Interview with Oonagh McGrane of Lloyds Banking Group on Confidence and Visibility.

Hi and welcome to High Definition You. It’s Gitanjali here. And this week I am joined by the wonderful Oonagh from Lloyds Banking Group. 

Welcome, Oonagh. So I recently did a talk for your Women’s Network on the subject of Confidence and Visibility in a Virtual World. Tell me a little bit, firstly, about who you are, and why you’re passionate about that particular part of the business, women in business, and helping them thrive.

Sure. I have two roles in the bank. Within our transaction bank, I look after our networks, the services we buy from other banks. But I also look at our proposition articulation, so explaining the services and the products that we offer for our corporate and institutional clients.

Oh, wow. So can you put it in layman’s language and help people understand what it actually is.

Layman’s language in videos, brochureware, representation at conferences. Yeah, it’s fun.

Amazing. And how did you come to be involved in this particular Women’s Network? What really fires you up about that? What are you passionate about in that space? 

I’ve been working in banking – and particularly in transaction banking for over 20 years. And I’ve been very passionate throughout all of that journey and various stages in my career development, as well as the promotion of diversity and inclusivity in the various different organisations that I’ve worked with. I joined Lloyds Bank five years ago, and there’s a really lovely, enthusiastic movement about becoming more inclusive and more diverse. And I was particularly passionate about making our company representation similar to the representation of our clients.

I love that because it’s a big topic, isn’t it, diversity and inclusion. So finding ways to actually make it really tangible for people. 

And I think about that back in my 15-year career in banking and really bringing it to life in the way that you do with, for example, this series of talks that you’re putting on over the summer. What were some of the major obstacles that you saw these women were facing and the business as a result? What prompted our initial conversations?

I suppose it was twofold. We put a survey out to our female colleague base at the end of last year to understand, after the work that we did last year, what else they felt we could assist or support to maximise their journey within the organisation. And there were probably three things that came out of that. One was confidence. Another was networking and approaching networking in a more strategic way. And I think third, particularly relevant in a COVID-19 environment, is visibility and how you make yourself more visible, whether you’re agile working, whether you’re working in a digital environment or whether you don’t have the networking tools that you maybe had in the past. So they were probably the three that came up. And it was interesting, they came up before the COVID-19 crisis. We were going through a process of figuring out what we could do for colleagues in an actual interface space environment. And then we did a rethink in March about what we could do that would really add benefits. And then we went to the pitch and turn and said, well, let’s look to maybe some external, influential women who we can have nice panel discussions to bring a bit of external viewpoint to our colleagues.

And I mean there’s a lot of speakers and influential women, as you say, out there. Why did you come to me? What was it about me that appealed? What did I bring to the table?

I particularly liked one of the pieces that I heard you talk against, which I particularly use and found very resonant was the getting to do something, and just that simple articulation of rather than thinking I should do or I could do or I want to do, I get to do, and I’ve used it a lot over this summer, working from home, having a young child, of saying, you know what, I actually should go out for a run instead of I get to go out for a run for half an hour and clear my head and do something. So I found that particularly resonant. And I think, as I mentioned to you when we prepared for the session, any little pieces of additional toolkit that we can bring to our female population that are easy and concise and are just little messages that you could take and you could use that might make a difference.

There’s a lot going on, isn’t it? It’s a busy, busy environment. I don’t think there’s many industries which don’t have that, but particularly at the moment, so those little applicable, practical things I know that was definitely something that we looked at. When you were considering booking me, so to speak, was there any resistance? Did any resistance show up that meant that you couldn’t say ‘yes’ straightaway?

No, not at all. I think within the group were very supportive. We put a little plan together of speakers that we’d have against the three themes. And I think it was a very easy journey.

And what were the benefits? We kind of combined two themes, didn’t we: confidence and visibility, particularly in this virtual world. As you say, those are themes that have always been present: confidence, visibility and networking, but in this virtual way. What were the benefits of the talk in terms of that population?

I think speaking to people afterwards, the idea of changing the approach to visibility and exposure, and I think the P.I.E model, in particular, resonates with a lot of people. I think we are all guilty of saying, but I do such a great job, and I produce all these great things, people must just know where I want to go, what I want to do and what I’m contributing. And I think just putting a little bit more energy and effort into that exposure and how you’re perceived, I think can be very useful for everyone. And I’ve done a bit of that myself.

