From overcoming nerves to pass his Essential Skills tests with flying colours, to leading his team to success using tools he’d picked up on the programme, Ryan’s confidence has soared.
In our interview together, he tells me more about the struggles he faced and the hurdles he’s overcome, with self-determination and the support of the TSW team.
Hello! Please would you introduce yourself?
My name’s Ryan Lewis and I’m one of the Sales Team Managers at Legal & General.
And what apprenticeship are you taking with us?
The apprenticeship I’m currently taking is the ILM Level 4. I’m really enjoying what I’m learning about and taking away a lot of different skills. A lot of really interesting reflection, as well. I’m enjoying some of the practical aspects of being able to learn some of the modules, whether it’s the project managing one, whether it’s the one that’s around managing direct reports and then utilising it in real-time. And then speaking to my assessor Susan afterwards, around how that’s going.
I’m finding the practical aspect of it really, really interesting and some of the theory too, learning about all the different managerial techniques and the experts who’ve come up with these techniques.
Yes, Sue is a really good training advisor as well, isn’t she? She gets the most of everything that you’re learning.
Agreed. Susan’s been absolutely fabulous. She’s been a great support. She’s been really supportive in a few different ways. So of course, in terms of the course, but also in terms of the belief and confidence in your own ability. She’s been really good at bringing the course to life from her own experiences and from other learners. You know, she doesn’t talk about them specifically, but she might say, “Okay, well as an example, they found this part challenging, so what they did is this, which really helped them.”
She’s said herself what she found challenging, whether it’s learning certain managerial techniques or whether it’s the application of numbers, or the English test and papers. So, she has been really, really helpful and invaluable in helping me from that side of things.
That’s so lovely to hear. She’ll be absolutely chuffed with that, so thank you. What originally appealed to you about your role with Legal and General then, Ryan?
In Legal and General direct sales, it’s a brilliant team of people who help customers get the protection they need for life insurance, critical illness cover, and over 50s cover.
When I first started working from a very young age, I was selling windows. I sold them for a company who were selling double glazing. That was cold calling, outbound dialling, relentless door-to-door sales. And then went into finance, from selling credit card repayment cover and card care to selling loans. Then eventually savings accounts and up-selling features of fixed-rate accounts and ISAs. Then I moved on to mortgages. Pre MMR, you could sell mortgages non-advised without the CeMAP qualification which is what I did. I was going to go for the CeMAP qualification but unfortunately, redundancies came through with that role.
While I was in that role and the savings role, I was sent opportunities to coach other people, help other people develop, and go into training to talk about some of these things which I was doing well. I guess it combined the right experience of finance and that desire to continue getting that experience of helping others. I really enjoyed that.
So, a managerial role came up in a building society and I applied for that to be a mortgage administration team manager. I got it, landed my first manager role and loved it. The team were amazing. My manager was brilliant, the people I was very privileged to lead, they were incredible human beings and really helped me get to grips with that new world of mortgage administration. Eventually, I got a job managing the call centre that deals with the savings calls. And during that time, I was looking at some other companies because I was trying for something bigger that could also encapsulate more of my sales experience too.
Legal and General was offering opportunities for sales team manager roles. I was very fortunate with the interview and the people who were interviewing me. They thought I was good enough to take a chance on as an external candidate and I’ve been here coming up to four years now. Loved every single moment of it.
Wow, that’s amazing, though, isn’t it? When you can find a role that has everything that you’re looking for in one place.
Yeah, it was. It was very lucky, because I don’t think it’s often that team managers are hired externally. Usually, it’s an internal progression because the people working there know the processes, know the systems, and they know how different departments work. And if they show leadership experience too, then they’re absolutely perfect for succession. So, I think it was very fortunate that I was lucky enough to get that role as an external candidate and really enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ll be leaving Legal and General anytime soon. They’re such a brilliant company to work for.
How was it going into a business as an external candidate, knowing that everybody else around you knows everything already and you’re having to lead the team? Was that quite nerve-wracking?
Joining a business as an external candidate as a manager, especially as sales team manager is very challenging. Because as an example, if you’re a sales consultant in the company and you work your way up to team manager, if you’re great at sales and then managing the team, you have that evidence to show, “I know what I’m talking about with sales. Here’s my figures.” I absolutely had to prove myself and I knew I had to. And so, it was really hard. But I think that gave me a lot of opportunity for humility, which I think is really important. Not to join the company acting as though I know everything because I absolutely do not and did not. And surround myself with experts who could help me get to where I wanted to be in terms of knowledge levels, my capability, and the buy-in with my team.
