New IoD Norfolk Interim Chair Introduction
Name: Leona Barr-Jones
Company Name: Focus7 International Ltd
IoD branch: East of England - Norfolk
IoD role: Interim Chair of Norfolk and East of England Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion and the Armed Forces
Social media handles:
Twitter - @LeonaBarrJones ; LinkedIn - leonabarrjones
Q: How long have you been involved with the IoD?
I have been a member of the IoD since 2010, I joined as I was leaving the Regular Army and was invited to be a Fellow of IoD soon after. Over that time, I have made great use of the Pall Mall offices to meet clients and colleagues and I have been an East of England Ambassador for the last few years. I was honoured to be named as Director of the Year for Inclusivity in 2019.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your career to date?
I have spent over 30 years in the Military, 21 years as a Regular Army Officer serving in Germany, Bosnia, Kosovo and South Africa. I have worked with the Royal Artillery and Royal Signals and in Personnel and Training policy and command roles including Army HQ and 5 years in MoD Head Office working on Strategy and Defence Diplomacy and International Policy and Planning. I have served for the last 9 years in the Army Reserve and I am currently Colonel Commandant of Essex Army Cadet Force (ACF).
I have experience in Project, Programme and Portfolio Management, the highlight of this was working with TfL and ODA as the Programme Manager for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Transport Operational Readiness and Testing Programme.
I am currently co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Focus7 International Ltd, a leading purpose-led, brand and digital marketing agency in Hertfordshire where we offer a Think, Create, Deliver approach to creative marketing and business growth solutions. I also deliver strategy, direction and inclusive leadership training to boards of Directors and Trustees.
As well as a Fellow of IoD, I am a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management (FInstLM), holding CMI Level 7 and Level 8 Leadership and Management qualifications.
Q: What do you hope to achieve as an IoD Interim Chair?
We face both an exciting and challenging future in Norfolk and I want to support the excellent work being carried out by the IoD Ambassadors. We will continue to support our members and I believe that we achieve more together. As Directors we are leaders at our core and together we can make a difference. IoD has an important voice in the business community and we should use it.
I am passionate about Diversity and Inclusion and hope to effect change across the Eastern Region and encourage Directors to understand the benefits of adopting a more inclusive leadership.
• Diverse Teams perform better, they improve stakeholder engagement and are recruitment and retention positive.
• Inclusive Leadership enhances trust, improves cohesion and maximises team performance.
• A culture of diversity and inclusion in any organisation makes individuals more willing to give of themselves in order to work towards common goals.
Q: If you could give your 21 year old self some advice what would it be?
Follow your dreams, find your passion and every time you stand by your values and are true to yourself, you will achieve authentic leadership and always strive for that every time. Climb more mountains and take longer holidays.
Q: What keeps you busy outside of work?
Outside of work I support the Army Cadet Force (ACF) and my role as Colonel Commandant of Essex ACF keeps me busy. I sit on the ACF Diversity and Inclusion project “Step Change” national Steering Group and am currently Chair of the ACF LGBT+ Forum and I support the anti-bullying charity Diversity Role Models by visiting schools within the Eastern Region.
I sit on the Reserve Forces and Cadet Association (RFCA) Bedfordshire and Essex County Forums and was the Chair of the MoD’s Hertfordshire Employer Engagement Group supporting Employers of Service Leavers, Reservists, Cadet Force Adult Volunteers and Armed Forces Spouses. We work with employers wishing to sign the Armed Forces Covenant and work towards MoD Employer Recognition Scheme Awards.
I am also a Freeman of the City of London and Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers.
Q: Are there any business related or policy issues that keep you awake at night?
The East of England offers that perfect combination of high-tech, bio-tech and pharma, traditional professional services and well-established agricultural industries. With quick links to London, Europe and International Trade on our doorstep, it’s no wonder that #EnterprisingEast is an ever-growing hashtag. With a 2018 report finding that four out of the top five [Cambridge, Ipswich, Milton Keynes, Norwich] of the UK’s top fastest growing economies are in the East of England our prospects are very good.
I worry however about our skills shortage and the cost of recruitment and retention across the region. As a marketeer we see that the opportunities and threats of an uncertain future with Europe is concerning all of our clients and I don’t see this changing in the foreseeable future.
Q: Why do you think business leaders should join the IoD?
The IoD represents the standard for good leadership and corporate governance and it is our duty as Directors to ensure we uphold these standards and the values that should go hand in hand with being a Director. The IoD helps support us with up to date information and best advice and offers Continuous Professional Development as leaders and managers. It also gives us a valid voice on Government Policy and an opportunity to network with like minded leaders.