Advice for Emerging Leaders from…Paul Pomroy, UK CEO of McDonald’s

Advice for Emerging Leaders from…Paul Pomroy, UK CEO of McDonald’s
Published: 5 March 2020

Paul Pomroy was appointed Chief Executive Officer for McDonald’s UK in February 2015. He has been a part of the UK Leadership Team for the past decade, helping to drive the sustained success of the UK business over that time. Passionate about people and talent development, Paul has also instigated moves on both pay and contracts for restaurant teams. This focus on investing in and backing people at McDonald’s saw him be shortlisted for HR Director’s CEO of the Year award in 2016, recognising his commitment to those that make the business a success.

Paul joined McDonald’s in 1996 as an Accountant. His progression through the company has included responsibilities as Regional Financial Controller for London and the South East, Head of Business Strategy and Head of Commercial Finance. He was appointed Vice President Finance in 2008 and in 2012, Paul was promoted to the position of Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, with additional responsibility for the company’s Development and Supply Chain functions. We are delighted that Paul has shared his views and advice with us, on both the development of emerging leaders and maximising your own potential. 

You have been with the same business for over two decades and your career has flourished – how did you ensure constant self-growth and learning?

I’ve had several roles in McDonald’s over the past 20 years. I started as an accountant, moved into strategy and progressed into multiple regional and multi-market roles. This was not a conventional career path, but it was something that I was very deliberate about. I wanted to ensure I had an in-depth understanding of the business from many different perspectives. Taking sideways steps into new roles helped to broaden my experience massively. It’s this, rather than a straight career ladder, which has kept being in one business stimulating. Developing in this way also allowed me to get a wider understanding of our whole organisation and an appreciation for other functions in the business beyond the discipline I trained and started out in. People can find it difficult to understand why you’d want to stay in a business for a decade – or in my case, over two decades – but in many organisations, there are so many opportunities to broaden your horizons and think more laterally about your next career move, rather than taking the obvious next step. 

During your career to date, what have been the main challenges you’ve faced and how have you dealt with them?

Anyone who stays at a company for a long period risks losing the fresh perspective that you have when you are first getting to know a business. It is essential to make a conscious effort to challenge yourself, find ways to ensure you are taking a fresh approach to old challenges, and hear from voices that don’t have institutional knowledge. I work with external mentors, supplier partners and industry experts to bring in different perspectives, and that challenge is really healthy for me, my team and the business. 

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

When I became CEO, I was told by someone in the business (who was also a long-time mentor), ”don’t mess it up”, and that really stuck with me! In all seriousness, advice around the importance of staying grounded and connected is something I have always lived by. As CEO there are, of course, a lot of demands on my diary – but it’s important to protect the time that keeps you in touch with your people and your customers. For me, that’s spending time in our communities across the UK and Ireland, listening to people, understanding them, talking to franchisees and customers – you learn a lot from listening. Retail is fast-paced, and so I also make sure that I carve out downtime in order to be able to truly relax and enjoy life outside of work. That’s evolved over the years as my personal life has changed – I’m now a father of two small boys – but I’ve always made sure that I have a healthy balance.

What do you believe to be the key leadership skills or qualities required in today’s world?

As a business leader, I’m passionate about investing in and developing talent. Encouraging the growth and progression of our people is at the heart of everything we do at McDonald’s, and having that mindset is essential for all leaders. People can copy elements of your business plan or your strategy, but they can’t copy our culture. In terms of key qualities, I’d say be curious and seek out exposure to new things, have a hunger to learn, be ambitious and don’t stand still. 

What is the most common mistake you see leaders (at all levels) making? Why do you think this is?

Getting involved in decisions that you don’t need to be involved with. People often ask me, ”did you sign off that advert?” or ”do you try all the new menu items?” I’ll always have an opinion, but I deliberately don’t get involved in certain decisions and choose not to share that opinion. It’s important to recognise when you’re not the expert but your team members are. 

Get involved in our Emerging Leaders Programme

The programme is designed to give direct interaction and active mentoring from exceptional business leaders, who bring proven experience in delivering market and business-defining change, as well as displaying the ability to consistently evolve and remain at the forefront of their chosen field.

There are several ways for you to get involved with the Emerging Leaders Programme, from speaker and mentor opportunities to becoming a participant yourself.

To find out more, please click here.

For more information on anything we have disucssed in this blog, please contact Kathryn Gill

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