Thursday 16 August 2018

Conal Henry: What I wish I’d known before I started

Conal Henry, Enet chief executive officer
Conal Henry, Enet chief executive officer

Conal Henry, chief executive officer of Enet, on open-mindedness, management as a career working smart and relating to people.

Be open-minded

I'd planned to be a lawyer and ended up in a management career by accident - and I am so glad that I did.

The first question I was asked at my interview was, "Why do you want to work in finance?" I remember thinking: "Oh, this is a finance job" - if I'd known that beforehand, I would have convinced myself that I was good with words, not numbers, and would have missed the opportunity to develop a whole new set of skills.

Management is a career

When I was growing up and even today people tend to think of their future functionally. They want to be doctors, or lawyers, or engineers, whereas I have a career in management.

I've worked as a finance manager in a consumer goods business, a commercial manager in a supermarket and an airline, an operations manager in a bank and a general manager in several telecoms businesses.

These roles have much more in common than you would think. In each case there is an organisation to understand, objectives to be delivered, a decision-making process to navigate and people with whom you must relate.

These are the skills of the manager - but they are undervalued in Ireland. When people ask "what do you do for a living?", they still look confused when I say "I'm a manager".

Work smart, not hard

So many people think success comes from being busy and just putting in the hard work. Working hard is not an objective - it's bad for you. Achieving stuff should be your objective, that's what is good for you.

Be clear on what you want to achieve and believe that it can be done. Then you can share your vision with others who will support you, work with you and help lighten your load. The cult of hard work is a health hazard.

It's all about people

The three things that matter are commitment, talent and experience - in that order. An organisation made of people who are genuinely committed to a vision and who apply their talents to it will always come out on top. The recruitment decision is the most critical one any company makes and it's amazing how many organisations outsource and devolve that decision.

Face-to-face is always best

Convincing someone to do something is an interactive process where people exchange feelings and a commitment is made. It can only be done properly face to face.

Trying to achieve this by writing to them is futile. Even over the phone you get no sense of the other person's actual frame of mind. Remember, email is for the record, phones are for chat.

  • Enet is the privately owned Irish company that manages the State's fibre-optic Metropolitan Area Network

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