Lessons from the C-Suite: Emma Vass

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I have been fortunate enough to enjoy every role I have had, and I’ve made the most of the diverse learning and development opportunities presented by each one.

I started out…

I started my career at Mars Confectionery. This put me in great stead from the beginning of my career. They were a great company and invested heavily in their people and development. I learned a lot, and it gave me the strong knowledge foundation that has benefitted me through each stage of my career.

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

Well, actually, there hasn’t been one clear defining moment for me. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy every role I have had, and I’ve made the most of the diverse learning and development opportunities presented by each one. You could say I am naturally curious and always eager to learn more.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way…

That instinct can be your biggest asset. Don’t ignore your gut feelings. Listen to them. Test your theories, then act on them.

My proudest achievement…

In my personal life is my two amazing children who I absolutely love spending time with. At work, it was when Wessanen UK was accredited as a B Corporation, a company that balances profit with purpose. This catapulted the business’ sustainability agenda.

My biggest mistake was…

Spending far too many years thinking that everyone else had better ideas or were more intelligent than me. Self-belief is paramount to career success.

My biggest inspiration…

A previous boss of mine. Not only was he recognised as being an outstanding leader, but he left the office every day by 4pm and juggled work-life balance exceedingly well. He was very comfortable in himself and encouraged a family-first policy which I think is really important. He understood that being happy at home was a huge driver in professional performance.

Keeping me awake at night right now…

Sustainability initiatives. Wessanen UK is a driving force for environmental change, so I am constantly thinking about how we can further convince people to make the right choices for people and the planet. There is true value in this, rather than just buying the cheapest products.

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

The impact that coronavirus will have on the way that people live. Technology will have a huge impact too as it enables different workflows and ways of living. Organisations will have to adapt in the coming years – embracing a new reality will be the key to business success.

I need my HR director…

To be my coach and my challenger. An HR director should keep the team close to the changes in culture and needs – ensuring that everyone is always listening and adapting.

It annoys me when HR…

Swallow business books and become consultants with ideological aspirations. Instead I prefer when they are really connected to the business and are able to adapt to the everchanging model. If they can do this while remaining focused on the employees, they are doing a very good job.

More HRDs would become CEO if…

There is no one answer to this and actually I think it will start happening more. Talent is being given more space to drive the agenda for change, and strong leadership is recognised as being a catalyst or co-ordinator of talent. In time, more HRDs will be given the space to build and lead leadership cultures.

What I’m reading right now…

With my children I unfortunately have no time to read anything other than the news and business updates… and Matilda of course.

My top leadership tip…

Would be that building inner confidence makes you a strong leader who can inspire through the good times and support through the tough times. The key to confidence is being well-informed and remaining clear and consistent. Do your research and always be prepared to deliver clear and concise guidance.

Emma Vass is CEO of Wessanen UK

The full article of the above is published in the September/October 2020 issue of HR magazine. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.

Further reading:

Lessons from the C-suite: Lisa Penney, CEO of Coal Authority

Leading by example

Lessons from the C-suite: Ann Watson, chief executive of Enginuity


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