What’s the Single Most Important Skill for Leaders at The Top according to Jeremy Darroch, CEO of SKY? - eqsummit.com

Sign Up to the EQ Summit Newsletter

Receive the latest updates from the EQ Summit 2017 including exclusive content from the speakers.

What’s the Single Most Important Skill for Leaders at The Top according to Jeremy Darroch, CEO of SKY?

2015 EQ Summit –Dr Martyn Newman Interviews Jeremy Darroch, Group CEO Sky

Dr. Martyn Newman: Jeremy it’s a pleasure to have you with us this morning, to talk to you about what has been a remarkable story and journey at Sky. I know many people in the room will remember Sky from when it was just a small satellite business. And since your tenure it has changed dramatically and become massively international, with a greater range of products. So I guess people are wondering what is Sky’s interest in Emotional Intelligence?

Jeremy Darroch: First of all, thank you for having us here today.

So when I think of the business, I spend a lot of time thinking about how the business can perform today but also how do we position it for the future. Often what the business does i.e. the products we sell, the content we create, comes very naturally and intuitively to the business. But of course there is this huge dimension which is – the capability of the people in business – and that has to be considered and nurtured.

And as I look to the future and think about Sky as a business, the journey we have been on and the breadth and scale of the business today a lot of the old skills that we used are becoming less and less relevant for the future. The idea if you like that I can sit in my corner office and call the shots is long gone.

“Emotional Intelligence… offers us the potential to really start to supercharge much of the capability that we have in the business today.”

So Emotional Intelligence I think, offers us the potential to really start to supercharge much of the capability that we have in the business today. The second thing that I observe in the world of work that we operate in – and particularly at the top of the organization – is that we are now in a world where the dividing lines that used to exist between home and work have moved away from being blurred to almost being completely integrated. And I think it’s a good thing.

Our people today want to see their home and work life integrated as they spend an awful lot of time at work and I think this offers two things — an imperative for people to understand their purpose in life and in business and the role that Sky as a business plays in their broader life. But also when you do that for yourself and for the people around you, you can tap into a greater degree of authenticity as a leader. More importantly it unlocks a huge amount of discretionary effort from the people around you. Because they see themselves and the role that Sky plays in their broader life as fundamentally connected. And that’s an enormously powerful thing I think.

Dr. Martyn Newman: That’s really interesting. I think we are all fascinated by the tagline “Believe in Better.” How has that evolved in your mind over time and what does it point to? Is this where you see the skills you just mentioned take root – this fundamental commitment to performance? What is believe in Better?

Jeremy Darroch: I think at its heart is a sense of optimism. We come into work every day with a genuine belief that we can improve things. We can improve things for our customers, that we can improve things for our colleagues and actually make life better through what we do. We actually believe that that’s a core part of what we stand for as a business.

“We try to define everything in the past as a floor not a ceiling”

It also means that we try to define everything in the past as a floor not a ceiling. And therefore we think of everything that we have achieved as a starting point to improve upon. Finally, it allows anyone in the organization to point at anything and say “that’s not really good enough and we can improve it.” And when you communicate and deal with that in the right way it can be an enormously liberating thing for everyone in the organization.
At the top it can be a rod for your back as people will hopefully call things out and seek to improve them wherever they are.

Our whole journey has been about constant improvement and we find that it’s a very inclusive way to connect people in the organization.

Dr. Martyn Newman: In tangible terms what practical things are you doing to ensure that your leadership have got the skills that you refer to? How is that implemented tangibly in the business?

Jeremy Darroch: Well it’s increasingly becoming a part of our core programmes. We are narrowing down a lot of our development work and getting rid of a lot of the old functional training that used to exist and which was often highly repetitive and most of that is now delivered on the job. Today we increasingly think of our whole development programmes as Better Self – how we work with leaders right through the business to improve their own performance, to become increasingly self-aware, to better relate to the people around them, to get a sense of self-liking and competence that is essential to the business.

Then we consider this in the context of how we can create better teams. Debunking some of the myths about high performing teams, looking at where harmony comes from, how teams interact and deal with conflict and problems in a productive way that allows them to move on rather than being corrosive.

And then considering how we can take this sense of Better Self and Better Teams and convert it into a Better Business. Better business is not just about financial success, it’s much more about thinking about the broader stakeholders—contributing to employees, customers, and society.

And when we start to get that right we find two things

  1. A lot of customers look at us in a slightly different light. Often people who have rejected us in the past find a reason to re-engage with Sky and think again about getting Sky as a service so there is a commercial benefit to that.
  2. It’s really motivating to employees. They feel proud about the contribution they are making and that the organization is making in its entirety.

Dr. Martyn Newman: We often hear about ‘leading by example’. Who are you targeting these skills at to get the kind of traction that you are trying to achieve?

