People Leadership Lessons from Fiona Clare Cicconi

Fiona Clare Cicconi is the Chief People Officer of Google/Alphabet since January 2021. Prior to having this esteemed position, she was the Chief Human Resources Officer of AstraZeneca, from September 2014 to January 2021. AstraZeneca is a   biopharmaceutical multinational and its medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. 

She is also the Non Executive Board Member of Stellantis,  a multinational automotive manufacturing corporation, since January 2021, a position that she is still continuing with.

Born in London in 1966, Fiona Clare Cicconi who described herself as half English and half Italian in an interview, started her career at General Electric, where she held various human resources roles within the oil and gas sector. Afterwards, she dedicated several years to her role at Cisco, where she managed human resources operations in Southern Europe, followed by overseeing industrial and employee relations in EMEA. She then transitioned to F. Hoffmann La Roche in 2006.

HR personnel can learn several people leadership ideas and skills from her. In an interview to HR Director in August 2022, she said that “Together with the CEO, CFO and leadership team – HR can put together a multi-year plan on how to strengthen the capabilities, the diversity, the succession, development plans and the culture of the company or business. Year after year since, with these elements in place, I have seen business results improve thanks to this strong focus, it’s almost like paving the road ahead of the business.”

Many HR heads and their other top management personnel can take cue from these wise words and come together to plan a future roadmap of say five years by focusing on these above-mentioned parameters, which can increase the possibility of the concerned company to glide in the path of enduring growth.

One of the important people leadership skills is the ability to listen with sensitivity and Fiona exemplified that in the initial phase of her tenure with Google. She told in an interview with HR Director that in the first six months of her journey with Google till now, she spent a lot of time listening. She heard from employees about their experiences, what was on their mind and also suggested areas for growth, and she also heard from the company’s Vice Presidents to gauge what changes were needed when it came to people and culture at Google.  “Several common themes came through and so, together with my team, we structured a People Strategy, which outlined the main areas of focus that we should work on over the next three years, such as; belonging, delivering on our deep commitments to equity and inclusion, growth and performance,” she noted in the said interview.

In another interview, she voiced that one shouldn’t do talent management just for the sake of talent management but because the concerned company needs a specific talent strategy to succeed. Many a HR personnel, especially those who are in the initial stages of their HR career, can benefit from this sound advice and instead of making the common HR error of scouting for the most brilliant job aspirant, should instead scout for the person with the right or the most relevant expertise needed for the role.

A good HR leader or a person aspiring to be one, need to have an out of the box vision, should be inquisitive or think for constant ways for improvement. In this regard, Fiona has some very interesting words to say in an interview with The ExCO where she said that she had often looked at policies and wondered if they could be simplified or whether they were necessary in the first place. This type of inquisitiveness towards eliminating complexity and redundancy can help many HR personnel to give more leanness as well as growth potential to the work force. 

One of the important people leadership lessons from Fiona is to protect and defend one’s team members when needed. She also believes in giving feedback in a constructive way. 

She rightly voiced that one can’t succeed in an environment of fear or in not knowing whether your leader would support you or not. Many corporate leaders can take inspiration from these words and should strive to defend their team members whenever needed. This would instill greater confidence among the team members, which would be reflected in their performance too.

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