Maureen Penfold - Leaders with Ambition

Leaders with Ambition - Maureen Penfold

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​It’s okay not to know! That’s the message from Maureen Penfold, Managing Partner at Moore Kingston Smith and Nicky Acuna Ocana’s guest on this episode of Leaders With Ambition. Her career reflects a unique mix of authenticity and confidence – including the ability to seek the counsel of others.

Navigating a traditionally male-dominated professional services firm has required clarity and communication, says Maureen, whose steady hand guided Moore Kingston Smith’s evolution through the pandemic. But in the end, above all else, “it’s really about those relationships and the people around you that make you successful.”

You’ll learn about how this mother of two adult sons has balanced personal and professional demands (having a supportive partner is key) and why inclusivity and mentorship are so important – especially in today’s fast-paced, global workplace environment.

Maureen ticks off some of the challenges currently faced by large accounting firms (such as managing technological advances and regulatory requirements) and she also shares words of wisdom for anyone just getting started on their professional path; “Nobody knows everything. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean the world is going to fall apart. You can learn!” says Maureen. “Authenticity is realising that you can learn from others.”

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​Key takeaways from this episode with Maureen Penfold

Starting Out

Growing up in an Irish Catholic community in London, having three brothers and being educated at a girls’ school have all shaped Maureen’s identity.

Maureen talks about the grounding she has found through her tightknit web of family, lifelong girlfriends and colleagues at work.

Shifting Vision

Finding her way (and then focusing intently) on a career in accountancy, inspired out of the gate by the leaders she encountered at the firm.

Keeping It Fresh

Maureen shares the various ways she has reinvented herself within the same firm, including advising businesses in the U.S. and the Middle East.

The Power of Networking

How being both mentor and mentee, connecting on all levels, has informed (and strengthened) Maureen at every juncture of her career journey.

Navigating the Field

Why having three brothers and a strong role model in her mother were all great preparation for the male-dominated world of accounting.

Pursuing Partnership

How having goals helped Maureen remain focused and clear about what she wanted to achieve, both professionally and personally.

Forward Thinking

About not only the decision Maureen and her husband made (at the time unusual) to take a three-month sabbatical, but the firm’s willingness to support it. Why it felt important for Maureen and her husband to be in partnership when it came to raising their two sons and determining the contours of their careers.

About prioritising a reasonable, healthy work-life balance, including hybrid work hours that enable communication across differing timeframes and situations.

Open Communication

How Maureen marshalled the power of face-to-face video during Covid – a practice that engaged people across the firm and continues to be a valuable team-building tool to this day.

Levelling Up

As “the youngest of the old guard", Maureen saw an opportunity to lead a 100-year-old legacy firm toward becoming a Top 10 competitor that is inclusive and fiercely client-focused.

The Mentoring Connection

Why Maureen believes coaching and being coached are cornerstone elements in supporting career development and workplace health.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

About the emphasis Moore Kingston Smith places on authenticity and cultivating empathy in the workplace environment.

Challenges in the Current Professional Services Landscape:

  • Cultivating people and talent.

  • Developing people in a distributed world.

  • Having on-hand adequate resources to support growth opportunities.

  • Bridging experience and job requirements.

  • Balancing technological advancements and risks (such as AI and data security).

  • Navigating regulatory changes and demands.

  • Maintaining client satisfaction and relationships.

Career Highlights:

  • Leading today’s vibrant, growing team through change.

  • Recognising the Moore Kingston Smith legacy of leadership over time.

  • Celebrating the successes of those who have come and gone.

Career Challenges:

  • Managing time (there’s never enough!).

  • Balancing personal/career demands and boundaries.

Recommended Resources:

  • Professional groups and networking events.

  • Business and management books.

  • Internet research.

  • Internal Moore Kingston Smith learning and development programs.

Words of Wisdom:

  • Set out to do things that you enjoy and feel are meaningful.

  • Don’t worry too much about what other people are doing.

  • Refrain from comparing yourself to others.

  • Learn how to build boundaries to support both your home and work lives.

  • Be yourself!

Key Quotes:

  • “Whether it’s family, friends or even in business, it’s really about those relationships and the people around you that make you successful.”

  • “All the things that I’ve learned throughout my career at every stage have helped me at the next stage I’ve gone on to.”

  • “People are what it’s all about really. Whatever your goals, if you keep your focus on people and relationships you tend to get there.”

  • “I always set myself goals … I’m not saying that I’ve always ticked them off, but at least I had something to hold myself to account against.”

  • “Most of us are working for our families, so families have got to take priority. You’ve got to get balance. It can’t be all about one. You need both to be whole and we believe in that whole self to work piece.”

  • The No. 1 thing in any business is communication, communication, communication. You can say that’s true in any relationship, too.”

  • “What we learned through Covid is that communication and transparency is everything. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you need to let people know what you’re thinking and considering.

  • “With that communication piece (in the workplace), people feel they are part of something and that’s what you want people to feel.” (Nicky)

  • “Nobody knows everything. You need people you can talk to in a safe environment but also that you can listen to and take advice from ... It’s about team and people together.”

  • “You’ve got to look out for yourself. Otherwise you can’t do anything really … Being able to stand back and regroup on a regular basis has kept me whole.”

  • “Nobody knows everything. Just because you don’t know doesn’t mean the world is going to fall apart. You can learn! … Authenticity is realising that you can learn from others.”

About Maureen:

Maureen Penfold is the Managing Partner of Moore Kingston Smith. With a global mindset and vision for growth, Maureen’s broad knowledge of the firm and its market follows 25 years’ experience as a Partner – several of which have been on the Governance Board. Maureen’s passion lies with people – and at the heart of her approach is a deep understanding that people are at the core of every business. People come first – and at Moore Kingston Smith, it is all about nurturing relationships to ensure that clients and colleagues alike are equipped to achieve their potential and meet their aspirations.

About Nicky:

Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director, US, Europe and UK at Ambition, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas.

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