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Five things that made me

How Matt got to where he is now

Five things that made me' explores compelling stories of human leadership as we speak to senior role models within the firm. Every month, we walk in the shoes of a different leader to find out how they got to where they are now. This time, we put the spotlight on Matt Stallard, parent, consulting leader and neurodiversity champion.

Meet Matt

This is Matt. Matt just gets on with it. He lives his purpose because he genuinely believes in it – he’s not here to tick boxes or raise his profile. He’s someone who has found work–life balance, who sees lessons at every turn, who finds the best in everyone he works with. Here’s what we learnt from Matt.

1. Lessons on happiness

“I come from an artistic family – my sister has an MBE for her contribution to the arts – but as a little boy, all I dreamed about was being a footballer. I was good at art and maths, so in my early teens, I considered becoming an architect. Later, I decided a career in finance would be the easiest way to pay the bills. That’s how I ended up being an accountant.

Growing up, we never had much as a family. Mum and Dad were very big on helping the community around us. Their idea of success was never related to money, status or things. It was all about supporting our happiness and allowing us to be ourselves as we developed.

I’ve taken those early lessons with me through life, both with my own family and in my career. What I love most about my work is that it’s all about helping our clients make their own businesses and teams better. And that, of course, means investing in our talent so they can be their best selves.”

“From a young age, my parents taught me that helping others is where success lies.“

2. No mistakes

“I started my career at John Lewis. Dino Rocos, then-head of supply chain, was a great leader and a huge influence. There I was, a rookie finance manager, making all the mistakes, but he helped me turn them into positives. He taught me there’s no such thing as a setback because everything we go through is a learning journey.

I also discovered that I preferred to work on projects rather than month-to-month finance activities. That’s what ultimately made me join Deloitte – I thought I’d stay for two years to gain some international experience, but 14 years later I’m still here and loving it. The variety of clients, colleagues and alliance partners I get to work with keeps things exciting.

Day to day, what I enjoy most is working with my teams and learning from their experiences. I feel really fortunate that I can ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ – because we have giants at every grade. Regardless of structure and hierarchy, it’s simply about who you are and what you’re good at.”

“There’s no such thing as a failure. Everything’s a learning experience.“

3. Being a dad

“Finding the right balance between work and home life is really important to me. I took four months’ paternity leave after the birth of my third child – it was great for my and my family’s wellbeing. I learnt a lot about myself and how society still has a way to go in supporting dads in caring for children.

I always try to be open with my teams about how I’m managing my family life. I don’t think twice about taking a couple of hours during the day to go to something at the children’s school. I know I’ll still get the right work outcome, even if it means picking it up later that evening or another day. And my clients also respect it – they’re human too.

When I became a people leader for some new senior managers, one of them told me how she’d remembered a moment from a couple of years back where I was getting ready to leave the office at 4.30 for my kid’s sports competition. She said, “Somebody asked you something, you said ‘I’ve got to go, I’ve got to get home. Send me an email, send me a text, I’ll answer, or we can do a call later tonight or tomorrow.’ You were adamant you weren’t going to miss it.”

She was just back from maternity leave and told me how refreshing it was that I was so open in the office and for everyone to hear. It gave her confidence to prioritise her family life, too. One benefit of COVID has been people seeing more into my personal life and in particular my children – the real side of me. Even on leadership calls, they sometimes make an appearance. It’s made my job a lot easier.”

“Don’t underestimate the impact of simple, everyday acts on others.“

4. Proud moments

“Charlie, our oldest, still couldn’t speak when he was six. He has a rare chromosome deficiency that resulted in a global developmental delay and nonverbal autism. I learnt sign language to engage with him, and we bought him a piano. Through music, we got him into singing, and through singing we got him speaking. He now performs on stage at Stagecoach in front of audiences up to 300 people with no use of sign language.

He inspired me to create the neurodiversity programme in Consulting, to support our people who identify with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia or dyspraxia. Some people on the team identify with neurodiverse features; others just want to be an ally. But it’s also been a catalyst for a change in business, freeing individuals to thrive as their authentic self.

It’s been so rewarding engaging with so many people who identify with neurodiverse features and being able to support them to thrive as themselves, but also learning so much more about myself and our business. I’m a complete extrovert and make decisions quickly, so it has taught me to pause and give others time before I voice my views.

Through the programme, I’ve had some of the proudest moments in my career: seeing people who two years ago couldn’t speak with their own people leader about identifying with neurodiverse features, now sharing their experiences in sessions with over 1,000 people.”

“When I retire, it will be these things I’ll remember, not just the successful delivery I did for big clients. “

5. Inspiration's everywhere

“One of the first things I did when I joined Deloitte was an employability programme for students doing vocational qualifications. Before we went in the room, we’d get them to draw a picture of a typical Deloitte person. You guessed it – lots of suits and briefcases. Then I’d go in and talk to them, with my South London accent, about me and my background.

It saddens me when people feel they need to change to fit in. I try to reaffirm the reason a team member is in the role they’re in is because of who they are and what they bring to the table. If they try to change to something they’re not, they’re taking away what made us want them to be part of our team in the first place.

My main advice is to not just look upwards for amazing leaders – inspiration comes from everywhere. I learn from my kids every day. I was reading Bold Women in Black History with my daughter Rose recently. Listening to how she was interpreting things, how she just understands diversity and how she wants to do the right thing made me so proud. It gave me hope that the world is heading in a good direction.”

“Inspiration comes from everywhere – don’t just look upwards for amazing leaders.“

Five things we learnt from Matt

1. Helping others is where success lies.

2. There’s no such thing as a failure. Everything’s a learning experience.

3. Let everyone hear it: work and home are both important.

4. Be you. You’re valued for who you are and what you bring to the table.

5. Inspiration comes from everywhere – just look around you.

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