The business world can be a daunting place, even for seasoned executives who have a wealth of experience because the professional sphere is constantly in flux, but there a few tried-and-tested approaches that will always prove useful for people entering the workforce and for senior professionals.
Shane Fitzsimons, the SVP who leads Global Operations, GE’s multi-functional shared services operations, has been with GE since 1994 and has held many financial leadership positions in several of GE’s businesses, and has a great deal of hands-on managerial knowledge.
On a recent visit to GE Nigeria, Fitzsimons spoke about some of the principles he learnt during his time at GE: “The most important leadership lesson is that you’re only as good as your team, so invest in people and hire those who think they can do your job because it’s okay if they can. Spend a lot of time on coaching and hiring. Also make the time to get out from behind your desk, talk with people and be present in the discussion, so that you know what’s happening at work.”
“Understand that every issue you encounter in life has two sides, so try to appreciate problems from the other person’s perspective, and try not to jump to conclusions too quickly. Take the time to understand why something happened, why somebody is reacting in a certain way and then tell yourself ‘my reaction doesn’t have to equal their reaction.’”
Fitzsimons, who is a qualified chartered accountant, said that crossing over from the financial leadership sector to shared services was not difficult. “I found the transition to be seamless because I had operational expertise from previous roles. It’s important that you see change as an opportunity to grow. The world is moving at a fast pace and you have to learn to keep up. Part of learning includes stepping out of your comfort zone and accepting that mistakes are a natural part of the process. I love a good challenge!”
Fitzsimons is excited about GE’s shared services because he believes it allows the company to get creative with how they use data and analytics to solve problems. “GE has gone through positive changes over the years. We’re taking a more horizontal approach to how we think and operate. He added that this advancement is giving GE space to innovate in ways that they weren’t able to previously because they now have access to enterprise-wide data, which provides tremendous insights that the team can use to solve problems.
Curiosity is everything
Fitzsimons believes that to succeed in business, you have to be really good at something and you have to be curious. “For example, I’ve always been a very good accountant and I’ve always been able to use that knowledge in whatever job I have because I’m able to apply my knowledge to both financial and practical issues.”
“I think it’s also good to be curious about your business, about digital, about everything because curiosity helps us learn. If you understand how things work, you can help your teams.” He concluded by saying: “I think everyone should be a data scientist. Not everybody is a software engineer, but every single person should be comfortable with data and curious with where it can lead you.”