The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 25, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 11 at the The Ritz-Carlton in McLean, Virginia.
Next is Chief Operating Officer (Private & Public) finalist Charles Beard, COO of Guidehouse. Here, he talks key recent achievements, learning from failures, primary focus areas going forward and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2021/2022?
Bringing our post-pandemic hybrid work model to life — especially with our new headquarters office in Tysons. We saw that the legacy models of work would give way to new work-life balance needs at the same time as the need for more sense of community and connectedness.
We took a big risk in translating those needs into office designs and using the pandemic period to redesign offices to this new standard. The greatest example of this is our new facility in Tysons adjacent to the Boro that is purpose-built for a post-pandemic employee experience. The client and employee feedback has simply been outstanding.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I have had the great fortune of serving some of the best clients and client organizations in the world and I have taken something from each of them. From GE and Honeywell, I took away the commitment to measurement and making informed business systems based on quantitative data. From Southwest Airlines, I took away the “warrior spirit” of care that permeates how they treat customers and employees. From the Department of Defense, I took away the commitment to mission. From the Justice Department, the commitment to due process. From my volunteer work with Inova, the value of team — every time, every touch.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
The company’s response to the pandemic — both internally and externally. We brought our commercial and public sector teams in financial services together to support the nation’s efforts to fuel the economy through the massive recovery programs of the U.S. Treasury. We brought our public sector and commercial health care practices together to support the life sciences community in understanding the virus and build vaccines. And in South Africa, we orchestrated the delivery of those vaccines. We stood up an internal crisis management team that met constantly throughout the pandemic, first working on continuity of operations and then pivoting to new support services for our employees and their families around the globe.
What are your primary focus areas going forward, and why are those so important to the future of the nation?
Restoring trust in our government institutions and symbols. The current national debate risks losing a national identity that is foundational to our democracy and our work on behalf of those government institutions has to be beyond reproach.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Don’t overpromise. It’s always better to be straight with the client, employee and board member what you can actually provide and when. Everyone always wants the answer sooner and if you must deliver it sooner, be clear about what you know now versus the confidence in what you will know in 24, 48 or 72 hours.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Stepping away from the security of a guaranteed pension three times to do something different.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
That I created more jobs, supported more families and their dreams, delivered on very difficult client engagements that made a difference for those companies and their employees.
What was your biggest career struggle and how did you overcome it?
Transitioning from direct client engagements to executive management. Trying to do both is a struggle and what generally gives are your personal relationships. You simply can’t do it all.