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Interview snippet with Sandy Locke

Sandy Locke is the Global HR Director, Lombard International Group.

This is an extract of the Podcast Episode with Sandy for A Culture of Kindness. It is a great episode full of insight and wisdom, enjoy.

Sandy Locke

"... it's a powerful time for all of us to be introspective, and really to think about what kindness really is. So I think all of your work is just always timely, but even more so now. So thank you.

....But from a work perspective, you know, human resources wasn't always human and resourceful."

".....Let's talk about aligning the human capital strategy with the corporate objectives, let's make sure that we give people what they need. And that means not just career development. That we're talking about the whole person, we're talking about authenticity. And so to be in a room and really looking at the future of work, and those shifts are already happening. We as leaders need to stay current and be aware. We're already at a point where Millennials are the greater percentages in many of our workforces. And so, that does shift what motivates people in their work, and people are pushing to make sure that this time that they spend has meaning, purpose and value, and that they are, respected and that people are being kind to each other.

Well, I think that, when change occurs, and you Nahla speak about this, which is, that all of us have that power individually, to begin a change.

We're blessed to have so many different nationalities and 30 different languages spoken in Europe, in that 400 person group of people. It's a microcosm of synergies of respecting each other's cultures, which is not always easy, right? And so, when you think about it, and people would say things, when I said, "Tell me, what makes this culture, tell me what it is?" you know, and I would say, "we all have responsibility for this culture, it is it is made up of all of us, but each one of us has the power to shift it."

And you really say that in the work Nahla and you show it with examples that make people react. I mean, it was interesting when you spoke to the people in Europe there were people with tears in the workplace, which is just not usual, right, it doesn't typically happen. And that was last year, pre pandemic, in the beginning of the winter and I think that for me, because I do, I guess meet people where they are our leaders, you know, people are fundamentally, really good people. And their intention is to be valuable and to do good work. So I always start with people's intentions are honourable and good. So if you start from there, and you know that then you get from them what they're trying to achieve, and you help them align what their work is in a way where you talk about what motivates people. And so I try to do it in a way where I look at people's strengths. And I say, 'tell me where the strengths are on your team', and 'tell me what you see and help them focus on the good'.

And, you know, one of the quotes, I remember, you know, from last year in terms of talking about artificial intelligence and empathy and where we, as you know, human leaders need to be thinking about such things as kindness and how we lead our workforce was that the decade of 2020 wasn't going to be 10 years of change, it was going to feel like 20,000 years of change, and that was pre pandemic, and it gives me the chills to just say it out loud, because I did begin in college with computer's in society, and I lived in this building with 20 people and we were really given a personal computer. We all had different majors, and it was the idea of what would the future look like? Would we work more or less, work more? You know, would we go paperless? I mean, I'm still a paper person, but I'm definitely less of a paper person. But you know, it's not quite there yet. But we're really moving now with the pandemic, that's going to accelerate and what are the accelerators?

You know, would we shop online, I never thought I would shop online. Now though I only ever shop online so these are changes that took 30 years to come about. There will be self reliance from the pandemic that we will take away and hopefully this reset, lets us look at how we can work differently, how we can have work life balance, how we can appreciate that someone can be as productive from home and be able to spend time with their family to have more quality experiences in their life. And, and so, you know, what that hybrid looks like, as we return to the new normal will be interesting, but certainly a challenge.

I mean, we, you just talked about the impact that bringing the word kindness in has just just talking about kindness in Lombard, what was that impact? Because that even just that had an impact, right?

Before you did the Culture of Kindness program was even rolled it out? Right? You know, when you start to tell the story, and you introduce it there was sort of a 'Well, come on?!'

It was interesting, right? And I was having to state that kindness is actually a strength. So let's think about it differently.

You and I talked about how are we going to introduce this in a way that feels that it's the right thing to do, and it's, and that you're going to see a difference in how people respect each other and continue to thrive to work better together.

I asked them to trust me on this and thankfully I am fortunate enough to have the creativity in the role to do that. Really to see some of team right away get what you said, in terms of being able to have difficult conversations with someone that helps them see themselves in a different way that maybe they're not doing the work at the level that's expected is actually a kind conversation, right? And it's hard, but it's kind and I think that I've always been one of those people.

Apparently, in one of my new assessments, one of the words that's been described to me is 'tough'. And so it's one of the five pillars and you know, if you, if you think about me, you know, I laughed about it, but I know it's true, right? It's, it's, and when you dig deeper into what they were saying it was that I will confront, you know, difficult situations. So in terms of being tough to me, that honesty, that caring, that authenticity is really needed to move the organisation forward. And so for me as a change management, transformational leader, that is absolutely at the front of what I tried to do, which is to help people see that they are in the right place, that they can enjoy their work that they can thrive and enjoy what they're contributing if we do it, right.

Having those tough conversations earns you that trust. And you know, I talk about the trust and you, you and I both know, and not the place to go into it. Now I've got 1000 books and resources that people can go to it on the research on it. But you know, and so many people that I interview within senior management, talk about the erosion of trust and the need for us to continue to build that. And that trust only happens when you have those tough conversations, because people respect that, right. And it is hugely important rather than kind of papering over the cracks, and 'oh, we'll just keep moving on and it'll be fine''. We just won't say anything'.

But people feel that, they understand, we have an intuition, all something's not right. And it starts to shift and cause fault lines in the culture when we aren't honest.

