Joe Eshun: 'Make Impact More Important than Market Share' and other #CEOLifeHacks

Sometimes as a leader you should be outside the solutions and celebrate the people who created them.

CEO Night, Uganda Q2 2017

In the second quarter of every year, we run a series of ‘CEO Nights’ where the current CEOs/Chairs of the top 100 companies in each country spend time with the community of 'next-in-line CEOs' that make up The Africa List to unpack what the jump from C-suite to CEO really looks like, and how best to prepare for it. We only run 'CEO Night' once a year so to make the interactions with the CEOs in attendance as structured and useful as possible, this year we put some of our guest CEO/Chairs in the hot seat and groups of members took turns grilling them on their 'CEO Life Hacks' in productivity, leadership and management strategies and their personal journey.

Joe Eshun, Deputy CEO of Deloitte East Africa, was our guest speaker for the Uganda session as well as participating in the breakout sessions. He has over 20 years’ experience in both the public and private sectors in strategy development, financial management, operations improvement and project management. He has worked with over 25 large organizations to initiate different types and forms of transformations, and is a leadership trainer within Deloitte having in the last ten years led the training of over 60 senior managers in Africa. 

These are some of our favourite answers that he shared at the event including why he makes all his tough calls in the first two hours of his day, how he deliberately creates opportunities for idea sharing in his team, and leading with purpose.  

What's one thing you want to change about your leadership style?

I want to change my need and desire to always be part of all of the solutions. Sometimes you should be outside the solutions and celebrate the people who created them. I’ve learned that I can be a cheerleader and celebrate the food when it comes out of the kitchen, rather than feeling like I have to be the one in the kitchen cooking. So I’ve had to get really good at delegating. 

What books have you most gifted to people?

I used to gift ‘Winning’ by Jack Welch often. The book focuses on several areas including the need for business units to be number one or two in their markets. But I’ve recently shifted my mindset to thinking that what’s more important, is to strive to create the most impact. As a company we've shifted our story of Deloitte to one of purpose, rather than of being number one in the market. 

What do you spend most of your time thinking about daily? 

Our purpose. My background is in strategy consulting so I routinely ask myself - “Are we just doing this because they’re paying us?". So I’m now spending more time looking for stories of people within the team that doing something meaningful and making an impact and highlighting that across the group. We’ve just launched an 'impact maker movement', where we emphasise the people who are making an impact. 

How do you communicate your core values?

The only way is to live it. When people say “Joe will not like this, or Joe will think about this in this way”, you can see if your values are coming across in your actions . If my team say “Joe will want to prioritise diversity” it’s because they know it’s a core value of mine that I’ve emphasised across our East Africa teams.

What does the first two hours of your day look like?

I used to procrastinate a lot in the mornings until I watched a TED talk that convinced me that the first two hours of the day should be used to deal with the toughest decisions and toughest jobs. Now I front load my day with the hardest tasks. If I have to make a tough call on something I schedule it within 8am - 10am, if I leave it until the afternoon I inevitably find something to replace it. 

What strategies do you use to build relationships

I make a deliberate effort in my interactions to give more than I’m taking. 

How do you prevent yourself settling for mediocrity? 

When I go into anything I set a certain standard for myself by outlining a BATNA - a best alternative to a negotiated agreement. So with anything that I do, I know where I want to be and then I have a predetermined line that I know I won’t go below. 

How do you structure your downtime to achieve work/life balance?

I’m obsessed with Outlook so I schedule downtime in my calendar. One of the KPIs for one of my PA's is keeping me accountable to make sure that I actually take my downtime. She monitors it and lets me know when I'm not taking my targeted amount because it always feels like there aren't enough hours in the day, so she forces me to take it. 

How do you encourage idea sharing and creative thinking in your team?

I'm very deliberate about creating zones and opportunities for idea sharing. When I go to conferences, I take note of the issues raised and come back to the younger people in my team and ask them - ‘Can you come up with a solution?’. We also created something called ‘Current Affairs’ in Deloitte where people can share things that they are thinking about. In our offices in Kenya and Tanzania we have areas designed specifically for collaboration.

What's still on your career bucket list?

I would still really like to teach at high school level one day. One of my clients once asked me to mentor his daughter who was in high school and having some minor challenges. I was shocked at her transformation after the mentorship. Later she did an internship with Deloitte and we went on to recruit her. She’s now one of our best performing employees. By the time one is at university, it's sometimes too late to make the right impact, so high school is where you can have the best impact. I'm still thinking hard about this since I have a few years left before I retire. 

Find out more about Joe Eshun on his LinkedIn profile here, as well as more about the Uganda community of The Africa List on their country page here