The five things I learned working for Lloyds Banking Group

When I joined LBG in 2016, I arrogantly assumed I had little left to learn. Almost five years later I’m an entirely different person with a ton of new perspectives on people, products and working culture. Before I start my new adventure I want to capture these.

Worry about people above all else

The first casualty of this is your team as you let 121’s slip and manage by email. You’ll appear to be spinning many plates and will likely be celebrated for doing so, but in truth you’ll be operating on shaky ground with a team of colleagues around you who will be dealing with a range of big and small issues.

Stopping to clear your diary and prioritise proper time with people will be difficult as it will mean not attending some seemingly ‘key’ meetings, and you’ll probably raise eyebrows for missing out on a ‘key’ update. However, like giving up any bad habit, these ‘key’ items will seem less important over time; especially as you properly connect with the team, taking time to listen to their worries and enjoying their successes.

So review your diary for next month and delete a few things, especially the ones that make you gulp as you do so. Stick in some proper time for the team. Ask them how they are and don’t rush to get to work stuff. Find out how they’re feeling, and feel the relief as they ask you the same. In turn, you’ll all do better work and be able to identify the important topics among the noise.

Methods come and go; it’s better to stick with core values and ignore method hype

There’s a lot of good in this as it’s invaluable for less experienced colleagues, or those perhaps wedded to waterfall ways of working from the past. For many though, I think endless method debates are of limited value, and time is better spent doing the doing. Method debates are both incredibly time consuming and circular, and present a barrier between design / product / engineering and the business, presenting us as precious theorists rather than action-orientated doers.

If you’ve been around the agile and design thinking process for a few years you’ll likely understand the core values of iteration and failing fast etc, so embody these and help others get moving.

Assuming best intent from others is the only strategy

This is absolutely rubbish and a terrible way to go about your work. It’s exhausting, negative and leads to paranoia. I also believe it’s ultimately misguided as people are inherently good, and company politics are 99% not driven by personal considerations.

Better to assume everyone you meet is doing the best job they can, with your collective best interest at heart. Sure, they seem unwilling to share a particular document, but rather than assume conspiracy, assume there’s a solid reason they’re not sharing and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Creating good vibes with your fellow colleagues is not only a happier existence, but is contagious. You’ll single-handedly be able to shift small bits of the culture by being more open than the next person.

Ideas are cheap, delivery is everything

Therefore I’ve learned to obsess less about uncovering the new thing, and more about creating structures and teams for moving ideas forward. This is not easy in a large bank and I’ve not delivered as much working product as I would have hoped, but I’m found it more rewarding to step away from the idea treadmill and instead iterate on existing thinking within structures where the path to delivery is known.

Earn your place rather than expect it

Rather than sulking, or worse escalating and getting into awful forced confrontations about territory, I’ve found it far more useful and pleasant to get into the work however possible.

This does mean that occasionally I’ve done a fair amount of tactical work, and activities that others would consider quite junior, but it’s been these hard hours that have taught me the most about the space i’m working in. Also in a large company where many colleagues have spent 20+ years, a willingness to get your hands dirty is a great way of making friends and connections.

So that’s that. Nothing revolutionary but some useful reminders for myself as I go into the next job.

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Ross Breadmore

Mum asked for a baby, dad asked for a transformer - I was the compromise. Chief product officer at 4G Capital.