I'd love to talk about what you and I have been talking about just this week. We've been talking about race, the changes in that, we've got COVID-19, but it's been one hell of a year for shift change in terms of people's perceptions, things that have been going on, and America has just seen some epic change. The sad death of George Floyd, but so many, many, many, not just George Floyd, but so many and, and I don't want to be disrespectful, not naming them all, but let me know your thoughts on that.

I know, it's really a time for the country to address where we are. It's very interesting from

the cultural phenomenon of the country being shut down. They're not being able to watch or par take in sports, they're not having an ability to do anything else. And so to see people of all races to get on the streets and to protest as they did throughout the summer, was so powerful, and in my lifetime, just had not really experienced it, to watch it, you know with people with masks on and certainly worried about people, but they had this firm belief that they needed to go out and say how horrific this is.

I think it's a really tough thing that the country is so divided and our leadership, and I hate to get political about it, but clearly, for us, we are at a crossroads. You know, there is this mistrust of the media, which unfortunately brought about the election of a man who was not qualified to be president, and that's costing this country in my opinion, with many, many, many, unneeded deaths.There has not been leadership, and if we talk about leadership and the needs and how important it is, but also, you know, the beauty of the democracy in America is it is supposed to change things, we will survive it, but now we have to reset,

and what the protests and George Floyd highlighted was 20 years from when some of these unnecessary deaths occurred.

I mean, this has been going on in our country for a while, and there have been times where people pay attention, and you think there's going to be real change. And in some cities, there have been changes with the police. But building that trust with the police and the cities is only one part of it, because our economic system is really not dealt with, you know, people of colour that systemically from an educational standpoint, what they're offered, on how do they get out of the economic and social barriers that they're up against.

There's a lot here to unpack and the country is paying attention so I'm really quite proud that I've been working with Megan Hodge, to work on a strategic plan for inclusion, and a lot of the things that in HR people talk about is diversity and inclusion and in America, they've added the word equity, but we haven't had conversations in the workplace about race. We've had conversations about gender. And in the UK, you have the gender pay equity. Right? But when you think about having conversations around race, as you say, internationally, the core scars aren't the same as they are in America. The division in the country is really quite strong. And yet, it does when we start breaking it down, it's so much more than just unconscious barriers. There's these microaggressions, and really trying to understand different words in this type of work that we will undertake at Lombard in terms of having conversations around it.

What does racial equity look like? What are the barriers that happened before? Do we really understand it?

And so there's a lot of work for us to do in the workplace in terms of what does it mean, you know, to be black in the workplace, and then just broadening it out further to people of colour of all races, there's just stigma in America that does need to be recognised. And then how do we help? You know, bring about equity, what does that look like? How do we make sure we're giving people the opportunities, and so some of the work in HR that has been done to bring women on you can see, NASDAQ is now putting forth corporate goals that is not just, you know, not just about women, but people of underrepresented minority groups, so that we start to think about it, not just from people of colour, but you know, LGBTQ community, people that are not considered

This is finance, it's a pretty white male industry and in insurance, we're pretty behind in a sense, and, there is that mirror complex, in a sense that people are comfortable with people that look like themselves.

How do we help people get comfortable being uncomfortable? Yeah, that's really a lot of the work that we have to do, and really just be okay, with understanding where somebody comes from and where they can give of themselves?

Yeah, absolutely. We talked offline just before, I grew up in an environment where Father Christmas was a black man because I grew up out in the Middle East, and when I saw that when I was very little it's just what I've known. So I've never thought, 'oh well, this person is black, and then had an opinion of them, I've just thought, they have black skin, this person has white skin, that person is just how they are, it's just never been anything else. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't educate myself on the challenges by any means. But what I'm trying to highlight from it is that I'm a believer that it is what we are brought up with what we understand. I think in America, there is something that's been so deep rooted, that it's just gone on and on and on, and kind of just divided and divided out and divided out. Would you say that that was right?

I think that they're stereotypes, I mean, Americans this melting pot, so it used to be the Irish and the Italian. And, ya know it's very interesting to watch how stereotypes and history brought about these expectations that if this is who you are by your background, then this is what I can expect of you. Right.

As America has become more and more diverse one of the things that I really tried to understand and work with people is; what are they afraid of? What is the fear that's driving them? What is it that's holding them back, and some of this is really where you can see the underlying bias of what they think. And, you know, again, pushing yourself to be open.

Yeah, there is something in our very conditioning as humans and I might have spoken about it, but certainly within book where the idea of the Sabre toothed tiger. Years ago, when we had to protect ourselves. There's the Sabre tooth tiger that we know is going to be dangerous to us. And so we make that assumption when we look at somebody and it might be that you know, the Irish and the Italians, you know, well if you're Irish, then I know that you could be dangerous to me in a certain environment. And so actually it does spread out more and more just because everybody will look at that other person will you are a male on your own walking behind it, we make an assumption straight away, we want to protect us protect ourselves, right?

So all of those stories in our minds just kind of happen. You know, I'm a huge believer that when we actually get rid of BAME groups, and we get rid of this award that's only for Asian or Black people, we start to get rid of all of those stereotypes, then in fact then we've truly succeeded because then we stop dividing and keeping divides and people feeling that they have to have these separate groups because they feel that they are not being represented enough........


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