Behind the Desk
Name: Lynne Connolly
Position: Global Head of Inclusion and Diversity
Company: Standard Life Aberdeen plc
Number of employees: Headquartered in Scotland and listed in the UK, Standard Life Aberdeen employs around 6,000 people in 52 locations worldwide. We manage and administer over £577.5bn of assets (as of June 30, 2019).
Short overview of organisation: Our aim is to build a world-class investment company and create long-term meaningful relationships with all our stakeholders. We develop innovative products and services to meet the evolving needs of investors and savers. All of this is supported by our talented people across the globe.
What is the greatest recurring challenge you come across in your role, and what’s your strategy for dealing with it?
Inclusion has to be a long-term focus as it includes reshaping behaviours and workplace cultures which have formed as a result of influences across industries, societies, education and even families. My approach is to embed this into what we stand for as a company and to keep a relentless and sustained attention on making progress amongst the many competing priorities. Understanding that this is not about big initiatives or doing something separate to what we do every day is key – it’s about the daily experiences our people feel and see and encouraging people at all levels of our company to take practical steps to create a more inclusive environment around them.
Who, or what, drives you or inspires you?
I’m driven by creating equal chances and by a belief that everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to reach their potential. This then leads to many societal and economic benefits for everyone – too many to list here!
What is your long-term vision for the organisation that you lead?
To create a great place to work where our people thrive – a place where our people feel able to bring all that is unique about them to work and where we bring our diverse talents together to deliver great outcomes for our clients and customers.
What keeps you awake at night?
How long the change takes. I’m a naturally impatient person so when, for example, it is still estimated to take 70 years to achieve full gender equality in the workplace, that frustrates me.
What makes a good leader great?
Their passion and values. Leaders who are authentic, compelling and whose words and actions match create followership and have a far bigger and longer lasting impact.
Have you had a mentor, and what did he/she add to your development?
I’ve had several mentors at different stages of my career and for different reasons. Most often it’s about having a safe space to talk through opportunities and challenges and to get a different perspective – diverse thinking at its best!
Even leaders aren’t the finished article. What’s next in your leadership development journey?
I believe that there is always something to learn and I love surrounding myself with new people with new ideas. I’d like to continue to build my external leadership of inclusion across our sector and will continue to do so using my recent IoD Scotland award as a platform.
What is the ‘next big thing’ that will transform your sector?
Innovation on all fronts is important and my sector (financial services) is changing so rapidly. Start-up financial companies will continue to place immense pressure on more established companies like mine and the expectations of both customers and those who work with us will continue to diversify with demographic change and the global landscape. Companies who are truly inclusive will be able to transform the sector through attracting more diverse talent to better understand our diverse customers and drive more innovation through bringing together our creative ideas.
What piece of technology do you rely on most?
For the job I do, I love using technology that makes it easy to enable sharing and dialogue – in other words, inclusive by its very nature.
What is your favourite social media platform, and what does it bring to your business/organisation?
I personally enjoy using LinkedIn as it is flexible in terms of the content which can be both shared and accessed. I don’t believe that one company alone can progress inclusion in isolation, so I enjoy both sharing what we are doing as a company and learning from others.
What needs fixed?
For me it’s about changing the perception of my industry, so it is better understood and is attractive and accessible to all types of talent, wherever they are located and whatever their background and experience.
What leadership advice would you give your younger self?
I’d grow my confidence more quickly to put forward my perspective while still respecting others’ views. I spent a lot of my early career being apologetic.