Series Eight, Episode Three – The Value of Introverts and Importance of Apprentices

Posted on June 3, 2020

Host Julia Streets is joined by Carol Stewart, Coach for high achieving introverted women and Rosie Reynolds, Chief Commercial Officer at Aspect Capital. They discuss the value of introverted employees, their particular leadership strengths and how other leaders can embrace their often overlooked contribution. This episode explores the contribution that apprentices can make in challenging traditional practices and bringing fresh vitality to an organisation. The world of work has changed radically over the past months and together Rosie and Carol consider many of the compelling reasons why diversity and inclusion must remain high on the agenda as we navigate the path ahead – most notably investor scrutiny.

Research mentioned in this episode:

The Corporate Finance Institute has five top tips for introverts starting a new job


Carole Stewart

Known as the Coach for High Achieving Introverted Women, Carol Stewart is an Executive, Career and Business Coach, founder of Abounding Solutions and author of Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact. She coaches women who feel overlooked and unheard, to raise their visibility and profile so they exude presence and excel as leaders. She also provides workshops, webinars, training and talks to corporate gender networks and BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) networks on career development, personal development and leadership development. Carol is also a leadership team facilitator.

In 2015 Carol was named as one of Britain’s Top 50 Business Advisers by Enterprise Nation; in 2018 she won a We Are The City, Rising Star Champion award for her work helping women to progress in their careers; in 2017, 2018 and 2019

Carol was named a LinkedIn Top Voice UK; and in 2019 listed as one of Britain’s inspirational Christian women making major impact. She is a school governor, volunteers for a youth charity (having previously been Chair), mentors.

You can follow Carol on Twitter @aboundsolutions.

Rosie Reynolds

Rosie joined Aspect in May 2005 and was appointed to the Executive Board as Chief Commercial Officer in March 2018. Rosie is responsible for global business development and commercial strategy at Aspect and oversees the Sales, Investment Solutions, Investor Relations and Marketing functions. In her fifteen-year tenure at Aspect, Rosie has held various leadership roles across a number of functions within the Legal and Business Development Teams

Prior to joining Aspect, Rosie worked at Hogan Lovells from 2001 to 2005, qualifying as a corporate lawyer in 2003. She holds an LL.B (Honours) from Glasgow University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law (York).

 

Series Eight, Episode Three Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about equality, inclusion, and diversity in financial services. On the podcast we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus and offer lots of ideas to help inspire change. Today I’m joined by Carol Stewart and Rosie Reynolds.

Carol Stewart describes herself as the coach for high achieving introverted women. This year, her book, Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman was published to great acclaim, drawing from her experience as an executive career and business coach. Focusing on career, personal, and leadership development, Carol delivers a wide range of workshops and training sessions designed for corporates and also individual progression, and she’s been listed one of Britain’s Top 50 Business Advisors, named a WeAreTheCity Rising Star Champion, and for three years running LinkedIn named her one of the UK’s top voices. Carol, welcome to the show.

Carol: Hi, Julia. Thank you for having me here. I’m looking forward to the discussion.

Julia: Wonderful. Thank you so much. Joining Carol today, I’m delighted to welcome Rosie Reynolds. Rosie Reynolds is the Chief Commercial Officer at Aspect Capital, which is a $7.5 billion systematic investment manager. Since joining Aspect Capital some 15 years ago, Rosie has held various leadership roles and was appointed to the Executive Board in 2018, the year she was also listed as one of the 50 leading women in the hedge fund industry. Rosie juggles her career with raising four children and claims to be passionate about harnessing the best in every employee, mentoring small businesses, and advises younger generations. When she’s not doing this, she’s also learning how to paraglide in her spare time. Rosie, wonderful to see you. Thank you for joining us today.

Rosie: Thank you very much for having me. I’m absolutely delighted to be here with you and Carol today.

Julia: It’s great. It’s going to be a wonderful discussion. I’ve been really looking forward to this because there’s a lot in this that actually not many people talk about in the context of diversity and inclusion. I’m really keen to find out what you’ve been up to, what you’re focused on. Carol, let me come to you first of all, if I may. Keen to think about what’s your focus for 2020 and has that changed a bit of late?

