Charles K. Marful
Director of Canada’s Talent Team–Assurance, EY
MY GREATEST STRENGTH
I think my greatest strength is my ability to align business priorities and talent management goals. Being able to envision how strategy influences behavior and vice versa has enabled me to work with many people from different disciplines to develop programs and processes to resolve business challenges in areas such as talent development, mergers and acquisitions, inclusiveness, compensation, and change management. My global insights and experience have also been very useful on global projects.
Professor Henry Mintzberg and the late Kweku Hutchful (former University of Ghana management lecturer) have each inspired me. Both were very knowledgeable, insightful, and practical. They were able to reduce complex ideas to very simple ones. They were also able to see things that matter but are often ignored. And they did all this in the most humble way.
They motivated me to open my eyes and look at things differently, and develop solutions that draw from many perspectives without using a lens that minimizes things based on popular viewpoints. A lot of my professional accomplishments have been influenced by what I learned from them.
HOW I MOTIVATE OTHERS
I try to return the encouragement and support that I have received—and continue to receive—from many leaders throughout my career. I appreciate and value everyone I work with. They make the decision each day to come to work and contribute, and I am privileged that they give me the opportunity to work with them. I try to get to know each person, and what is of value to them both at work and outside work. Once I know what is of value to them, I try to help them achieve their goals through the work we do together.
OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE
African Canadian youth (this may also be relevant in the U.S.) often lack a full comprehension of the opportunities available to them. Many people aren’t exposed to opportunities. Some are not aware of opportunities in a way that resonates with them, while others may see the opportunities, but don’t find them viable or realistic. And still others don’t have the confidence to even see the opportunities. Being able to envision opportunity can help focus a child, and that focus can generate self-discipline and help him or her avoid distractions.
Being very deliberate about how to help a child achieve the outcomes they’re striving for is equally important. Someone has to be in charge of helping the child—not the school, community, or any institution, but someone at home. Without family support, it is tough to navigate the system. We need to work with parents to address this issue first.
Working with the BBPA (Black Business and Professionals Association), our firm has supported a leadership program for African Canadian high school students for several years, and I have always participated in that. I speak at churches about career and education issues that concern young people. I counsel many college and high school students, and their parents, on a regular basis. And I participate in many community panel discussions on education and career issues.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to consider what I have been asked to do as a privilege, and to do the best job I can. I try to get other people’s input and advice in resolving issues. Most people are willing to assist when asked. And including their advice usually results in better solutions.
I spend time with family, read, and go to church.
It’s important for me to align my work with my values, passions, and interests. I can adapt without changing my core values. Also, shedding unproductive habits, old attitudes, or ineffective ways of doing things is as important as keeping true to my core values.
Dare to dream. Envision how you can contribute and serve. Obtain all the technical and professional skills relevant to your career. A champion or mentor is always helpful. Your credibility will surpass your skills. Your spouse will influence your career far more than you might imagine. Paying attention to the last three is as important as the first two.