Lessons from the C-suite: Colette McKune

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You learn a lot from failure, which ultimately helps you to succeed

I started out...

I went to Manchester university to study law as I dreamed of becoming a barrister. Due to personal circumstances I changed university to be nearer home, and so I went on to read business studies in Liverpool.

I gained my degree and after a couple of years working in Australia, I embarked on a diverse career path. I worked for the police, then a housing charity, then an award-winning procurement specialist, and finally ended up in housing.

I love it. I face different challenges every day and I draw on all of my experiences to successfully meet these challenges.

I knew this was the right career path for me when...

I relished and met every challenge that came along. I truly love making a positive difference to people’s lives.

The biggest lesson I've learned along the way...

Take the positive from every situation. You learn a lot from failure, which ultimately helps you succeed. If you have a bad leader learn from them so you can become a good leader.

My proudest achievement...

Developing an open, passionate, trusting and respectful culture at ForViva has to be up there as one of my proudest achievements.

My biggest mistake...

Not making tough decisions about staff sooner.

My biggest inspiration...

If I exclude my wife, who is my greatest inspiration, then it has to be people who have overcome great personal challenges and succeeded despite or indeed because of them.

Two names spring to mind: Katie Piper, a philanthropist who I had the pleasure of meeting last year; and Rod Aldridge, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who I have the honour of calling a friend.

Keeping me awake at night right now...

Many things, but top of the list is my concern that society is becoming less tolerant and less inclusive. I worry about how I should lead the organisation to ensure that we remain inclusive and balanced.

The biggest challenge for organisations over the next five years will be...

Keeping abreast of changes in the way we work. We will be more agile, more digital and more remote. We must ensure we are able to build and sustain teams while supporting individuals to look after their own health and wellbeing.

I need my HR director to...

Understand the whole business, understand our strategic priorities, and be key in developing and maintaining a positive culture that helps us achieve these priorities.

It annoys me when HR...

Is more about the process than the people.

More HRDs would become CEO if...

They avoided saying ‘I’m an HR professional’ and instead gained wider experience within their organisations. They must become part of setting the strategic direction. They have the right skills – they just need the exposure.

What I'm reading right now...

Diversity by June Sarpong. It’s about how and why we should challenge inequality. I think it’s a must-read for everyone.

My top leadership tip...

Be great at telling the story of why you are taking the actions or directions you are rather than just concentrating on the what and the how.

Colette McKune is group chief executive of ForViva

This piece appears in the November 2019 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk

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