Leading in a Transforming Environment: Rutherford Cross Interim CFO Roundtable with Joyce White OBE

Rutherford Cross ran the latest in its Interim CFO Roundtable series last week with Joyce White OBE, who is an Executive Coach, Mentor and NED with Peak Potential. Joyce delivered a presentation on ‘Leading in a Transforming Environment’ followed by a Q&A session. There were 9 highly experienced CFO’s and Finance Directors in attendance from a variety of sectors including Construction, Financial Services, Renewable Energy, Media, Technology and the Public and Not for Profit Sectors.


Joyce has had a unique career journey, transitioning from the private sector to the public sector at Director level. Joyce is an FCMA qualified accountant whose early career was in the private sector working for ICI, SCA Packaging and Prestwick Airport, followed by a move to West Dunbartonshire Council in 2008 where she became Chief Executive before taking early retirement in 2022. Rutherford Cross Director, Derek Lauder has summarised the discussion and Joyce’s Q&A responses below.

To effectively lead in a transforming environment, you need to take into consideration the key issues facing the Scottish and UK economy, including the current cost of living crisis; high inflation; high interest rates; mental, physical and emotional wellbeing; The Health Agenda and the focus on prevention before cure; amongst other significant issues. Joyce mentioned a personal focus on the regeneration of Scotland and the benefits of shopping locally. Looking at the role of the CFO, or any senior leader, Joyce emphasised that it has never been more important to be caring and empathetic in our leadership roles today, remaining mindful of the mental health challenges that many people are facing. As a leader, you have to think about the language you use with your team members and colleagues, and the big stick is very much a thing of the past, thankfully!

The conversation moved onto how Joyce led the transformation at West Dunbartonshire Council. Joyce talked about 4 key areas that underpinned the transformation:

  1. Cultural Shift – Developing a set of values, and living the values, was vital in changing the culture of the organisation. You also have to use a team approach, engaging everyone in the change journey. Small things made a big difference, such as the Chief Executive giving up their parking space or their office and moving into the open planned office to work more closely with the team
  2. Structural Change – There was a de-layering of the organisation, flattening the structure to make it less hierarchical. This was carried out through 3 phased changes following the McKinstry model. There was also a removal of silos with an emphasis on a one-organisation approach
  3. Reputational Enhancement – We made sure to hire an excellent Communications / PR team and developed the right messages and connections
  4. Excel in Everything – They developed a continuous improvement culture and utilised a pioneering appraisal system that did not involve the normal formal appraisals


There was a short discussion on the new ways of working with an observation that the ‘leading at the coalface’ approach is lost if your team are all working from home. Encouraging more face-to-face interaction is one of the current challenges but is particularly important if your business is going through transformation. Also, from a mental health perspective, it was discussed that through WFH we are not seeing the whole person, so it is more difficult to really know how everyone is feeling.

Joyce closed the session with advice to help you develop your leadership capabilities during these ever-changing times:

  • Go for it!
  • Be excited about what you do
  • Be patient
  • Challenge yourself and others
  • Take responsibility for your own actions
  • Realise that you are in competition with yourself only
  • Win over your key supporters, connect and learn from each other
  • Listen to the wisdom of others
  • Be yourself
  • Find your Passion


Thanks very much again to Joyce White for sharing her wisdom and experience with the Group: it was a very worthwhile session.

If you are interested in future Interim CFO Roundtable sessions or have an enquiry relating to the Senior Finance interim market in Scotland, please contact [email protected]. If you are interested in the services of a highly experienced Mentor and Business Coach, please contact Joyce directly at [email protected].