An interview with Patrick Fo – Head of Finance for Media and Marketing at Telstra

An interview with Patrick Fo – Head of Finance for Media and Marketing at Telstra

October 10, 2016 by Raghav Mehta

What are important leadership qualities? Patrick Fo discusses the importance of embracing diversity and having an awareness of the company as a whole.

Today we talked about ideal leadership qualities with Patrick Fo, Head of Finance of Media and Marketing at Telstra. He shares why an effective leader is a good listener, passionate, embraces diversity in the workplace and is concerned with company-wide issues rather than just their own domain.

What does leadership mean to you?

With an inclusive mind set, you end up with the best of everyone’s contributions.

For me, it’s firstly about being inclusive of a diversity of opinions, Leadership comes in many forms. The leadership style could centre around the conversation or communication style. But I also feel that leadership in a western type of organisation is sometimes lacking in action. I feel action is very important. That’s the tangible point of improvement that people can see. For me, leadership is not about words. It’s about action and understanding all perspectives. If you have an inclusive mind set you will take in many perspectives and the outcome will have a lot more buy in from the staff and customers. You end up with the best of everyone’s contributions.

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

I like the leaders that like to talk at different levels. They have rapport at all levels. Fine-tuned listening skills are of the utmost importance. For me, great leaders have great listening skills and they are adaptable and agile. I come from a technology business that has changed quiet rapidly. When you are resilient and agile and are willing to listen to different points, those are the qualities that stand out.

I had the privilege to work with acting CFO of an ASX listed organisation. He was very seasoned. He was at a stage where he had achieved a lot in his career. This was a time where he was willing to contribute to other people’s businesses. I came under his wing.

“Stick to the facts” is something very important that I learned from him. Everyone will have a different opinion but if you stick with the facts and are still able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you’ll get a much better alignment of goals.

Find your courage and show that you care. You need to be consistent and be clear on your thoughts and processes. Be firm but do the right thing. But in conjunction with that, it’s important to have the value of caring and taking other perspectives into account to get better alignment and move forward.

That’s what stands out for me. You need to be visible as a leader and communicate at all times. And there are other times where you need to be inclusive.

What are the three attributes you believe characterises talent?

I go by a mantra that works for me.

Ownership: This is a key trait for all my team members. If everyone is clear on responsibilities and goals, then the outcomes will be good.

A true leader is not rigid and just fixed on their own domain.

Anticipation and broad awareness: For example, the CFO needs to be aware of financial issues but also aware of other aspects of the organisation. For me, it’s about understanding other issues. A true leader is not rigid and just fixed on their own domain of finance. They almost start thinking as a CEO.

Agility: It’s really about being adaptive. There are times when you just need to plough ahead towards goals. There are other times when things change quite quickly. I have seen many organisations that have spoken about agility but have not acted. Agility is something you need to live and breathe.

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

I really value passion. The way I frame that is that not everyone will be capable of doing a role at a certain point because of lack of experience. But I really think that if you have the passion to be self-driven, most aspects of roles and tasks can be learned. So I look for someone with a track record of being self-driven towards an outcome. Someone who has demonstrated resilience. Also the skill of being able to build relationships.

In your opinion what value does a culturally diverse team bring or create? 

Cohesiveness is achieved if you are willing to work with people of different backgrounds and genders. I have always built diverse teams. This brings the most of every aspect of the world in the form of knowledge, experience and insights. We can choose the people we work with, but we often have a much more diverse customer base and we can’t choose them. So, having a diverse team can really translate into better customer relations.

Diversity in the workplace
Diversity in the workplace brings more knowledge, experience and insights. 

Outside of your job description where else do you chose to contribute your time and energy? 

I’ve been championing cultural diversity at Telstra. Telstra has made a huge change in cultural diversity. Coming from a different cultural background myself but being born and brought up in Australia, I do think that you need a different perspective and to foster the growth of leaders from different backgrounds.

This will not happen overnight but Telstra is striving towards that. I look forward to that day where a leadership team has a diverse background of leaders of different genders and cultural backgrounds. I have arranged a Chinese New Year as one of our cultural awareness events. I am a very big voice on the diversity counsel. I am really passionate about this.

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

For me, it’s definitely about rapidly moving away from processes and reporting and even analysis and moving more towards the dissemination of information in the form of stories and actions and being the compass of the organisation. We live in the day and age when data is readily available. In the finance community, I do believe that this is an area where finance staff are looking to lead and provide options to the business in terms of navigation. It’s more about storytelling and dissemination of information, whereas the past was only about statutory reporting and compliance.

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