And that took some time, a lot of honesty and as I said, a lot of humility by saying, “look, I’m not the expert here. You guys are. My job is this, but I need you guys to help me.” And I think that’s worked really well by having that honesty from the outset. I’m glad that I did because I have such a brilliant team. Every single individual on my team brings something to the table – some skill, some attribute, some trait – which adds a lot of value to the team dynamic itself, and they all learn from each other every single day. I couldn’t ask for more as a team manager.
How lovely to have such a great team. So, you took the ILM qualification with us – do you think the apprenticeship improved how you do your job? Can you see the parallels between the course and your real day-to-day work?
I absolutely can. I think there’s a number of different things that I’ve taken from the ILM course. Some of those things come in from the practical side, but also others from some of the assignments we had to write up. As part of the ILM, there’ll be some practical things involved, where you evidence your ability to do that task. But then there’s other written assignments as well. I haven’t written assignments since school but I’ve taken a lot from some of those written assignments. One of them, which I’ve done recently, was managing and implementing change in the workplace, which was Unit 417. And what I found really interesting when going through that was some of the theories about change and implementing it as well.
I’ve taken a lot from it about how to plan for change, how to implement it in the right way, how to reflect on it, see how it’s working out and if any changes need to be made afterwards. And then the final review stage as well. It’s interesting because those things you’ll do as part of your job on a regular basis but actually how often do you reflect on a change that you’ve made looking through the change model curve? Are you having thoughts about the political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental changes and factors? Are you thinking about the problem itself and then going through a little rundown about what you’re going to implement and what the solution will be and then assess the benefits and risks of that? I probably wasn’t doing as much as I could so doing that really helped me just stop, reflect, and start thinking of those changes.
You know from the force field tool, which is really, really interesting, which I’ve never used before. The PESTLE tool, never used that before either. And the PDCA plan as well to implement change. ILM is absolutely giving me some of these tools to be able to be more effective in my role.
And reflection is such an important thing, isn’t it, that we forget about it because we’re so busy doing, doing, doing all the time and rushing through things and trying to get things done because everyone’s so busy and everyone’s got so much going on. But actually, reflecting teaches you so much.
On all of our apprenticeships, we have the Essential Skills qualifications which I spoke to Betsan and Sue about recently. They were telling me how you overcame your nerves to pass your Application of Number, which I can imagine is pretty nerve-wracking for anyone who hasn’t done any maths qualifications since school. I would be terrified. Could you tell me a little bit more about that and what that feeling was like when you knew you’d passed it?
I knew I would have to do the Essential Skills for mathematics and I’ve always had a feeling that I’m terrible with numbers.
It’s almost like an anxiety and you get into that mindset of self-deprecation. ‘I can’t do that. I’m bad with numbers.’ You start verbalizing those things over time and eventually, you’ll start believing that as well. And that belief becomes ingrained and almost part of who you are.
So even if I wasn’t strong with numbers, I was giving myself that belief due to that anxiety and self-deprecation and it was a lot worse than what I was. Of course, there were some things I needed to learn though, and Jessica, who’s been my tutor, she’s been absolutely rock star. So I really appreciate everything she said to help me.
But yeah, it was very tough. It was very challenging. And if I’m honest, I feel as though I overcame some of those nerves by speaking with Jessica, my tutor. By going through the practice with her and doing the test papers over and over again, by speaking with Susan, who was unbelievably honest around her own anxiety when it comes to those things, specifically around test environments. Again, she self-deprecates around that and she’s very intelligent. Susan’s honesty helped me feel a bit more normalised in there because she has a very human approach to training. It made me think, ‘OK, well, if Susan, my assessor who’s helping me get through this has had that challenge and she’s overcome that, I’m sure I can overcome it. I’m a learner. I’m not even an assessor. So maybe I can.’
Jessica was saying, “well, actually I think you’re getting it, maybe a bit of practice on this particular part but I think you are getting it,” and hearing that positive feedback was useful.
I had the nerves up until the day when we went to Bridgend, ready to sit the test. Betsan was there, and she was unbelievably welcoming too and very kind. She sat me down and explained how it’s going to work, what the expectations are, but also would answer any questions for me before the test began, which is really useful.
Betsan’s positivity and time actually spent helping me, the support that Jessica gave me in the tutoring she gave me, and Susan’s honesty helped me with some of my anxieties. The whole TSW team really helped me get to a great place and I think I scored 95% on the multiple-choice tests, so I was really proud of myself, really pleased and it would not be possible without the support of TSW.
How amazing that you got 95% after thinking you were so bad at numbers for so long!
I think the word was daft! A big dafty! I still have a habit of saying “it’s lucky” and “I got very lucky” with the questions that were there. I got very lucky with the practice which I did against the questions which ended up appearing. But I also know without the support of TSW, I probably wouldn’t have even completed the course or would still be on the course.
