line businesses it is virtually impossible for the leader of that business to have a perfect overview of exactly what is happening at all times. It needs a dynamic structure within the organisation for bad news to travel north quickly enough to make a difference. It is very easy for the voice of the employee to get lost in that situation and I see it as an essential part of my role, and that of my team, to make sure that voice is heard.

Standing in their shoes

Working at the coalface is a much overused expression. In the past, however, we have done exactly that. While working with British Coal, I have literally stood at the coal face with the miners to understand their world and how they view their role. That way I was able to take their insight up to the mine entrance and from there to the Boardroom. This experience stood me in good stead. Only by standing in the shoes of the employees within an organisation can you ever hope to understand them. It takes courage for a Board to send consultants deep within their businesses and it is up to us to make the most of this access to represent each individual employee.

Integrity, honesty and clarity – being a responsible leader

As well as having empathy for our clients, I believe that being a good leader is about demonstrating integrity, honesty and clarity within Egremont Group. It would be hypocritical if we spent our time creating best practice within our clients’ organisations but failed to deliver the same environment and values within Egremont HQ. Just as I need to instill the qualities of sensitivity and care in my consultants and clients, so I need to demonstrate them as a leader.

Delivering exceptional work comes down to having a deep rooted and genuine curiosity about where an organisation is going. The desire to help those organisations adapt and transform appropriately in these changing times will always be what drives me forward. It is about striving to release the latent talent within a company, whether that is internally or in our clients’ businesses; reaching out to all levels of employee to hear their stories about how an organisation functions and pulling together as a team to create a better way of working.

This combination of curiosity, care and courage is what unites, motivates and drives our own company.

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