Carol: My focus started out with my book and just getting the message out there about introvert bias and what it is and how it exists in the corporate environment, and so, I was going full throttle with that and then lockdown came and that put a, not a halt on things, but it slowed that aspect of it down. More recently, things are starting to pick up a bit, but there’s a bit more emphasis on, I guess, people getting through the lockdown and then also people thinking about what’s next? What’s going to be happening after, and looking at what they can be doing after and how the world of work may be changing and how people can best approach that and manage that.

Julia: I think that’s really interesting, isn’t it? Because right now, we are recording this episode during lockdown, but likely it’s airing as people are emerging from lockdown. So, it’ll be very interesting to see how the world of work is really shifting as well. I’d love to come back to you later on in terms of what this means for introverted professionals, whether this is a joyful time or has been a joyful time, whether it’s ripe full of opportunity or anything we should be really mindful of as well. Rosie, how about you? What are you focused on for 2020?

Rosie: My role at Aspect focuses on commercial and product strategy, but I sit on the board as well. I take a lot of my time looking after our people, that includes our corporate and social responsibility initiatives, which also includes diversity and inclusion as well. We’ll come on later to talk about the apprenticeship scheme, but that’s something that we’re very passionate about and I don’t think lockdown has changed any of our objectives per se. We’re still engaged with investors. We’re still raising assets albeit we’re having to try and find very different ways of doing business at the moment as we’ve shifted to this new world of remote working.

I think the one consistent thing is that I would have said that we have much more focus at the moment on our employees, including our apprentices of whom we have six, out of a workforce of 125, and really ensuring that those employees, especially the young ones, are looking after their mental health, looking after their physical health during this lockdown time, and that we’re doing everything we can to support them in that.

Julia: Wonderful. I’m sure there’s some great ideas there that listeners should be thinking about for their organisations. We had a little miniseries where we talked about managing the mental health of remote teams, because this is an incredibly important time. Carol, let me come back to you, your book, just to repeat the title Quietly Visible: Leading with Influence and Impact as an Introverted Woman, it talks there a lot about the misconceptions about introverts, and particularly as I say, introverted women as well. It’s hard to summarise a book in a matter of minutes, just some things that really came out for you and some observations the listeners should bear in mind.

Carol: A lot of it was about the misconceptions about what introversion is. It’s surprising that, even today, people still have misconceptions about introversion, thinking all introverts are shy, they lack confidence, they don’t like speaking in public and that sort of thing, but those could equally apply to extroverted people as well. I found that the corporate environment is very much geared towards extroverted, at times. A lot of the work practises are geared more for the style of somebody who is extroverted. Things like interviews, meetings, brainstorming, open-plan offices, don’t necessarily create an environment which allows an introverted person to be at their best. The style of introverts, we typically like to think and reflect before we speak. Things like interviews, meetings, there’s a lot of on-the-spot decisions, a lot of on- the-spot thinking that has to be made, which isn’t always necessary.

I think that organisations could look at their practises and look at how they can make them more introvert friendly and another thing which was quite stark for me as well, was the confirmation bias for introverted women and men, as well, because I had men approach me and tell me about their experiences, because of the misconceptions that people have been brought up or into, a lot of the women who I interviewed for my book, a lot of the women who I’ve coached, they have experienced self-doubt because they’re trying to be something that they’re not.

Julia: It is that classic thing, isn’t it? In the city where perhaps your mind naturally goes to an alpha male or female style of leadership and people make great common judgements, assumptions, mis-assumptions, about those with alpha type personalities tend to be great leaders. I’d love to get your thoughts on, first of all, is that true? In terms of do Alpha personalities make great leaders and what about the introverts? But then, also to what degree the world is waking up to harnessing the potential of more introverted leaders as well?

Carol: I don’t think that extroverts necessarily make great leaders, or when I say great leaders, better leaders than introverts. We only have to look at some of our world leaders, without mentioning names.

Julia: Tempting though, isn’t it?

