“It gives you that space to stretch yourself and test ideas outside of your day job.” Edinburgh-based Matthew Bell of People & Transformation shares his experience of being part of the current JMT.
Having been with NatWest Group around three years and keen to expand his network, Matthew heard about the JMT through our Talent Academy, though it wasn’t an opportunity he jumped at initially. “I’m quite an introverted person, so, in the past, I’d shy away from this sort of thing, thinking I didn’t have the right skills or wasn’t confident enough for it,” says Matthew. “But, discussing with my line manager, we thought it was a great opportunity to get me out of my comfort zone. I thought it was a good chance to test the skills I’ve learned throughout my career and apply them in a talent programme and JMT.”
A successful application
Having agreed with his line manager that this was the right opportunity for him, Matthew went about applying. "I’ve grown my network, but it’s given me confidence in growing it further in future when I’m no longer on the JMT. In my application I wrote about my experience across different industries like publishing and retail, which I felt could help me bring a fresh, new perspective to things.”
Following a successful written application, Matthew progressed to interview.
“It was an interview with a senior leader and a member of the previous JMT,” he recalls. “You had to pitch an initiative that you’d like to take forward if you were to get onto the JMT. The idea I pitched was a culture initiative, because I’m passionate about having the right culture where I work. I think culture is really important. This was before we launched ‘This is us’ and our refreshed values earlier this year and my idea was for a culture and values handbook to outline the key cultural values in the business and exercises we could do within our teams across the bank to embed these.”
14 strangers in a room
Matthew’s application and idea clearly struck a chord, leading to him being appointed as JMT representative for People & Transformation. "My first thought going into my first JMT was that I’d be the only introvert in a room full of extroverts, but it was actually the opposite. You had 14 individuals who had never met before, all gathered into a room. You’re treated like adults - it was over to us to go and make of it what we wanted. We had flexibility and free rein to pursue the goals we wanted. That was great in a way, but also a challenge initially as there was no leader – we were all at the same level. So, who comes in and makes decisions when there are differing views? It took us time to find our feet and operating rhythm. We eventually nominated Clare Munro and Kalm Paul-Christian to be chairs, so they took responsibility for setting up the structure and organising us.”
Reflecting on his time with the JMT, Matthew has been pleasantly surprised with the breadth and level of opportunity they’ve had. "The opportunities we’ve had have been amazing. I didn’t realise we’d get all the opportunities and exposure that we’ve had. The opportunities we’ve had have been amazing. I didn’t realise we’d get all the opportunities and exposure that we’ve had. I thought we’d more be working in the background on low key stuff, so it was a massive surprise, but a pleasant one, to be presenting to Alison and joining Bank ExCo meetings and the One Bank Leadership Team summits. It’s been invaluable learning to get the experience and see how decisions are made at ExCo and how they interact with each other.”
Matthew was also pleasantly surprised with the make up of the JMT itself. “A lot of us are quite similar. Sometimes it’s good to have extroverts though, to keep things going! There’s maybe a bit of a stereotype of the kind of person who would apply for this sort of thing, but the reality has been nothing like that.”
One Bank mindset
With a number of work streams underway or delivered, Matthew highlights the Lunch & Learn series which JMT colleagues of his worked on as a highlight and a fitting legacy to this year’s group.
“I would say the bank-wide Lunch & Learn sessions, led by Callum Dalladay and others in the JMT, have been our biggest success of the year, both in terms of visibility and popularity,” he says. “They’ve been really well received, the feedback’s been great. As soon we suggested that work stream, ExCo were keen for us to crack on, as it’s so aligned to everything we want to do to build One Bank. The demand on the back of them has been overwhelming – people asking us if they can have a slot to share the story of their area of the bank. I didn’t work on them personally but we’re all one team so it’s been great to see them prove so popular.”
Although not all the ideas the JMT had have come to fruition, Matthew still sees value in doing the discovery work and testing and learning. “At times, we’ve stood down initiatives when it’s clear they were duplication or not a priority or quick fix. We did some discovery work on colleague volunteering for example, but realised there was so much work underway already by other teams in the bank, it wouldn’t have been the best use of our time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing the discovery work then parking some of our ideas as the last thing we want to do is duplicate things that are already there. Not everything we’ve tried or everything we’ve wanted to do has worked out, but we wouldn’t even have got the chance to try if we hadn’t been on the JMT. It gives you that space to stretch yourself and test ideas outside of your day job.”
Matthew’s own JMT culture work stream changed a lot from idea to implementation, but he still feels he was able to add value. “Over time, we repurposed our culture work stream into something that would complement rather than duplicate work already underway. Discovering there was already so much material out there, we decided to act as super users and champions to help embed ‘This is us’ in our parts of the bank. For example, we ran a session on our values for the Talent Academy as a whole.”
Looking ahead to handing over to the next JMT, Matthew is grateful for the opportunity and would recommend it to others. “I’d definitely recommend it, for the experience you get – to work closely with Alison and ExCo and test your skills across so many different areas, networking, collaborating with like-minded individuals, getting to come out of your shell and show your leadership qualities to get the job done. I’ve grown my network, but it’s given me confidence in growing it further in future when I’m no longer on the JMT as I’ve had to set up meetings with people I’ve never met to pitch ideas. Now, in my day job when I’m asked to speak to someone or present an idea, it’s not a big deal because I’ve had to do so much of that during JMT, whereas before I was more nervous about that sort of thing.”
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