· 3 min read · Features

Lessons from the C-Suite: Ash Schofield, Giffgaff

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Giffgaff CEO Ash Schofield's one piece of advice for HR professionals is to do stuff you enjoy doing and do it all with a sense of purpose.

I started out...

I’d had a bunch of different jobs in my 20s, but things got really interesting in 1999 when I joined the fast-growing, mobile phone industry. Within weeks of joining, we were bought by BT Cellnet and a fascinating journey of growth began. Working my way up the career ladder at BT Cellnet which soon became O2.

 

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

No one told me this at school, but my advice is join a business that interests you in a sector that’s growing. When you’re cutting your teeth as a new manager in a new sector, you can make mistakes, learn lots and still win.

 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned along the way…

Do stuff you enjoy doing, be yourself and do it all with a sense of purpose. People hire you because you’re you and they want you to have an impact, so make sure you’re not the one holding yourself back.

 

My proudest achievement…

The more you progress in your career the less it is about what you’ve achieved and more about what you’ve inspired others to achieve. Giffgaff has just been voted Uswitch Network of the Year for 2021, which given the extraordinary year we’ve just had with the pandemic, to see our people rise to the challenge feels really special.

 

My biggest mistake…

A few years back I decided to learn how to present with an autocue for the first time in front of 3,000 people. Not for me, I completely lost my place and had what felt like the longest minute of my life as I somehow managed to switch gear and ad-lib for the next 15 minutes. Scary and exhilarating all at the same time. The lesson learnt is play to your strengths and just in case you need it always have a Plan B.

 

My biggest inspiration…

is when people step up and achieve more than they thought they ever could. The energy that creates is infectious and inspires others around them to aim higher. It’s important we take time to give back. I’ve been growing my role as a mentor over the last couple of years but the inspiration I get from my mentees is endless. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

Keeping me awake at night right now…

Deeper relevance. The world just got even more digital. Giffgaff has an industry-leading net promoter score but we take nothing for granted. We’ve created a new ‘Wheel of relevance’ model to challenge ourselves to deliver more of what our members need (we always think of members rather than customers, it makes it  more personal).

 

I need my HR director to…

Ensure that our people and our people strategy remain at the heart of our thinking. Keeping people at the heart of everything we do is what makes Giffgaff as a business so unique. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the commercials when it’s the people behind the numbers that really make all the difference. Creating a diverse and inclusive environment  where we can attract the best people and encourage them to be them, at their best, is a mindset and discipline that needs to remain a priority.

 

More HRDs would become CEO if…

HRDs really wanted to become CEOs (I don’t know how many do) and became more adept at translating the value of people into what drives performance. Being the CEO isn’t everyone’s career goal, so in the first instance I’d focus more on where and how you can create the most impact and influence.

 

What I’m reading right now…

Be Less Zombie by Elvin Turner. To be honest I’ve read it already but it’s one of those practical guides to disrupting your approach to business – so it’s worth going back to.

 

My top leadership tip…

is be authentic and practise your storytelling skills. People buy into people who can inspire them to make a difference, it’s so important that you can get your message across.

 

Ash Schofield is CEO at Giffgaff

 

The full piece of the above appears in the March/April 2021 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk.