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In this Best of Series episode, we hear from former MD & CEO of The Pact Group, Mal Bundey, on making a difference and bringing your ‘A Game’.
I interviewed Mal for this podcast back in June 2018.
Between 2015 and 2019, Mal was the MD & CEO of Pact Group Holdings Limited, one of the primary businesses within the Pratt family empire, and is currently still the largest manufacturer in Australasia of rigid packaging with 133 factories across 16 countries and with over 6,000 employees.
Prior to joining Pact, Mal held several senior executive leadership positions for the Graeme Hart-owned Rank Group, including being President & CEO of Graham Packaging and Closure Systems International (CSI), both with a combined market cap of US$4.8bn back then.
Mal was previously a Partner at Deloitte in Corporate Restructuring and Management Consulting, spanning over 16 years from 1987 to 2003.
He is currently on the Board of Brickworks, an ASX Top 200 company in the building industry, and up until recently, was the CEO of a private equity firm.
In this episode, you’re going to hear Mal talk about:
- Staying focused and learning to say “no” clearly and deliberately
- Finding the right people for your executive team
- The questions every leader should ask themselves every day
- Being relentless in striving for a result in business and in life.
Connecting with Mal Bundey
You can connect with Mal via LinkedIn.
Books and resources
- The 3G Way – by Francisco de Mello
“Don't let other people control your agenda or the dynamics of your diary. I don't have any qualms saying to people that I’m postponing meetings and focusing on five things that are going to move the dial.”
- The thing I learned from Deloitte as a firm, and I would say it's consistent across all those firms, was that not only do you have to be independent, you have to be seen to be independent, your personal reputation is everything and you can lose it in a heartbeat. I think this really sets a great foundation for how you do business and how important your word is, how important your ethics are, how you operate, how you treat your people and how you treat your customers.
- I worked for a number of partners and senior managers who were very adept at getting to the nub of the issue within a business quickly and then working out what the decisions were. Those decisions even when they were hard are still the right decisions and you have to take them. So I think you learn a bit of a hard edge in that environment.
- The other thing I learned with the time in the insolvency field is speed. You've got to make your decisions and you've got to be able to move fast and have the courage of your convictions. How do you do that without making a mistake? Well, you make mistakes. I had a couple of people tell me once, if you’re confronted with ten decision points and you make none, you got 10 wrong. If you make 10 and you get two wrong, you're batting at eighty percent. So you're much better off than making no decision. It also teaches you that you've got to get the facts and the data to make those decisions. It's not about being reckless for time’s sake, but it does put a focus on not wasting time.
- Having great people around you, working for you, as well as people above you and other people in the firm who you can talk to is really important.
- Just act like a partner. If you act like a partner, you'll finally become a partner. You've got to start thinking strategically. You'll start the thinking process. You've got to start thinking, how can I add value to the company, to the organisation and until you go through that process, it's very difficult.
On how to get unstuck and get ahead
- Take a risk. I moved into a couple of different divisions within Deloitte as opposed to staying in the one spot. If you get stuck in a rut somewhere, then you've also got to be prepared to actually get up and move.
- As Chair, (to really understand my business) I had a visitation plan around the sites and the factories to go and walk the floor, talk to the people, the plant managers, visit the customers. I think you triangulate all of that data, not because you don't trust your people, but I think you're a better leader if you understand what the real issues day-to-day in the trenches.
- When I meet with my team, and I have a weekly catch up with each of them, the thing we talk about is people, how is the team, what am I seeing, what are you seeing? Then customers, and we'll talk about quality delivery and service and then operations, which generally is around safety and then operational performance and cost. It's not necessarily about micromanaging because you're not necessarily telling someone what to do, but you’re discussing the issues, seeing where you can help and bring the resources of the group to bear if needed.
- If you're asking questions in those areas, that means that your team are looking at it and they're learning that those things are important in the part of the business. And if they're not looking at it, you can soon tell. You start to triangulate that if, if turnover goes up or if you're reading exit reviews and people are leaving because there's a lack of communication, then you start to zero in on those areas when they start to come up. So you have areas that you look at. And for me the people side of it is just so critical and then that tags into safety and then quality and delivery for your customers.
On how to stay focused
- You get a blank sheet of paper and write what are the five things that are going to move the dial for you? And they should be the only five things that you let get in your diary.
- You should be able to spend a third of your time on the business operationally and what’s happening in the business, a third of your time on customers and with customers and a third of your time thinking strategically about what's the next step, where do I need to be taking the business next?
On saying no
- I think it gets back to communication. If you understand what you're doing in your part of the business and you have a plan and you're executing then the point to make can be made quite clearly and deliberately.
- But also in the right way like, “Hey, if I do that, I don't want these other three things to suffer. So I need some help to work out resourcing and timing because I might have to make some decisions on what I'm going to do because otherwise I'm going to let you down.”
- Mentoring has got to be a natural process. They’ll be honest and will be blunt and I think that's what’s best for mentoring.
- I think we have this mental image or this image of mentoring is being soft and cuddly and it's going to make my career blossom. I mean it can be brutal and that's sometimes the best feedback because it snaps you out of maybe a way of thinking or really wakes you up quickly and makes you think about things differently.
- So I've had a lot of people that are really blunt, to the point they tell you when you're not doing a good job, tell you when you need to pick this up or do something differently. You walk away sometimes a little bit winded, but you say, “You know what, they’re probably right.”
On finding the right executives
- What am I looking for in a member of my executive team? They've got to have leadership skills, they're going to have energy, high energy, and they're going to know how to make a buck.
- I like to ask people:
- How they describe themselves, how they describe their leadership style?
- How would your boss describe you and your leadership and personal style?
- How would your peers describe you?
- How your people describe you?
Questions every leader should ask themselves every day
- How are you making a difference? Are you bringing your A-game because everyone sees leaders walk around and what I say to my team is, if you walk around with your shoulders slumped and look like you're down in the dumps, and it might be because of a totally obscure reason, people are going to worry about what's wrong with the business.
- You've always got a responsibility to be up and about and deal with your private stuff privately, deal with any doubts you have privately, but you've got to lead ALL the time.
Final message of wisdom and hope for future leaders
- Don't compromise on how you do business, but be relentless and ruthless within those realms of making sure you get a result. We're all here to get a result.
- You've still got to stick to your knitting and run your business and don't forget the basics, cash flow, profitability and getting stuff done.
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