Favourites with Paul Masi MAICD

Friday, 01 December 2023

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Susan Muldowney

    Candid conversations with directors on the interests and insights that have shaped their careers. 

    Favourite early career lesson?

    If you think it needs to be done, just do it. It would be called taking initiative today, but early in my career, I learned if something was sensible and commercial, just do it. That’s held me in good stead.

    Favourite big risk?

    I saw a careers adviser at uni and said I wanted to go into stockbroking. That was in the early 1980s, when the words “investment banking” weren’t around. He said, “No-one’s talked about that industry since 1972 — why do you want to go into it?” I said I liked the markets and investment, and thought it was about to boom. It was probably a risk, but I was lucky because it was at the beginning of deregulation and I was riding the crest of the wave when I started.

    Favourite performance review?

    I’ve had reviews that have lasted less than three minutes. Perhaps the funniest was at Merrill Lynch in Hong Kong, where I had three international bosses. I hadn’t even left for work that day when one of them called to say they wanted to do my review. “We think you’re doing good. Have you got anything you want to bring up?” he asked. “No, I’m happy — everything’s going fine,” I replied. “OK, great,” he said. That was it. Reviews are fine, but it’s all about working with people in real time and feedback has got to be relevant to the moment.

    Favourite tactic for managing a challenging diary?

    Everybody tries to prioritise, but sometimes everything seems to be equally important. That’s where you learn to delegate. That said, some things are really important and you need to make time for them. If you’ve got board papers, for example, you’ve just got to read them. I’ve been to board meetings where people haven’t read their papers. Apart from being inappropriate, it’s dangerous.

    Favourite thought on leadership?

    I don’t think the core principles of leadership have changed or will change. It’s about setting a vision and bringing people along. Walking the talk is also crucial in leadership. I’ve seen people who mouth off wonderful MBA-speak, but have no genuine resolve or willingness to put in the effort themselves.

    Favourite method to destress?

    I’m pretty chilled most of the time. People probably think I’m a little too chilled by nature but I’m pretty level all the time. I do remember fretting about the market one day, when we had big exposures and big risks. My wife said, “Well, what can you do about it?” I said, “Nothing. The market doesn’t open until Monday.” She said, “So, why worry?” To some degree, that has always stuck with me. Building up a huge amount of angst about something isn’t going to solve it. So I just deal with problems when it’s the right time to deal with them.

    Favourite book and film?

    My favourite novel is probably Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s such a rich treatise on the human condition. I also love the Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The message in that film is something we all should take to heart. The impact we can make on people’s lives is something we often underestimate.

    Favourite travel destination?

    There are three places I’ve been to in my life where the grandeur gives you that sense of awe and insignificance. One was looking up at the Himalayan mountain range in Nepal. The second was canoeing along the Antarctic Peninsula. The third was Uluru. When you see that rock in the distance, with the sun coming down and the stars popping up, it’s amazing. I’m always anchored by that sense of awe those three places gave me. 

    Formerly CEO of Austock and Bank of America Merrill Lynch Australia, Paul Masi MAICD is chair of Greenwich Capital Partners and non- executive director of Shaw and Partners, and Girls and Boys Brigade. 

    This article first appeared under the headline 'Paul Masi MAICD’ in the December 2023 / January 2024 issue of Company Director magazine.  

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