Best Boss Series: Janet Pope, Chief of Staff and Group Director, UK

Janet Pope joined the Lloyds Group in 2008 to run the Savings business, she was previously Chief Executive at Alliance Trust Savings, prior to which she was EVP Global Strategy at Visa International. Janet spent 10 years at Standard Chartered Bank where she held a variety of roles including Retail Banking MD for Africa and non-executive directorships at Standard Chartered Bank Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana. Janet is Chairman of the Charities Aid Foundation Bank and a non-executive director of Banking Standards Board. Janet studied at the London School of Economics, she has a Master’s degree in Economics and holds an MBA from Cass Business School. She is also the Group’s Executive Sponsor for Inclusion and Diversity.

Tell me how you define a successful leader.

I think a successful leader is one who articulates a clear and compelling vision, inspires followership, creates clarity for his or her team in terms of their responsibilities and an environment of respect and appreciation.

When in your career did you find you really began to be an impactful leader and what gave you proof of this?

In my early 40’s I led the Global Strategy team at Visa. We achieved a lot in a team which was characterised by high levels of mutual respect. I remain in regular contact with most of the team, many of whom describe our time together as a career highpoint. That’s my proof.

More from Best Boss series: Søren Kristensen, Founder of Athenas, Denmark: “Employees are not there for the sake of a leader – a leader is there for the sake of employees”

Share with me your greatest leadership success/experience.

At Standard Chartered Bank in the mid-1990’s, I ran the retail bank in Africa. We invested, promoted efficiency, modernised and put the business back on the Standard Chartered map. As a leader, my contribution was to define the strategy, create clear implementation plans and inspire my teams to deliver across 17 countries.

Recall your biggest managerial challenge. Tell me how you handled this. What did you learn that you might do differently next time?

The Lloyds Bank/HBOS merger was a difficult time for everyone because of the inevitable job security concerns. My strong sense was that my team would fare best by continuing to deliver their best performance. I should have given more praise and positive feedback during such a challenging time.

Who has been your greatest mentor? Were they a colleague or did you hire a professional coach? What about this person or the experience had the biggest impact on your growth?

I have been immensely fortunate to have had sponsorship at CEO level through the first 20 years of my career; he knows who he is! He showed belief in my potential and dropped me in deep ends which I would have shunned if left to my own devices.

The common opinion states that in order to succeed in business one has to be ruthless. A quick survey of world’s most domineering companies seems to support that view. Do you think it’s possible to be very successful in business and still be a nice/kind person?

I think kindness is the most underrated quality in business. It’s hard to perform at one’s best in a climate of fear which is what ruthlessness breeds. My sad caveat is that I think it needs a mixture of ruthlessness and kindness in a team to get the best results.

Let’s talk about managing pressure – how do you control your own emotions and temper when things don’t go to plan? Not lashing out at those around you is a skill – what are your tips?

I am pleased to have a reputation for being calm. I don’t lose my temper. That’s not the same as not getting upset. I just tend to deal with setbacks 1:1 rather than with an audience.

At times, we all hit a low point. How do you motivate yourself?

Truthfully, I dial up something else in my life which is going well like volunteering: take a headspace break from the things which are getting me down and draw strength from the positive endeavour.

More from Best Boss Series: Dmitry Shishkin, UK: “Empowering others to be the best they can be is an integral part of my life”

Most large organisations today have a strict bonus and pay raise policy, which makes it difficult to reward people even when you know they truly deserve it. Have you found a way of dealing with this?

I think praise, especially public praise, goes a long way. People need public acknowledgement of their successes.

Companies often refer to themselves as “family”, yet only a few support their employees like a family supports its members – unconditionally. Aside from professional training, what support do you offer your employees?

Lloyds is among the leading companies in creating a diverse and inclusive workspace. I am proud to have helped put in place programmes aimed at ensuring women and BAME colleagues achieve their potential, programmes which help LGBT colleagues be themselves at work and programmes which reduce the stigma of mental health problems. A supportive environment is crucial to colleagues achieving their potential.

Some managers believe in a strict hierarchy and the “do what I say approach”, sighting cultural norm as an excuse. What are your thoughts on this?

“Do what I say” is the exercise of power, not leadership. Good leadership requires a careful explanation of why and how. Only when colleagues understand why and how will they give their best.

Team building has become a buzzword in the corporate world, yet many still do not see the value in applying it to their group or organization. What are your beliefs and or successes around team building?

Simply that well-motivated teams are more powerful than autocrats.  I’m not fond of teambuilding activities which have colleagues jumping through hoops. Better to take time to celebrate success, derive learnings, give feedback …

How do you decide to be available to your team (i.e. text/Email/voice call/video call)? How do you determine the best way for them to contact you that does not interrupt your workflow?

I’m not very good at restricting access, hence I do tend to get interrupted a lot but I take a very collegiate approach to work and the interaction is crucial.

How do you best separate work life from personal life – for a healthy balance? What are your biggest challenges around this? How does this impact you personally?

Like most working mothers I am rarely either in family mode or work mode. The two tend to overlap. I will take time out of my working day to proofread an essay for my daughter just as I will often take time out of a family holiday to deal with something for my team. I don’t think it’s possible to live life in compartments.

Explain how you work with HR for recruiting and interviewing. What works for you and how do you handle the interviewing process for vetting candidates?

I have the best HR business partner today. It’s a real collaboration, Andrew Cumming, thank you! Andrew and I work together on the role description, he screens the candidates to create a long list and we take it from there together.

More from Best Boss series: Elena Lokteva, Operating Partner, UK: “Strong leadership and kindness are not mutually exclusive”.

How do you respond to employees/colleagues who are diagnosed with mental disorders, e.g. depression or anxiety?

I hope I can be commented on to be one of those who responds with great sensitivity and creates an environment in which colleagues can still thrive, I am fortunate to work for a company which is doing pioneering work to build resilience and provide great support through times of crisis.

Sometimes an employee is not working out despite your best efforts and you know that this relationship is not serving them or the business. At which point do you decide to part company and how do you go about it?

I believe honest conversations are the only way forward. Treat people with respect and help them move on with dignity. If the honest conversation doesn’t throw up a way of supporting a colleague to achieve more, I think an early dignified exit is best, and lots of support to move on.

The Best Boss Coaching Project brought to you by Talent Investors is here to promote excellence in the workplace. Throughout 2018 we are speaking to people from across the world, and across different industries, regardless of the companies’ size or their job title. Over the course of 52 weeks, you will be introduced to 52 bosses, from 52 backgrounds, answering 20+ questions. All designed to motivate you to lead, and grow effectively. We are here to provide wisdom from, and recognition for those every day other people’s lives better.