An interview with Adam Guinea – Head of Control at Laureate Education Services

An interview with Adam Guinea – Head of Control at Laureate Education Services

September 9, 2016 by Stella Petrou Concha

When it comes to leading high-performance teams, leadership is essential. But what is it that makes someone a good leader vs, a bad one?

In today’s installment of the Reo Interview series, we sat down with Adam Guinea, Head of Control at Laureate Education Services to talk about leadership and team building tips.

Leadership should always be about empowering your staff to make a difference.

What does leadership mean to you?

It’s synonymous with empowerment. I am not a micromanager and I see myself as the guy who helps people achieve what they want to achieve. Much like the people that have mentored and developed me. I really see myself as someone that can develop people to be ready to step up into my role. Leadership to me is bringing people up.

What have been the behaviours of the best leaders you have worked with?

Communication, when they open their mouth people listen. The difference between good CEO versus a CEO that does haven’t the same level of engagement is knowing people’s names. Such a small thing but invariably the CEOs that do that are the ones that get engagement.

It plays out in a number of ways, for instance, when they are talking to Jan in the kitchen around what she did on the weekend or a M&A banker about his last transaction. Adaptable communications is about taking something complex and making it something simple.

Patience is also a huge part of what makes a good leader. Some leaders want everything done now, even though it can compromise quality. Good leaders are patient and thoughtful.

A leader drawing a arrows

Leaders empower their teams

What are the 3 attributes that you believe characterises talent?

Motivation – is a big one. You need people that are enthusiastic and want to learn and grow as professionals. Attitude is essential to this. People who bring positivity into the workplace are a gold mine.

There are two ways to look at it. On the one hand, there are the types of people who when faced with a challenge they see it as an opportunity; “Man I’m going to learn a lot and come out with new skills and chance to take these skills into a new project”. They go into a particular projects feeling positive about it. On the other hand, there are people who look at the thing in the opposite way.

The right mentality is second as the accounting space has changed. Through the financial crisis and massive corporate failure, the profession has migrated to a place where accountants are closer to internal auditors as opposed to being someone that can add value and provide insights. A lot of people that come out of the Big 4 now have that mind sight. Very black and white about finance and accounting and have the mentality that their job is to catch out the business and put a stop to things.

The third element would be IQ, particularly in finance you have to be smart. You need people that have good academic background, an aptitude for numbers. Generally, if you have the other 2 qualities and don’t have the intellectual capability to solve problems and deal with complex situations, you will be limited in terms of your upside potential. Intelligent people tend to succeed more

When you meet with people in an interview, what do you value?

I value a balanced level of experience. People that have demonstrated an ability to adapt. Maybe they’ve crossed industries or worked in various countries. Someone that has taken what they know and used it in different situations. As opposed to someone that has only worked in banking.

I’d like to see someone that has traveled and worked in different environments not just professional but also socially. Something they have done personally to balance out their professional experience.

The best employees relish a challenge.

What tips can you give other people in the finance industry on how to build a successful team?

The sorts of qualities you should look for. Talent and culture are what to look for in people during an interview.

Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions. It’s never nice to move people on but sometimes that has to happen. Sometimes you need to inject new talent into the team. Focus on raining people up. When you think about the challenge, ask the question what’s limiting them, are they adequately resourced, do I have the right people and are they doing the right work? You need to go through that first. The things you can do to make the team a high-performing team. When you get to the end of the process that’s when you need to make the tough decision.

How do you think the career of a finance professional will change over the coming years?

We are becoming far more strategically focused. The term business partnering is becoming more and more relevant. The role of finance is fairly compliance based at the moment. I don’t think that will necessarily change. But a lot of the daily grind and transactional activity will be moved to lower cost environment and will free up finance professionals and at least those that are close to the business will be more focused on true adding insights and turning raw insights into decision-making tools.

The industry needs to catch up on how people are trained and educated. When I went through high school, learning how to type was a big thing. These days you don’t need to learn that because most mechanical tasks are automated. We need to things through how much time do we want to invest in a three-year degree.

Let’s invest more in developing peoples EQ and business partnering capability and softer skills. Technical foundations will still need to be there but I think being able to take that and turn it into sights.

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