Carol: I think that we do need balance. I do think that we need people who can be sociable and out there, but we also need people that are able to adapt their style. I think we need leaders who are self-aware, that they are aware of how their behaviour impacts on other people, that they’re emotionally intelligent, so they know when to adapt their style and their behaviour in order to get the best outcome of the situation. And I think that’s in respect to both introverted leaders and extroverted leaders, but we never hear people saying, “Oh, an extrovert needs to act more introverted.” But we always hear that introverts need to act more extroverted. Sometimes extroverted leaders could do well to rein things in a bit and be a bit more introverted, listen more, observe more before they speak.

Julia: It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Because you mentioned the words like self-awareness but also emotional intelligence; that’s really not just in the circumstances we’re in now, but certainly if you look at effective leadership coaching models, about the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence and even the conversation about vulnerability, and therefore I would imagine that they are natural behaviours and personality types of introverts that have the potential to do exceptionally well.

Carol: Yes, and when I was doing my research, those were some of the things that I found that introverts do tend to be able to empathise more. Introverts are typically well known for being good listeners and that is a key component of empathising with someone, is being able to listen. Often we listen, but we’re not listening. So, we’re just listening and we’re speaking for somebody or trying to finish their sentences for them, but listening and actually listening, not just what that person is saying, but observing their behaviours or their nonverbal communication as well. Introverts are typically known as being good listeners.

Julia: Well, I’d love to come back to this a little bit later in the show about, in the circumstances, we’re recording this over a platform, we’re actually not sitting physically in the same room and the impact technology has in helping introverts find their voice. When actually, some people are saying to me, “This is a great leveller,” actually, this current working model, which means that we do get to hear voices that we wouldn’t naturally have heard before, but also it does put an onus on people to still have the confidence and the personality type to want to step forward.

We’ll come back to that later on for sure. But I’m very keen to hear from Rosie, because you were talking there about your apprenticeship schemes, and I know you’ve been very proactive in finding apprentices, and often, it’s one of those employee categories that people will nod along to and go, “Yes, yes, yes. We should really think about apprenticeships.” But you’ve taken this incredibly seriously. Love to hear the rationale and some examples of your program’s success.

Rosie: Yes, it’s something that we’re deeply passionate about and it’s been a great success for us, in terms of the rationale, it’s the right thing to do from a societal perspective also. Our view is that having a diverse workforce is essential in making better decisions. You need diversity of thought, diversity of decision making. We really try to avoid groupthink at Aspect and ultimately that ought to result in better outcomes for our investors. I think research in the venture capital industry has actually shown that the more homogeneous a firm’s partners are, the lower the firm’s investment performance is. That was quite an interesting statistic that came out of the 2019 AIMA report on diversity and inclusion. The apprenticeship levy was put in place in 2017 and we actually embraced that, and since then we’ve hired nine apprentices into our business across a whole range of different functions, and it’s been really, really successful.

We’ve had one permanent employee from the first round of apprentices. Six of them are with us right now. We have one working towards a cybersecurity degree, two others working towards a professional qualification, like the IMC, and all of the others in training. It’s really encouraging to see the way that they’re growing and thriving and flourishing with us. As a business, it’s not just that they’re there day to day, helping us, as an organisation we’ve hugely benefited as well in other ways. These people are straight out of school, they have fresh perspectives. They’re incredibly smart. They’re enthusiastic. Their eagerness to learn is contagious, and we’ve really benefited from that injection of a fresh enthusiasm, as a business. The world is ever changing around us, no more so than now, and I think that to be well equipped for the future, we have to have the innovative thinkers and those fresh perspectives that our apprentices have brought to us.

I think one of the things that I’ve been so encouraged about is that they’re treated exactly the same way as any other employee at Aspect, they benefit from all of the employee benefits schemes. They can have share options in the company, they’re entitled to discretionary bonuses. They’ve really been integrated into the workforce. There’s no them and us divide, and there’s no doubt that the suite of apprentices we’ve introduced into the business are more diverse than our current employee group. So, again, we can see over time how that will impact us to make our workforce more diverse and to make it more inclusive, from our perspective, it’s been a resounding success.

Julia: Where do you find the talent from? Do you have advisors around you to help you find that talent, or do you go into the schools yourselves and find them?