You have. Fantastic. So tell me a bit more about that. What changed for you and maybe what changed for the audience as a result of the talk?

Well, I think I particularly loved at the end when we had the instant feedback from the attendees that 67% felt “more lioness” (confidant, willing to make themselves more visible etc), which is an incredibly positive thing that just after an hour people would feel like I’m owning today a little bit more, I’m feeling I’m in charge of my career, I’m in charge of my working day in a very difficult environment.

And I mean that’s great for the individual as well, which is always my focus, but also the organisation is my focus as well, as I know it is for you. What do you think are some of the benefits that the business has seen as a result of that?

Well, we have a very engaged population, and everybody is working incredibly hard in an incredibly difficult environment. What I think the added bonus is, our organisation is doing a huge amount in terms of resilience and mental health and giving us the right tools and support infrastructure in working through this environment, regardless of what boat everybody is in, in this storm. Whereas I think some of the pieces that we brought over the summer were just those little additional pieces that maybe, in the current environment, you’re not necessarily giving yourself the luxury of time to think about what I can do every single day that might just make my work life a little bit easier or to make myself a little bit more visible.

And I know that these women were in all different parts of the business. And when you think about the way that they’re showing up now, after this talk, what do you think they’re doing differently? You mentioned exposure, but what’s the impact been on the business or the clients as a result of that?

Well, I think from the colleagues that I’ve talked to about it, it would be more around thinking in everything that you do, how you can make your life a little bit easier, I think, to a degree. I think one thing that has come across with a lot of people I’ve talked to is in the current working environment, we can all take things a little bit more personally, or we can self-study a little bit too much. I think we don’t have that office environment where you might stand off against somebody quite easily and quite quickly. There’s a risk of maybe overreacting to things. I think giving anyone the toolkit of little things that you can do that either give yourself some space to breathe, that gives you some resonance around themes like how you are perceived, both in the tools that we’re using, be it Teams, Zoom or WebEx, and other little things that you can do to reach out to people that you are not seeing.

And that’s definitely been some feedback that I’ve had from many people afterwards, whether it’s by email or LinkedIn, and it’s that piece of actually proactively reaching out to people and thinking about your visibility in that way, as you say, particularly in this environment, whatever the tools are that we’re using for communication. What was it particularly about the way that I work that you think got those results?

I think that there was a huge amount compressed into one hour. You might have even surprised yourself. And I think that was the goal; this was one event to reach out to a range of colleagues at various different stages in their career and working in various different industries. So it’s how do you create a level playing field that you can bring something to the table for everybody? So I think from the chat about impostor syndrome, to the P.I.E piece that I mentioned, to you did also mention the ‘I get to’ which I personally have said loved. So there was a lot in there, so hopefully everyone got to take something out of it.

And what might have surprised you? You said that you had a series of other speakers over the summer as well. What surprised or delighted you about my particular talk?

I think certainly the range of content, the amount you were able to fit into that one hour was fantastic and really appreciated.

Amazing. Well, it was my privilege to be able to spend that time with the women in your network at Lloyds Banking Group. I really enjoyed it. As you say it was a much needed discussion and has been for a long time, particularly compressed now considering the challenges that we’re facing, working virtually like this, whether that’s women or men, but those things are one that will continue on. So thank you for inviting me in to speak to them. 

Finally, Oonagh, if there’s another individual or organisation that’s thinking about engaging with me for a talk, whether it’s on Confidence and Visibility or another topic, what would you say to them?

I would probably say just be quite focused and considered about what is the message you want to get across? What is the theme that you’re trying to address and the audience that you’re trying to reach? If it’s a smaller group, that might change the dialogue rather than reaching the larger group that we did in quite a concise period of time.

And what advice would you give to that person about approaching me in particular?

Well, I certainly found it very easy. As you know, we had an initial conversation. I gave you the background on what we were trying to achieve. It was very easy to condense down into the areas that we decided to focus on. And that was a very easy experience.

Amazing. So one final adjective. I always like to get people’s brains as you know, active into streamlining down to one thing, what’s one adjective that you would use, or two if you need to, to describe the event?

I would say incredibly enthusiastic and thought-provoking.

Amazing. Thank you, Oonagh, for your time. Have a super day here in London.