After years working in HR across the private equity sector, Claire Lamb joined BGF’s Executive Committee in 2018 to channel her passion for good growth within people and organisations. Her experience across a variety of HR leadership roles affords her a unique perspective on the intersection between the personal and professional and what it means to be a values-led organisation.
What do you think drives people?
In a business such as BGF it’s all about your people. They are at the core of everything you do. Broadly, there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Extrinsic motivation often looks like power, recognition and status. But the real powerhouse of our motivation comes from the intrinsic motivators – these are the core values, beliefs and questions that we have about ourselves and the world around us, and they are fundamentally what allow us to feel fulfilled.
In my experience, the people who are truly excellent at what they do are always motivated intrinsically. They are driven by wanting to do something good, wanting to contribute positively – always thinking about the why behind their actions.
A sense of purpose comes from that intrinsic drive and allows people to channel what it is they are doing into a collective movement where they can then bring people along that journey with them.
There is an increasing recognition of connecting our personal values with the work that we do. Where does the intersection between the personal and the professional lie, and how do you navigate that with employees and portfolio companies?
Sometimes when people open up to you about challenges they are facing, you are shown a side to someone that is not always apparent in their professional role. They might not be senior management at work, but through something they are navigating personally you glimpse incredible leadership qualities.
By building trust in those relationships and fostering a culture of openness, you get a much deeper sense of what actually matters to people. And through that process, you also gain a new understanding of yourself.
“By building trust in those relationships and fostering a culture of openness, you get a much deeper sense of what actually matters to people. And through that process, you also gain a new understanding of yourself.”
In terms of our portfolio, building relationships is key to investing. Many of the companies that we invest in are interested in us specifically because their own values align with what we stand for. That’s the real intersection of personal and professional; employees at BGF want to do good on a personal level, and it’s that exact passion that resonates with many of the companies we invest in.
What does ‘Good Growth’ mean to you – and what do you hope for it to mean for BGF employees?
On a business level, it’s supporting our portfolio companies to achieve their potential in a sustainable way, while also implementing good governance practices. We are passionate about not just ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to good growth.
If you’re going to partner with someone and ask them to take a new approach or do something out of their comfort zone, it’s a very hard sell if you can’t point to the fact that you’re already doing it.
“Our growth as individuals should take place in a supportive environment where we are also empowered. So in that sense, I think good growth is also a personal concept about how we can change and develop as people.”
But I think good growth is also about how we interact as people. Our growth as individuals should take place in a supportive environment where we are also empowered. So in that sense, I think good growth is also a personal concept about how we can change and develop as people.
How does BGF’s internal values guide its investment strategy and mission?
When we speak to management teams we are looking to back, there isn’t a blueprint or set of requirements. It’s more about whether our values will align. An openness to new opportunities is important – essentially, having a growth mindset.
If they also value openness, we can get a better understanding of what drives them and what they view as success. Today, much of the business world is an unknown place – there are a lot of uncertainties in terms of the economy, climate risks and technological advances. When we’re looking at investing in a company long-term, it is a journey of joint discovery.
On that journey, there will be ups and downs. It becomes key that the relationship is values-driven, because it fosters a robust resilience to weather the storm when things get tough.
One of the big things I’ve learned in my career is how important it is to have respect and trust for the people that you work with. It means that you are more confident about your decisions, and you have a knowledge that when things get tough, you share a core set of values with the people around you about what drives you all and why you are doing what you’re doing.
How is BGF championing EDI through its values – and what impact does this have on investments?
Internally, diversity starts right from the beginning – from how we recruit through to how we foster and bring in different perspectives across BGF. Our internship program, for example, is focused on increasing socioeconomic diversity in order to get a diverse range of life experiences and encouraging individuals to contribute their unique perspectives to the work that we do. We also invest in creating an inclusive environment day-to-day, because by cultivating that, diversity is able to flourish.
In terms of our investment portfolio, we then look at their own management practices, we are looking at: How diverse is their workforce? How diverse is the founder base? What are we doing to track and measure that? Those questions and reflections are followed by tangible interventions that we implement to create a more accessible and inclusive environment across the board.
Why is it important to align personal values with the values of the company you work for?
Most people need to feel a sense of connection and worth to the work that they do. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, or you don’t have any passion for it, it is very difficult to sustain your motivation on purely financial reward and status.
At BGF, we encourage people to be themselves so that they have the opportunity to seek out what is important to them – their intrinsic drive – so that their performance is sustainable.
“Most people need to feel a sense of connection and worth to the work that they do. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, or you don’t have any passion for it, it is very difficult to sustain your motivation on purely financial reward and status.”
When you’re in it for the long run, it’s really important that there is an authenticity to what you do. People want partners around the table that are genuinely behind the work that they’re doing. From authenticity comes a degree of respect, and that is the foundation to being able to offer both criticism and encouragement.
The key is consistency. It doesn’t happen overnight – we spend a lot of time investing in managers and leaders so that they can nurture the process of individual reflection and development within each employee.
When do you feel the most purposeful?
When I’m able to be true to myself and make a unique contribution to do good. That might be supporting someone in making meaningful change, or enabling someone to realise their potential. If I can play a small part in helping people grow and develop in that way, I feel like I am fulfilling my purpose.
Not every day is going to have meaning attached to it, but I do need to feel that I am enabling fair outcomes and staying true to myself.
How do individuals find meaning in what they do?
Different roles offer different types of influence or impact, so purpose is about revealing a broader story that involves us all. Everyone is on a growth journey, and when you can connect individuals to that collective goal, there is a powerful sense of contribution to something greater than yourself.
People can think more broadly about the impact they’re having on a business, community or entire society. That’s what I love about BGF – that enthusiasm and reflection is really encouraged.
“Stories go a long way to help people feel that even where you’re not directly involved in a particular portfolio business, you are still a part of supporting the broader mission around meaningful change and good growth.”
By telling those stories, they can resonate with both internal BGF employees as well as people within our portfolio companies, and create a shared community where our values align.
Stories go a long way to help people feel that even where you’re not directly involved in a particular portfolio business, you are still a part of supporting the broader mission around meaningful change and good growth.
What would you like your legacy to be?
To have helped create an environment that people want to be in and to have enabled people to grow. I think both of those things come from having confidence in your decisions and using adversity as an opportunity to learn something new; as you develop, you get better at doing things for the right reasons, rather than because it feels like you should.
Often, it’s tempting to want to be all things to all people, but eventually that starts to compromise who you are as a person and, ultimately, you become unravelled.
I’ve learnt that you can be successful without compromising yourself. It’s just about growing and understanding the unique value that we are able to bring to the place that, at the end of the day, we spend the majority of our time in.