In the vibrant heart of Manchester city centre, Atlanta Group’s contemporary premises set the backdrop for an enlightening 'Talking Talent' session with Lee Marjoram, Head of Operations, Car, and Home. Anchored under Atlanta's umbrella, renowned brands like Swinton Insurance, Carole Nash, Paymentshield, Marmalade, Autonet Insurance, and Be Wiser Insurance each hold their unique identities, expertise, and customers. During this session, Lee talked about his 20-year career in financial services and contact centre operations, his leadership style, and his commitment to diversity and inclusion.
For those who couldn't make it to the session, we've captured the essence and highlights of the discussion below.
Navigating a ‘Squiggly’ Career Path
Lee, formerly a primary school teacher in the UK and English teacher in Prague, pivoted his career trajectory after realising teaching wasn't his calling. He applied for a team leader job with Barclays and was interviewed by a lady who believed in looking into the value that transferrable skills could bring. Lee's transition from teaching to telephone banking is a testament to her ‘thinking outside the box’ perspective: if someone can handle a classroom full of children, they can certainly lead a team.
Over the years, Lee navigated a "squiggly" career path that took him from Internet banking to playing a key role in Barclay’s incident management support services. While his background in the back-office enriched his capabilities in operations, it's unmistakably clear that operations are where his passion lies.
One of Lee's core beliefs is that people should only apply for roles they're truly passionate about - roles they'd be heartbroken not to secure. “This isn't a shopping spree; you can't return a job like an ill-fitting t-shirt.”
Playing to Strengths: Football and Career Paths – Not Everyone Needs to Kick with Both Feet to Feel Like a Star
Just as in football where a player's prowess, be it with their left or right foot, is both nurtured and celebrated, Lee sees talent management in a similar light. By identifying, nurturing, and leveraging these individual strengths and hidden skills, a leader can maximize the potential of the team. Truly making someone 'feel' like talent goes beyond mere recognition—it’s about appreciating their unique contributions and positioning them in roles where they can truly thrive.
If someone is in the wrong role, their full potential won't be realised. The ideal job brings out the best in an individual, and in turn, the business will get the best out of their talent.
Building Bridges Across Brands and Borders
Currently at the helm of a diverse team spanning three locations, including an outsourced segment in South Africa, with responsibility for four distinct brands, one of his significant achievements was to unite them into a singular, cohesive team.
Recently, Lee spent three weeks in South Africa to immerse himself in the local culture and gain deeper insights into his team's dynamics there. The enthusiasm for contact centre jobs there was palpable, with individuals lining up extensively just for a chance at training and subsequent employment. In this context, a contact centre job wasn't just another position; it symbolized a professional standing, a means to feed families, and an avenue to afford essentials like medicine.
The resilience of these employees was strikingly evident when storms hit earlier in the year, severely damaging infrastructure, including a bridge. Despite many losing their homes, their dedication to their job was unwavering. Many went to great lengths, including climbing over debris and blockades, to report for work.
Contrasting this with the UK scenario, Lee noted that candidates in the UK have the privilege of selecting the right organisation that aligns with their values and aspirations. Companies, in turn, must introspect the value unique value proposition they present to potential employees. In today's hybrid working landscape, organisations juggle how best to navigate the balance between remote and in-office roles. Factors like travel costs, the purpose of physical presence, and balancing remote and in-office work become critical considerations.
For Lee, it's about more than just flexibility. It's about making office hours count, ensuring a distinct experience compared to working from home. The financial and time implications of commuting should be weighed against the benefits of being in the office. Every office visit should have a clear purposeful presence. Whether it's for collaborative projects, team meetings, or client presentations, the in-office experience should be distinct and valuable. Practices like side-by-side call listening not only enhance the skill sets of employees but also foster a sense of camaraderie. Furthermore, Lee emphasizes the importance of real-time support software for home-working, ensuring seamless connectivity and collaboration.
Authenticity at the Core
Lee's personal journey as an openly gay man in the financial services industry has underscored the profound importance of authenticity. His journey has highlighted the need to cultivate an environment where everyone can safely embrace and express their true selves.
The Atlanta group, where Lee currently works, stands out as an epitome of diversity and inclusivity. Lee feels it's a safe space and hasn't experienced any negativity personally. However, he acknowledges that perceptions of the financial services industry can at times be misleading, leading some to perceive discrimination where sometimes none exist.
Lee's approach to leadership is reflective, open-minded, and adaptable. He believes in continuous feedback, recalibration, and the power of joint accountability. At the heart of his ethos is the belief in recognising individual talent and ensuring they're in roles that bring out the best in them.
In summary, Lee's journey is a tapestry of diverse experiences, challenges, and successes. From the classroom in Prague to senior leadership within financial service giants, he continues to inspire with his adaptability, authenticity, and commitment to personal and professional growth.
If you're interested in joining the 'Talking Talent' network, attending both in-person and virtual events, or wish to share your personal career journey to inspire and motivate up-and-coming leaders and peers, please connect with Julie Mordue here.