Rosie: We do a fair bit of school outreach, but that’s with a slightly different objective in mind, that’s more the grassroots initiatives to encourage school-aged individuals to come into the financial services industry as a whole, but for actually sourcing our apprentices, we work with a range of organisations. We work predominantly with WhiteHat, but there are also other groups like notgoingtouni.co.uk. I think that that’s really where we get our people from and WhiteHat, in particular, are excellent at helping us to match candidates with our business and with our roles. They also provide training too, and they crucially give the apprentices the coaching skills that they might need to succeed in what is, essentially, a quasi-interview situation. They help try and level the playing field to overcome, perhaps, people who’ve never had to do a job interview, to overcome those concerns around that. Those introverts, they hope to try and give them some of the skills, as I say, to level that playing field and help them project themselves in the best fashion possible.

Julia: It’s a wonderful way of thinking about the diversity mix in the organisation and bringing them through at an early age, in many ways. I’m curious to know, are there any diversity groups that you’ve been challenged to reach?

Rosie: Yes, there are. I’ve said that I could probably summarise it into two different categories. I think, actually geographically, there were some challenges. A lot of the organisations that we work with only take on apprentices who live either in London or within a close radius. The idea being that ideally they still live at home and like many other financial services organisations we still struggle to attract females into STEM roles and that’s even the case, actually, down at the apprenticeship level as well. Those are two challenges that we have in terms of overcoming those, and we obviously try to make our job specs as technical free as possible. And again, we do a lot of grassroots work with groups like the STEM Skills Fund, who sponsor girls in schools to stick with subjects like maths and physics all the way through to A Level. We engage with the STEM Skills Fund and we work with local schools, really just encourage females to hang on in there and not lose sight of the fact that there are some really interesting careers at the end of those studies. But those are probably two of the challenges we find most frequently.

Julia: I think the conversation around technology is probably a really neat pivot to come back to you, Carol. Thinking about the conversation where we were alluding to earlier about, first of all, we live in a time where everybody has to embrace technology anyway, and whether or not this is proving to be a great time for introverts in terms of how they engage with the workforces, or are they finding this a much more challenging time?

Carol: A lot are actually enjoying the remote working because of being able to work from home, remote working – a lot are actually enjoying that. But then, there is a danger that because some people will assume because someone is introverted, they’re okay being on their own and generally, yes, they tend to like alone time, but being on your own and having too much alone time, if you’re not having other human interaction, can actually lead to loneliness. Leaders do need to be mindful of that if they’ve got remote teams, that they’re not just thinking because someone is introverted, they’re happy being on their own, but making sure that they are looking after their wellbeing.

Julia: It is an interesting time because I’ve been thinking a lot about, I was saying perhaps a bit earlier, thinking about the mental health of remote working teams and putting ourselves in the mind of a young apprentice who may well be working and living at home, this is a very unusual time. Also thinking about the mental health of employees, whatever their personality type as well. I wouldn’t mind just taking a little bit of time, just to think about, as we’re coming out of lockdown, in however that’s going to work, is what’s changed organisationally as well? Rosie, I’m going to come to you, first of all, with your thoughts on this and what leaders need to particularly pay attention to, when they’re engaging with different personality types and also, particularly, is it something that you’re thinking about with the apprentices as well?

Rosie: Yes, it is. It is very much so. I think during this period, we’ve been very careful to make sure that we’re actually having one-on-one check-ins with all of our employees, including the apprentices, on a regular basis. That’s the HR team, me and a whole range of us, just making calls to make sure people are okay. I think that it’s important to make sure that people are supported and being well looked after. I think it would be interesting to see as we emerge out on the other side, are people’s working patterns going to change? I don’t think that’s any different for our apprentices, to our broad range of employees as well. It may well be that a lot of them actually want to work from home a lot more, a lot of them realise that they are more productive when they can work from home, and actually, that team-based atmosphere, perhaps for some of the more introverted people, can actually be quite a distraction, can be something that they struggle to engage with more. So, I think that we will be looking at a lot more people hot-desking, a lot more people spending time at home. I think that will become more broadly accepted, perhaps in a way that it hasn’t been before. I think we’ve gone through periods where working from home hasn’t been as well received, and I think that’s something that will very much change as we emerge out of this lockdown period.

