Looking Back & Planning for the Future
Q&A between Anna Nicola, Director at TransPerfect Legal Solutions and Sarah Rosser, General Counsel & Executive Director at Lenovo Solutions and Services Group.
With more than 20 years of experience in simplifying complex matters with innovative thinking, Sarah Rosser joined Lenovo during the height of the pandemic with a stimulating yet challenging objective: building a legal team to support the company’s service-led strategy.
Yes, I joined Lenovo in April 2020 and worked on a proposal for the creation of the Solution and Services Legal Team, which became a reality one year later after I started building the legal team. It is a global team spread across three continents that supports Lenovo’s service-led strategy and the newly formed Lenovo Solutions and Services Group, alongside the rest of the global legal function.
Leading business transformation and global teams sounds stimulating but it must come with some serious challenges at different levels, particularly some of the global upheavals in the last couple of years.
We can all agree the pandemic disrupted our lives in ways that none of us had experienced before, and everyone had to adapt to how we approached business challenges.
It was a new experience building a global team when you can’t travel or meet people in person but it was perfectly manageable, and whilst I wasn’t able to meet any of my team in person before recruiting them, we’ve created a real team feeling through regular conference calls and one-line team meetings.
Now, two years later, I find myself reflecting on what have we really learned?
The expectation was that there would be massive changes in how we worked and lived, but did the pandemic bring about “Big Bang” changes that disrupted the status quo in the way we thought it would be, even though it was such a huge global event?
There certainly are some changes that we are all evaluating in the post-pandemic world. Such as: How can we resume global travel whilst limiting our carbon footprint? How do we balance the desire for hybrid work and more flexible hours with building teams and returning to offices? All businesses are asking these questions and it’s likely we’ll still be debating these repercussions and learning from these experiences as we go into 2023.
Do you think we have learned from the social and economic upheavals of the last few years and should therefore feel a bit more prepared to face unpredictable situations?
I think we’ve learned it’s important to accept complexity and uncertainty, and to adapt to these situations as they arise as much as we can.
I remember as a junior lawyer that if there was a companywide change happening, I would try to hypothesise on what was going to happen and how it was going to impact my role. I learned I was never able to predict it! I recall the advice of more senior lawyers, who were coaching me to accept that the only certain thing in an in-house legal team was that there would always be change and they were right.
You can make plans and set priorities, but you must be ready to be flexible and to adapt those plans if the situation changes.
In such times of change and uncertainty, it helps to communicate regularly and as transparently as you can. Everyone manages and processes change differently and it’s important to be empathetic and understanding of those differences.
The building of your team and transformation the organisation is undergoing must have an impact on you as a GC and leader. If you need to pick one, what is the biggest accomplishment achieved so far?
I am genuinely gratified by the fact that I now have a global team of services experts whom I can trust and who support the Solution and Services Group, while also sharing their expertise and collaborating with the rest of the global legal function. Supporting the services-led transformation of a global company has meant we’ve often been introducing different approaches and maybe changing how we may have worked in the past. Whilst this has often been disruptive, by maintaining communication and openly collaborating with the rest of the legal team, we’ve received incredible support from all of our colleagues in the global legal function. It really has been a team effort.
In the past, one of the best compliments I ever received from a business colleague was to be told my legal team “was the legal team who likes to say yes!”. It was the result of us focusing on providing exceptional customer support service and that’s what my current team is working towards as well. We are here to help the organisation achieve its goal. The legal team is an integral part of the business and we are here to support and facilitate operational excellence as well as manage risks. Having hired people that mirror that mindset will ensure we keep fostering this idea and culture and live by it.
What will you be focused on personally in the year ahead?
In 2023, I hope to dedicate more time to balance my health, my home and my work life. I would like to build in more time for thinking, planning and personal reflections. We often forget the benefits of stepping away and reflecting. I remind my team to prioritise personal well-being over work, but I want to lead by example as I suspect it will be much more impactful!
This article was first published in The Month November/December 2022 Edition by Global Leaders in Law.