As part of our 2023 insights initiative at Romero Insurance Brokers, we will be highlighting team leaders across the Romero Group. Over 12 months, The Romero Group will showcase 12 important figures, each from different departments and different disciplines.
Sixth in our Insights Series is Fiona McQuillan, Director of Sentient, Romero Insurance Brokers’ new business acquisition, who will be heading up the HR and Health and Safety offering. Fiona has been helping her team adapt to the acquisition and change in offices, as well as develop Sentient’s offering for the wider Romero Group. On the precipice of a huge rebrand, Fiona discusses the challenges that come with leadership and how she manages the expectations.
What are your roles and responsibilities?
“Director of the Sentient team within the Romero Group. I manage the consultant’s and client’s contracts within the team.”
Can you please describe your career path?
“In short – Lancaster University for my law degree, Leeds BPP law school for my legal practice course, and I then worked at various law firms. I moved into a litigation and employment law specialist role, and began work with Sentient on their employment tribunal claims. I also worked with some of these clients in tribunals and at court before becoming a manager and director of Sentient’s team.”
“I qualified as a solicitor in 2014, became a partner in 2018, and then Director of Sentient in 2019. So overall I’ve been working in the legal profession since 2005.”
As a Director, what is your preferred method of management?
“Because I’ve got a very experienced team, the method of management is different. There’s no need to micro-manage them; I encourage them to self-manage. They use me as a second opinion and to apply supervision, as well as offering support in increasing and improving their competency and experience.”
“I supervise 14 staff members: 3 HR consultants, 6 health and safety consultants, 2 food consultants, and 3 in the admin team. All are highly qualified and experienced. This brings the challenge of helping the team look at things from a different perspective and consider alternative methods or approaches. The solution to that is open communication.”
How important is effective communication within a business? And how do you choose to communicate with staff?
“Communication is the most important aspect within a business, but it must to be two-way. The team have to be able to speak freely to me, and I have to be able to offer them advice or suggestions without them recieving it as criticism. I communicate with them by all methods, but I am a strong believer that face to face is best because it avoids any misunderstandings that can come across in an email or over the phone.”
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a leader?
“Finding the balance between being part of the team, and being the manager and the leader. There are times where you have to act as a peer and work with them – work as a colleague. There are times where you have to hold them accountable and responsible for certain actions. Just like they do for you; they will turn to you when there’s a problem and expect you to have a solution.”
“There are expectations put upon me as a leader, but equally I think they are fair. I think when you take on the position of leader, you know you will have to make some decisions no one else wants to make. Especially if you have a team as highly qualified as I do, because you will get differing opinions but the department will need a consistent approach. A decision has to be made and it has to be accepted by all members of the team. You’ve got to work with your team to get their agreement or acceptence to whatever the ultimate decision is.”
How do you successfully motivate people within the Sentient business?
“I motivate the team by ensuring they play an integral part in the plans of the business as well as in the delivery of the client work.”
“I believe in allowing employees to have a voice regarding the direction of the business, the clients we work with and the service offering; it motivates them in their role and within their team. The output from this motivation is that the employees then want to drive their own performance and development to strive for improvement and progression. So I ensure each employee has plenty of opportunities to discuss any changes or training they are hoping for, whether this is in a formal one-to-one or a general office chat.
Do you have any thoughts on women in management?
“Since joining Romero Insurance Group it’s quite clear that there is a really good balance of male and female manager across the group. There isn’t a different approach depending on whether you are male or female; there’s consistency; the expectations are the same regardless of your gender. It’s great to see women in some of the highest roles in an industry which is still slightly behind the curve.”
How have your team found the culture at Romero Insurance Brokers?
“The team have really taken to the wellbeing offering and the social events. The little things like the easter egg hunt and the way Romero do internal awards and celebrate each other. Also how the website celebrates the staff – the Sentient team have been so positive about it ever since we moved our offices here in December.
“They’ll be attending the group’s summer BBQ at Chow Down in Leeds. As the leader, I don’t always attend all the social events – if I go it’s like: ‘The boss is here’ – so it’s okay if I leave early or bow out. I know that’s not how it is in all companies, or across the group, but it’s how I feel personally.”
What’s one tip you’d give to future directors?
“For me it’s always just been to learn from others. Because whether you believe you’ll always do something a certain way, there’s always something to learn from those around you or in front of you on the career path.”