In this interview, McKinsey’s Biljana Cvetanovski talks to Capita Chief Growth Officer Ismail Amla about the growth-leadership mind-set. Capita is an international outsourcing company headquartered in London, with revenues of £3.9 billion. The following is an edited version of the interview.
How do you think about a growth leadership mind-set?
When I was growing up, my dad used to tell me, “If you think you’re going to do it, you’re going to be right. If you think you’re not going to do it, you’re going to be right.” A growth-leadership mind-set, for me, is the neuroscience confirming the hypothesis that how you think determines how you feel and how you behave, and how you behave determines the outcome. So in the growth-leadership mind-set we have the ability to try, fail, and learn from that. We have the ability to move at a pace that we’ve not moved at before. We have the ability to overcome obstacles. It gets you to a place where you’re thinking about how you make things happen, rather than how they can't be changed.
From the growth perspective, the growth-leadership mind-set is really critical. As I describe it to my team, it’s one of the three mandatory non-negotiables. If you’re not in a growth-leadership mind-set, you really can’t be playing a leadership role in growth. We can evidence it by how people behave, how they act, how they collaborate, what they take to clients, how they deal with failure. All of those things actually lead to how we show up in front of clients.
What are the core capabilities required to drive growth?
Core capabilities for growth
I think the first one is around curiosity. This has been termed in the market as “consultative selling,” which is how you get to a place where you can really understand what the client wants. The second that I think is really important is learning agility. What we’re finding is it's not as important to know something as it is to be able to learn something. What our clients are going through, especially in years of disruption, is usually that they are not experts and we are collaborating with them as we’re learning what their problems are and how we may be able to solve them. Then the third thing is the ability to have the growth mind-set.
What is the role of a growth leader?
My remit is to support the businesses to be relevant to our clients tomorrow and in the future. What that means is really professionalizing the sales and marketing capability.
Secondly, it’s around playing the transformation role, because growing and aligning with our clients generally means that the full value chain in our business needs to change. So the way the developer works, the way the account manager works and relates to our clients, the way we do service delivery, all play a huge part in whether we can grow. So the second role is actually creating a transformation activity which allows us to be able to change to be able to support our growth.
Then the third thing is to be able to look over the horizon and see, for example, that the markets and our clients are being disrupted in a certain way, so we need to disrupt ourselves. As a chief growth officer, I would hold myself accountable whether we grew and when, whether it's this quarter, the next half year, or the year after.