Jeremy Darroch: Well, we are starting at the top with the senior leaders simply because it’s the most effective way to get it to cascade down through the organization. Their ability to live the culture of an organization is so pivotal. And unless change takes root there, I struggle to see how it could have any degree of resonance down through the organization so in effect, frankly it starts, with me.

Dr. Martyn Newman: You have been quite courageous participating in the programme yourself and instead of just asking others to go though the journey, you are actually on the journey with them. What have you taken away personally that you are really working on yourself as a leader?

Jeremy Darroch: I think more than anything else when you are at the top of an organization you realise just how visible you are to people. Therefore, how I act, my mind state, the sense of optimism I have or how I deal with moments of stress and challenge and how I connect with people are all fundamentally important.

At the top of an organization everything is busy and often times the biggest problems will land on your desk. And the role that you can play is to help the organization to solve those things. So your mind state when dealing with issues coming at you rapidly is really really important.
Empathy, I am learning is probably the single most important skill when you get right to the top of an organization. And how it enables you to frame opportunities and challenges in a productive way that enables the rest of the organization to move forward.

“Empathy, I am learning is probably the single most important skill when you get right to the top of an organization.”

If you deliver a sense of frustration with a problem, it will spread. If you get on the other side of that and project that these things as solvable, suddenly you’ll find that you can turn problems into opportunities. Personally for me, coming from a place of ‘we can do this collectively’ provides me with greater energy and my capacity as an individual to do more increases significantly.

Jeremy Darroch

Dr. Martyn Newman: You speak with a great deal of passion and I assume it comes from a sense of purpose you have. How do you connect your personal purpose with the company’s purpose and mission? Is there a connect there for you?

Jeremy Darroch: Yes, it’s fundamentally connected. I have a strong set of beliefs about the kind of organization we should be, we should become and what we should achieve. They are deeply rooted in what is important to me. I see a huge personal opportunity for me in terms of my tenure. Running a business like Sky is an enormous privilege for me and I’m determined to use my time here and contribution to build Sky to become a better business.

Dr. Martyn Newman: It strikes me that you are one of a new breed of leaders that feel a deep sense of a larger societal purpose and an obligation to create value more broadly. Do you see Sky as having a larger societal contribution as a business?

Jeremy Darroch: Very much so. I believe business can be a hugely positive force for good in society. It can support communities to grow, develop and achieve things. Business generally over the last few year, starting at the time of the global recession, has had a rough time and today people don’t always intuitively believe in big business. And the only way to change that it to accept the role of making a broader contribution.

“I believe business can be a hugely positive force for good in society.”

I think Sky should be a business that contributes. We are big enough now to operate in the right way and to think about how we can create a very broad footprint of contribution in the areas that are important to us. We know that Sky as a brand resonates with young people. It’s not easy setting out in life as a young person and we can play a role in helping young people reach their potential. In doing this you are building a business to last as people will want it to continue to be successful.

Dr. Martyn Newman: It’s an inspiring story Jeremy. In a very practical way are you starting to see any results from the investment you are making in building emotional and social skills and the area of mindfulness? What’s the feedback? Are starting to see any indicators or encouragement that you are taking the business in the right direction?

Jeremy Darroch: Very much so. Occasionally you do things and you just feel like you hit a vein. And that’s how we feel about this programme. I’ve never seen anything where the people who have started to go on some of the development programmes and experience what we are doing are universally saying “this is the best development I have experienced to-date”. A lot of the models that you showed in your keynote are really helping me and the broader organization to understand the things that we are good at and the things we need to improve but in a very positive way. They are the building blocks for change. I am enormously optimistic about it. I think we have really hit on something and will continue to move forward with it as a business.

“this is the best development I have experienced to-date… I think we have really hit on something and will continue to move forward with it as a business.”


Dr. Martyn Newman: What does the future look like?

Jeremy Darroch: The future is uncertain—but that’s a good thing. I think it’s vibrant, I think it’s full of opportunity and there is less friction. When we think of customers, employees, those barriers that used to exist can now be broken down mostly through technology and different ways of working. When we position the company for the future it’s much less about having the biggest brains to design what we think will be needed but instead about seeing the big shifting trends that are happening and how we can position our business in its entirety for that journey. So we may not get everything right, but we will be able push into the emerging trends as they emerge and we’ll stay nimble and flexible as a business.

Dr. Martyn Newman: Finally, what does the legacy look like for you? What do you want to be known for or remembered for during your tenure at Sky?

Jeremy Darroch: Personally, as someone who came and built a bigger, broader and more durable business. A business that could see the bigger picture and could recognize its responsibility to contribute. A company that was known for the quality of its leadership and management at all levels. And ultimately for me, I want to leave a culture that will change everything that I did and redo everything again. Therefore we have an ethos of constant renewal and constant improvement. Because I think businesses that have that as their core are ultimately businesses that stand the test of time.

Jeremy Darroch is a Headline speaker at the 2017 EQ Summit, London May 25th – register now