How Did I Get Here? Joe Espana MD of Performance Equations

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1. What is your current job title? Briefly describe your current role.

I am Managing Director of Performance Equations Ltd, an organisational change and leadership development consultancy. Apart from managing the business, I operate as the main client engagement consultant and get involved in diagnostic, design and evaluation work.

2. What challenges do you come across?

From an HR or organisational development perspective one of the main challenges is meeting the needs of clients who want quick fixes. It’s not always the case, but you do come across people who believe that a training course is going to solve a problem that is more systemic.

They want the organisational and people issues to be fixed by other people and functions, not quite seeing the influence and impact that senior management can have on organisational performance. The other challenge I come across is from a business perspective. Very often even senior HR professionals, don’t speak the language of business, leaving them sounding somewhat “fluffy” to senior business colleagues. I spend a great deal of time helping fellow professionals build the business case for their initiatives, and training them to evaluate ROI. This is the kind of language that the FD’s look for.

3. What activities do you spend most of your time on?

Helping clients to determine the root causes of under performance. I tend to work with senior individuals and teams, influencing and helping them to determine what is needed to deliver their strategy and execute business plans.

It’s estimated that 80% of an enterprises inability to execute the strategy is due to internal organisational issues. I’ve built up a practice that specialises in diagnostics and organisational measurement. It’s invaluable, especially when investment is limited because, rather than spending time, money and effort in general areas it can be focused on those specific fields that give the greatest return.

4. Describe your initial training within the profession

I cut my commercial and business teeth at British Airways in the 1980s when it went through its major turnaround. I was lucky enough to join the training and development function which I regard to be one of the best apprenticeships on offer for the HR and HRD profession at the time. We were exposed to and were trained by some of the best and leading edge consultants in the world. But more than that I learned by ‘doing’.

The company was going through so much change that both operationally and later on in development roles it was hands on, practicing skills and knowledge and seeing the results. I later became professionally qualified and licensed to use a whole range of professional tools.

5. What positions have you held?

I’ve held a number of operational and line management roles before moving into HR and development. The latter part of my career has included a number of positions including Training Consultant, Group Head of Development, HRD and OD Director.

6. Is there a significant event you can tell us about which had an impact on your career?

Yes, I was once enticed into a senior role which was a big mistake. I was sucked in by the package and by promises of expectations and role remit. I learned a huge personal lesson. I didn’t listen to my intuition. I discovered that the company’s culture did not live up to its press, senior led teams were dysfunctional and failed to ‘walk the talk’. I felt like a fish out of water and left very soon after joining. It was a real lesson in candidates also selecting their prospective employers, as well as the other way around.

7. What has been your greatest achievement?

My greatest professional achievement was helping to turn around a business and being able to prove contribution in monetary ways. My greatest personal achievement (which I share with my partner) is being told by other people what wonderful children I have.

8. What is your biggest career mistake?

I have made many mistakes in my life, but hope that I have learned from them all.

9. Which of your colleagues played the biggest role in you getting where you are today?

I once worked with a man of such personal integrity and authenticity, that he influenced (and continues to influence) many people. He often talked about personal reflection and engaging with ones personal values. He helped me and continues to help me develop personal awareness. He remains a coach, mentor and close personal friend.

10. What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the HR sector in recent years?

I think there are several. Generation X and Y have been influential. The development of a whole generation who don’t view work and career in the same way as their parents did before them has raised all sorts of issues in the information economy about recruitment and retention of talent and the development of committed workforces. I also think the speed of business change, ever developing trends in the use of technology and changing demographics has led to more creative delivering methods for HR processes.

The speed of change and changing demands in markets has forced HR professionals to move away from simple delivering processes and support for ‘water and rations’ to becoming business partners and coaching managers to take on more responsibilities for creating and sustaining healthy work environments. There used to be a saying in business that said ‘marketing was too important to be left to marketeers’. I think the same can be said of HR.

11. What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the profession?

Learn, discover and determine what it is about the profession that you really like. Find out what aspects of the profession could potentially provide the circumstances for your ideal job. Then go for it! It can be hugely rewarding and stretching.

12. What are your plans for the future?

To continue to do really good work that I am proud of. To find and work with great people. To learn, discover and enjoy every moment. To create a business that people are proud to be a part of.

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