Julia: Carol, I was saying at the beginning in your introduction that you work both with corporates and individuals. I’m wondering when you’re talking to, and you’re doing your coaching with execs – what are people thinking about in terms of how they re-enter a workplace that is actually, potentially, going to change quite significantly? And your thoughts on what will change and how this will engage with introverts in possibly a different way?

Carol: I think that there’s going to be a lot more flexible and remote working. A lot of organisations who particularly didn’t think that the nature of their work was possible to be done remotely, are being forced to let their employees work remotely. It’s worked. There’s been those organisations who have been a bit worried about whether employees would be productive working remotely. Again, they’re seeing that that has worked, and I think going forward, there will be a lot more of that, to the extent that organisations may even be looking at their office space, their buildings, do they need such large buildings? Do they need such large office space? Will they be downsizing their buildings because there’ll be more remote working? I think this has the capacity to change things completely.

Julia: I think that’s a wonderful moment to turn to Cynthia and ask her for some research to support today’s discussion.

Cynthia: The Corporate Finance Institute has five top tips for introverts starting a new job:

1) Be early. Getting to the office early offers several benefits, especially for introverts, one is that you have an opportunity to become comfortable in your new space and surroundings. 

2) Prepare your introduction. You will definitely be asked to introduce yourself on-the-spot. 

3) Take it slow. If joining a large group for lunch or after work activities seems daunting, go with a smaller group instead. 

4) you don’t always have to say yes, as a new employee, you may feel like you have to say yes to every invite from one of your colleagues. Of course, you want to make a good impression and not be seen as unfriendly, but remember, that doesn’t mean you have to say yes all the time.

5) share the work style that you want. You can say something early on to your coworkers about your preferred work style. For example, you might mention that you prefer one-on-one conversations and that you tend to stay quiet during meetings. This is a way to clue your coworkers in on your introverted nature and they will probably appreciate you letting them know how best to interact with you. Keep in mind that when you start a new job, it’s not just you who has to learn how to adjust to your new colleagues. They also have to learn how to adjust to you.

Julia: Thanks, Cynthia. The links to the research can be found on our website, divercitypodcast.com. That’s where you can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod, and DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTALK and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating because it all helps to promote the show.

It’s been a wonderful conversation, I’ve been having some really fascinating conversations with people. I was very proud at the beginning of the year to be hosting an event with CityAM. They have what they call the CityAM Club, and we run their events,- well in the days when we could actually meet in person – and it’s called the CityAM Club Decodes Diversity series. One of the conversations was about ‘We have to talk about race’, and there was a fascinating comment that came out of that, about the fact that diversity and inclusion should very much sit in the context, the commercial context, and the investment context of ESG, environmental, social, and governance. Which I thought was really fascinating because the argument was that it sits within the social and it sits within the governance.

Rosie, at the beginning of the interview you were saying that the CSR, the Corporate Social Responsibility dynamic is really important for Aspect Capital. I’d love your thoughts on whether that feel right to you that it should sit under ESG?

Rosie: It absolutely does. I think it’s very relevant. And actually whether or not I think it’s right, our investors and prospective investors are very much putting it into that bucket. I would have said it’s something that comes up in almost every investor conversation now: “What is it you are doing as a firm, from a diversity and inclusion perspective?” Almost every due diligence questionnaire or RFP that I answer will have a detailed section on D&I. This isn’t just a box checking exercise, it’s real for investors, and they are increasingly starting to select managers based on, one of the factors will be, how valid are their diversity and inclusion efforts? How real and legitimate are they and how successful is the manager in acquitting itself in that regard. There’s real scrutiny at the moment and rightly so, and it’s incumbent, I think, on investors to keep up the pressure on their investment managers in that regard, because that is how real change will be forged in the industry.

