- Aug 30 • 10 months ago
Walk & Talk with Jacqueline Backman 2 of 3: A Lifelong Career in Intelligent Performance
Here, Jackey opens with some insight into her lifelong professional experience in emotional intelligence soft skills and effective individual performance. Then, she delves into her current role as Chief Performance Officer (CPO) at NetRefer, laying bare what this entails in the organisational context.
I think the viewers would be interested to find out more about you and your background. I’m detecting a bit of a North American accent in there somewhere. Is that correct?
Yes, that’s very sharp! Actually, it’s a Canadian accent. I was born and raised in Canada. Although, I have Maltese parents. What I usually tell people is that I come from a mixed marriage, because my mother was from Valletta and my father was from Sliema (laughs).
That’s as mixed as it gets! OK very interesting, so you have a Maltese-Canadian background.
Joking aside, if you understand how things were at their time with their generation, it would be considered quite mixed; it was considered quite a big deal back then.
What kind of work did you use to do before coming to NetRefer?
That’s a very big question. Let me think how I can condense this. Essentially, for the last 20-25 years that preceded my time with NetRefer, I actually focused on Emotional Intelligence – Emotional EQ. I did a lot of work around organisational leadership; I specialised in that field. That involves not only just understanding how people perform but also understanding how businesses perform – how organisations perform. I question what are the conditions required for them to perform well, and how does that human component fit in it. In a nutshell, everything from strategy to structure to work flows, and then, how the human piece fits in. Not so much from an HR perspective but more from a requirements performance perspective.
I’ve done a lot of different things in my career. I used to teach. Like I said, I used to do organisational leadership consulting, which probably was the big piece of my business. I used to do certification programs. I used to have an institute. It was called EISSA – Emotional Intelligence Soft Skills (Training) Academy. We used to do public programs for that, primarily around the corporate, but also around the private sector. I really used to enjoy going to businesses and selling our wares. B2B is one thing. But when you can sell your wares on a B2C level, and you can really hear the voice of the people, it’s particularly challenging. It’s all within the same spectrum. But essentially, that’s my background.
It sounds like you’ve worked with a wide range of clients – different scales of business – on a consultation basis.
Absolutely. From an organizational leadership perspective, I’ve worked with anybody from accountants to scientists. I’ve worked with pharmaceuticals to banking institutions. A really vast spectrum. Because, when the focus is leadership – organisational leadership – it’s not just about helping people understand what’s required from a leadership perspective in so much as it relates to human beings, but also what organisations need from their leaders – what they require. Industry is secondary. I think this is applicable for any C-Level role. It’s one thing to have an expertise or an understanding in the industry that you’re working in. But it’s not necessarily a requirement. It’s not uncommon for top-level executives to come from completely different areas, because at C-Level, you’re brought into the business to solve particular problems; to be able to accomplish specific objectives and milestones. So, yeah, a wide range.
Right, but that wide range of experience in your background can come together and inform your work.
It does. For me, it was important because I’m very challenge-oriented. I really like to find solutions. If things are status quo at an organisation, if they’re outlook is; “we’re good, let’s just keep going, this is working,” that’s not really my match. I match up well with very ambitious organisations and very ambitious CEOs. Of course, that would be why Raphael and I are a very good match – core values and otherwise.
Let’s talk about your current job title at NetRefer – CPO. Does it stand for Chief Procurement Officer, Chief Probation Officer – maybe, something you’re not telling us about your past there (laughs). What does the acronym CPO stand for and can you outline the role for us?
In our context, it stands for Chief Performance Officer. This is another brainchild of our group CEO – Raphael Arnold. Since his company specialises in performance marketing, he wanted a role with the focus set on what we do. Everything that comes out of it that is related to performance falls under me, which essentially is the entire organisation. Personally, at the beginning, I was impartial. I’m not one to fall in love with any titles or anything like that. But I really love how it does capture what I need to be doing.
Is it safe to say that it’s an innovative evolution to the C-Structure?
It’s a role which already exists, but within our industry – I think even more generally in Europe – I haven’t heard of it too much. Our group CEO is a visionary and he’s brilliant – and I say that as a person who’s worked with many business owners and many CEOs in my past but not all were visionaries. When you have a visionary CEO, it’s really important that you also have somebody with you who’s an integrator; someone who’s going to take your vision and translate that into the highest of levels, meaning the most holistic overview. Sometimes, people look at the word “highest” in terms of hierarchy but I’m not referring to that. So, in a chief role, you have to have a holistic perspective. And as CPO, I’m consistently overseeing the business operation from that seat to ensure that the business is moving towards that vision.
In a sense, are you a medium between Raphael’s corporate vision and putting those strategies into practice, implementing them within individual teams?
Yes, absolutely, and somewhat of a translator, an integrator. If you’ve ever talked to Raphael, you know his vision is always going to be on a grand scale. it’s really important that this is translated down to where the business is, what the business can do, and making sure that this is done through my team – I don’t do it on my own.
Raphael and I also work very closely. As a matter of fact, our goal as a unified organisation starts with unified leadership, then continues with unified executive heads and so on and so forth. So, Raphael and I really work in tandem, day in day out. He’s always talking about the vision, making sure that can be translated and how, when the right timing to translate is, and so on so forth.
Is there a measurement aspect to your role (i.e. observing teams’ performance according to criteria, gauging how they measure up against the planned implementation, etc.)?
Exactly, that’s the key right there. So, you have to have a clearly defined vision which we’ve spoken about. You have to know what you’re doing and you have to know what that looks like year on year – you have to have a destination. If it’s 15 years, that’s ok but a little far. If it’s 10 years, it’s getting clearer. 5 years from now looks really clear. So, we ask ourselves 5 years from now, what does the business really look like? Then, we ask ourselves in 4 years, what does the business need to be doing – what does it need to look like in order to achieve our goal at 5 years. And in turn, in 3 years, where do we need to be 3 years from now, to get to the 5-year target, and so on so forth.
The next step is to translate this into key objectives for all of our departmental heads, and with this knowledge in their hands, they basically run the business. Their goal, of course, is to implement the strategic integrity of the organisation as the business requires. There’s about 20% ratio that revolves around the operational aspect. And they translate that into management, and so on and so forth. So, it really boils down to the team’s efforts. And yes, we’re adhering to milestones. It’s like the map I spoke about earlier. If we know the destination, we can plant checkpoints along the way that inform us about how much closer we are to our goals.
The route along the way may change but we never move the goalpost – we never change the vision or the objectives. What changes are our tactics sometimes. We might need to redefine strategical elements but key objectives don’t change. That’s just how life goes sometimes. Especially if there’s the necessity to change in one area in the business or if there’s a change in the industry, we’ve got to have that flexibility and adaptability. Or else we wouldn’t have made it to 15 years and we wouldn’t be able to make it moving forward. So that pretty much says it in a nutshell.
Watch the 3rd installment of Jackey’s 3-part interview here to learn the importance of unified team performance and about the future at NetRefer.
A special thank you goes out to Andrew Bonello for conducting the interview.
After last week’s part-two-of-three of our fifth entry in the docuseries – Walk and Talk with NetRefer – we’re back with Mark Scerri Pace for the third part at the Valletta Contemporary.
- Jan 27
After last week’s part one-of-three of our fifth entry in the docuseries – Walk and Talk with NetRefer – we’re back with Mark Scerri Pace for the second part at the Valletta Contemporary. This time, Mark lifts the cover off NetRefer’s Product Delivery’s current projects that have been in the works for some time now and how these are changing the way NetRefer’s Performance Marketing Platform operates on several levels.
- Jan 19