Can you tell us about your personal journey?
I spent 26 years in investment banking, most of which as a partner [at Goldman Sachs], and Smiths was a long-time client. Our chief executive, Paul Keel, asked, would I want to be considered for the CFO role here at Smiths. It's really an example of out-of-the-box thinking because no head-hunter would have ever put me on the shortlist, even despite my qualifications and experience. But it's also an important example of Paul not presuming what my response would be. He didn't think, ‘Why would Clare want to move from investment banking to industry?’ He thought the opposite. He thought, ‘Why wouldn't Clare find this a really interesting opportunity and why don't I ask her?’ So, I'm grateful for the out-of-box thinking and I'm really enjoying the new role and responsibility.
What do you hope to achieve by being a member of 25x25?
My main goal by being part of 25x25 is [to] elevate this discussion around not playing musical chairs and making sure that collectively, we are increasing the number of women who are in the chairs that are being considered for the CEO chair.
What do the Pathways to CEO look like at Smiths?
I think the pathway to CEO at Smiths is either divisional president or CFO. So, it's clearly a role on executive committee that has responsibility for results and people, because, at the end of the day, we need to deliver for our shareholders, our communities. We do that by delivering on our commitments for our customers, delivering financial results and inspiring and empowering people.
Do acceleration strategies work?
So, one of the best acceleration strategies is feedback and radical candour. So, one can only advance oneself so far if one isn't looking for external feedback. And I think it's really important for mentors and managers and leaders to give their people candid feedback. Encouragement goes a long way, and critical feedback is equally important. That's how you help each person reach her potential.
Another thing that we focus on is de-risking. So, when you put someone in a new role, I think it's very important if you have leaned into potential more than exact experience; that you work to de-risk that to ensure success and link that to future success. So, I'll give you an example from my personal experience. So, when I moved in 2011 to lead the industrials investment banking team in Europe, the head of investment banking called the four most senior partners in Europe and said, ‘I'm going to hold you accountable for Clare's success.’ This was very powerful because when you tell someone you're going to judge them and hold them accountable for someone else's success, they take it very seriously and they start sweating the details. So, I understood that ultimately, I am responsible for my own success - the buck stops with me. But I also know that in any organisation, when the person and people who can influence encouragement and feedback are pulling with the same oar, that's when you are most likely to have someone reach her full potential.
What do the Pathways to CEO look like at each organisation?
When you look at what are the paths to CEO in either investment banking or in industry, we're looking for people who have experience with customers, P&L responsibility, risk management, and inspiring and empowering people. There’s also not only the experience but the exposure.
So, something that I think in both industries the really thoughtful leaders are thinking about is, how do you create not only the skills but the exposure? Because when decisions are made to put someone in a new role with new responsibility, there is a bias toward a person who is known, because it can feel like a less risky choice. So, it's important in developing diverse talent that we focus not only on skills, but at the same time give them exposure to people who have influence over those decisions that are going to be made, and that when we take decisions, we're not always taking the most obvious candidate.
Lots of academic studies and real-life practice shows the most obvious candidate is not always the best candidate for the role. One of the things that at Smiths we ask ourselves to think about is not just one's experience, but also their potential, and to really take both into account when we take decisions about moving people into new roles and responsibilities.
How do you measure progress?
We measure progress in a couple of different ways. So, we do CEO roundtable discussions for each of the divisions and functions, where he [Paul Keel] really wants to understand how thoughtful we have each been about our team and our team's progression. So, firstly, that illustrates tone and action from the top, that he is personally setting aside time and energy and really asking the tough questions and pushing people.
The second thing that we do is we put more minds on the difficult questions. So, we do this through our talent development committee. So, when a new position is up to be filled, a manager or leader could take a decision in isolation about who is the right person for that spot. In doing so, we all have biases. We all have limited exposure. We only know the world that we know through the lens that we see the world. We may take a different decision about how to fill that role than if we had included the entire Exco and had a discussion, and we thought about moving people from one division to another, moving people from one geography to another geography. You get a better-informed, rangier answer by involving others in the discussion. And so, we do that as a matter of course anytime there's a new role that's up to be filled.