Julia: Isn’t it fascinating that the questions even go so far as how valid and how real? This is no longer, as you say, box ticking and marketing brochure-ware, this has to be really embedded in the organisation. I’m really fascinated with your thoughts, Carol, and I’ll come to you next on this. But we’re about to go into, arguably – I don’t want to be the doomsayer – but we’re about to go into a huge economic downturn. We have to face the reality of that, and we’re really interested in why diversity and inclusion should remain high on the agenda as we go into this next phase. I’d love your thoughts on that. Then, Rosie, I’ll come back to you from an investment point of view as well.

Carol: Yes, I think that it needs to be high on the agenda because organisations need to be representative of the people that they serve. My concern is that going through the economic downturn will flip on the agenda as other things take priority. That is a concern of mine, I mean, it sounds great what Rosie is saying about what’s happening in her organisation and how investors are insisting that it is part of what they do, but there are a lot of organisations where I don’t feel so confident that that will be the case.

Julia: Can you give us a couple of compelling reasons why it should stay at the top of the agenda or high on the agenda?

Carol: Because we’ve made little progress. In the big scheme of things, we’ve made little progress, we’ve made some progress, particularly around gender, but it’s not sufficient, we’ve still got a way to go. But when it comes to other diverse groups, particularly when it comes to ethnic minorities, there is still a very long way to go. If you look at the makeup of our population, a lot of organisations, their senior leadership teams, their boards, don’t represent that.

Julia: Rosie, you were talking about commercial, compelling reasons for it to stay high as well. And it’s an interesting, Carol’s perspective about the importance of having these initiatives because, actually, the world has not shifted. You talk about the reasons why it must remain high because of the commercial imperative around that as well, both are incredibly important. Other reasons that you might have on your list for staying high? And then we’re going to wrap up the show with your thoughts on what are you really optimistic about as well?

Rosie: I’d echo everything Carol said, in terms of the reasons why we mustn’t allow the current crisis to divert or distract from our diversity and social mobility agenda. I think that’s all the more so in a world where young people may be turning away from university, given concerns around the cost, and they’re going to need other options to further education and getting into the workplace, so they can start earning. I’d very much echo everything Carol has said and it’s essential that organisations like mine keep going with the grassroots work and educate and break down these perceptions of the world of finance being exclusively elitist.

Julia: Yes, absolutely. It is a risk, we end up having groupthink, that we’re going to end up with similar outcomes, and I think it’s wonderfully refreshing to have apprentices coming into the organisation, adding fresh perspectives as well. Carol, the more I talk to business leaders, the more it feels to me like people are really valuing the importance of having somebody at the table who is quieter, arguably. Now, I don’t want to make an assumption that an introvert is necessarily quiet because that’s actually not necessarily the case as well. I’m really keen to hear your thoughts on, again, from your perspective, having written this book and your work with coaching women who describe themselves as introverted, is what are you really optimistic about as we look ahead?

Carol: I’m optimistic that as a result of what we’re going through at the moment, it’s an opportunity, it’s been a chance for a lot of people to pause and to reflect about what is important, what really matters. I’m very optimistic about the future going forward, because it’s an opportunity to do things differently. I’ve seen a lot of great initiative come about as a result of going through the lockdown. We’ve seen more of a community spirit as communities have come together to support each other. We’ve had more of a collective. I think our society had become quite individualistic, where it’s every man for himself. I think one of the lessons from this is that we do need each other, and I think that that is something that we can bring into the way that we work, going forward, is that community, that connection, that we do need each other.

Julia: It’s incredibly important, isn’t it? It is a fascinating time to be having this conversation. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, both of you to have dialled into this platform that we’re using and to be able to continue the podcast, and continue the discussion at a time where it feels as important now, if not more so, as we look ahead, it is extraordinary times when the future of work is being played out in front of us. Rosie and Carol, thank you both so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. Thank you, as always, to all our listeners at DiverCity Podcast.

Rosie: Thank you very much, Julia.

Carol: Thank you, Julia, I’ve really enjoyed the discussion.

Kieron: This episode of the DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya for her insights. You can find out more about the guests on this week’s show on our website, divercitypodcast.com. Whilst you are there, you can also sign up to our newsletter for all our latest updates.

To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed on iTunes, or your favourite podcast app. And, if you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity Podcast, remember to give us a rating or review. This all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our Twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.