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Phil Ingle: What gets measured, gets managed

Phil Ingle, Managing Director of Phil Ingle Associates, is our first speaker at this year’s Today’s PA Conference. An expert in strategy and planning, Phil works with managers and business leaders all over the world, delivering training programmes on organisational sustainability and resilience. ‘Thinking Strategically for the 2020s’ will show us how to see the bigger picture (and share with us some tools so we can see this with more clarity) and how our day-to-day role is not a small cog in a big wheel but a key moving part within the organisation.

Ahead of the conference, we spoke to Phil about common businesses challenges, understanding company values, and how PAs can help their bosses stay focussed on their wider strategic role.

How important is it for PAs and EAs to understand the strategy and the vision of their organisation – and is it more difficult for those working in larger companies/public sector to see how their role fits into the bigger picture?

It’s back to the language of the industry. It is not just a case of understanding the words, it’s understanding what it means in practice.

Managers at all levels should be thinking and working on the vision and strategy. But, of course, it’s not always as easy as that. Managers get side tracked. Many people spend their time doing stuff they are comfortable with, doing work that’s familiar, and overlooking the opportunity to delegate!  However, PAs and EAs are in a great position to identify when this is happening. They can say ‘do you need any help with that? Can I do that? Can I find someone with the expertise to help with this or is that something someone else should be doing? Meaning you are free to focus on … ‘

To answer the second part of your question: is it easier for those working in a smaller organisation to see how they fit into the bigger picture? To be honest, the answer is no. You can do the same thing almost irrespective type of organisation or industry. It’s seeing beyond the day-to-day workload and understanding where you and your manager fit in to the complete picture. 

You deliver training to managers and directors and help them communicate the organisation’s values and vision. How can PAs further communicate those values to colleagues and clients?

There is a simple thing, here. But although it’s simple, it might not necessarily be easy.

You can communicate the vision and values of your organisation in everything you say and in everything you do.

I have come across examples of organisations saying that they are customer focussed. They proudly boast that they are so customer focussed that they have a rule that they must answer the phone in three rings. Is that really possible? Why do you need a rule in order to do that? How can making people obey a rule like that make them more customer focussed? That is a behavioural thing – it is not in the meeting of arbitrary targets. If you need that kind of rule, that says something about the company!

There is a saying – and I will be talking about this further at the conference – and it‘s a cliché but it’s true: “What gets measured, gets managed”. Another one is “Measure what you treasure”.

When thinking about vision and values, one question that applies to every organisation is “What does success look like – and how is it measured?” Profit is not the only way of measuring success. It may not even be the main thing. Many people in the organisation, including PAs and EAs, need to understand the context of these measurements to see how these work effectively.

This is where PAs are a fantastic asset. They are in a great position to see what is actually happening in a company versus what the management team think is happening! Sometimes the two are worlds apart.

Do you have a PA? How do you work together effectively, especially when you are out of the office/away from home?

I don’t have a PA but I do work with a VA. I manage my workload and see where the peaks will occur, and ask her to help me with travel arrangements, preparation of training material, and updating presentations. I manage my own diary and organise routine meetings myself, using Calendly.

I think that over the period of the pandemic, and even before that, actually, technology has helped to make PAs much more effective in their roles. With the tech that is available, a lot of what we used to consider revolutionary is now relatively common place! The pandemic had an effect on people’s perceptions of how tech works and what can be done with it, and where the shortcomings are. However, as CIPD Branch Chair, I talk to HR managers and consultants, and the thinking is that although the greater use of technology has made it possible, the effectiveness of working from home is entirely dependent on your home environment. Some people are working from the kitchen table, which is not ideal, especially not in the long term. It really only works well where there is a dedicated space to work.

As I said, I use Calendly for my diary management but there are so many apps out there, if you don’t like one, there’ll be another that suits you better. But just because it is easier to make appointments using technology, doesn’t always mean that’s the best use of spending your time. Added to that, you still have to spend time mastering that technology. Not everything is going to work perfectly for everyone!

Phil Ingle Associates deliver workshop and seminars to businesses around the world. How did you start your business, and what are the particular challenges of working across a range of industries and cultures? 

Once upon a time, in a previous life, I was a Bank Manager. I worked with UK banks and within different departments. As part of that, I was given the opportunity to deliver training courses on subjects such as relationship management and the technical aspects of banking.

As time went on, I realised I enjoyed training more than I enjoyed banking! When I had the opportunity to go out on my own and deliver training sessions, I was training people who, in a previous career, I would have been dealing with as customers. Only now I was working with them in an entirely different context.

Following on from this, I began working with global organisations, and I found myself delivering training sessions to businesses in places such as the Middle East. And it went from there.

There are challenges of working around the world – not least the time differences – but these are more than outweighed by the rewards. It’s about meeting people from different cultures and discovering the different ways of working and thinking.

And there are so many common issues, in any organisation, anywhere, regardless of geography. For example, a large company in Oman might ask how do we write a strong business plan? Or how do we win more customers? And these are the same questions I am asked by a start up in Warwick. There are more similarities across cultures and sectors than there are differences, and it is possible to look for those common areas while acknowledging the differences in the ways of working.  With some of the cultures I work in, you don’t automatically shake hands when you meet or are introduced to a business associate, but you are still working with them on, say, developing a business plan to secure funding.

One of the main similarities, and one of the main challenges that businesses face – one that I come across everywhere – is when I talk about finance. Not the numbers (although that is one thing) but the words. The language and terminology of the industry is confusing, to say the least.

Imagine walking down a hospital corridor. If you have heart problems, you are sent to cardiology. Children? You are sent to Paediatrics. Then there’s Neurology, and Pathology. In a hospital, the doctors know what the words mean. Finance is like that. Those who work in finance day-to-day know what the words mean, but that doesn’t always make it easy for others to understand. 

Thank you for your time today, Phil. We’re looking forward to hearing your talk at the Today’s PA Conference and you joining in our Expert PAnel discussion, ‘How Assistants and Managers Work Together”.


Phil Ingle will be our first guest speaker at the Today’s PA Conference on Thursday 17th August 2023 at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel, Chelsea Harbour Drive, London SW10 0XG

For further details of the Conference, please see our website









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