The anxiety leading up to that maths exam was very strong to the point where I felt as though I didn’t want to embarrass myself, because if I failed that and even if I did resits, I’m not going to pass it. So, without their support, I wouldn’t have taken the test and I may not still be doing the ILM now.
Wow. But it’s not just lucky. It’s also the skills that you have, the time that you put in, and the practice that you’ve done to build those skills. And I can imagine it must be lovely having that support there with everyone around you and the different things everyone brought to the table as well.
I think I would need the same support if I was doing an Essential Skills test too! Were you learning with other people that you work with or were you learning completely alone?
I was learning with people in my business. Very lucky that my manager, Tracey, she’s unbelievably supportive. She completed her ILM 5 and she was also doing the digital literacy and numeracy. And what was really interesting about that is we have very similar backgrounds so she was really helpful and honest around her practice. There are a few of us all doing ILM. That’s really useful to talk around some of those things with my colleagues. It’s quite nice to bounce some stuff off people too.
That’s lovely. It’s like a little community of learners and everyone’s doing exactly the same sort of thing. And how does your employer support you?
With Tracey, the support goes beyond what I would expect. She’s very kindly given me flexible study, so if you want to book out your calendar, move things around as long as it’s free and you’re on a flexible working day, then you can use that as a study day. She also was very honest about sharing her experiences and having that honesty from an operations manager was really nice to hear. Any time I’m getting some positive feedback and Tracey’s hearing about it, she’s echoing that to me as well and sharing that.
It’s lovely to have somebody like that on your side and in your corner letting you have that study time. What motivates you to learn?
That is a hard question. I believe that as a line manager, it’s important to continue to learn. As soon as you think you know the job, you don’t know the job anymore. There are always new theories coming out, new ways to do things. It also compliments my current role, stretches me to learn new things and to apply the things that I’ve learned into my role and get feedback off it quite quickly. It’s been useful and it motivates me to continue to learn because I want to be the best leader that I can be to help my team be the best that they can be. Because if they’re doing really well and they’re happy, it genuinely makes me happy.
If my team are feeling and being brilliant, that makes me feel great and this qualification will help me learn all the ways which I can continuously do that and hopefully help me progress in my career as time progresses.
And do you think taking an apprenticeship has changed your life so it could be small changes like you’ve improved some processes at work? Or it could be bigger things like it’s improved your self-confidence?
It has definitely changed aspects of my life, especially when it comes to some of the digital literacy that we’re talking about because it has given me a bit more confidence in my own ability when it comes to mathematics.
Amazing. And what advice would you give to people thinking of taking up an apprenticeship?
100% do it.
If you believe that you would find it challenging, that’s a good thing, because the challenge can push you to realise you’re capable of a lot more than what you think you’re capable of. If there’s some anxiety or trepidation around certain aspects of it, be open and honest with your assessor. They can help you with them.
If you’re looking for a sign, if you’re looking for a bit of a push to say, ‘you know what, I’m gonna do it,’ take this as that sign because it’s really, really cool to learn something new, to get some practical skills or refresh knowledge you already have.
And my last question for today is quite a big one, but what are your career aspirations and where will we see you in 10 years?
I think life is too short to plan too far in advance and it’s really important to try to enjoy the moments that you’re in because otherwise, you’ll be too focused on the next goal and not enjoy your time in getting there.
In the future, I’d like to still be managing people. I really like working with humans. You know, it’s wonderful to be able to say that part of my role is helping other people with their role. It really is quite a privilege if I’m just to have that.
Is there anything else that you wanted to mention?
Just to say thank you for your time and and thank you to my employers at Legal & General who’ve been awesome in supporting my learning and development. Thank you to TSW for all the support they’ve given specifically Betsan, Jess, Susan – all been absolute stars.
Thanks to my boss, Tracey, who’s been really, really supportive. Beth, one of my colleagues – we’ve actually been bouncing a few things off each other here and there around the ILM and to my team who I work with every single day.
All of them are absolute superstars, individually and as a team and I’d like to shout them all out. Julia, on my team – absolute sales machine and top performer across the floor – she’s that good! Her desire to want to help people get the protection they need, and to achieve the best results she can is inspiring. She achieved a promotion recently – so deserved. She’s Queen of Sales! Lee who is again a massively great seller, so authentic, consistent high performer, and had a promotion at the end of the year. Smashed it! We’ve got Amy Lou who’s newer to the team and she’s our quality champion because she’s so good at it and really wants to help others.
Tom Marshall, who had a lovely experience within our quality team last year, he was on secondment and he’s come back, absolutely smashing it and helping support other people too. You’ve been a superstar. Thank you. Amy Marshall. She’s so good at the sales day in, day out. 100 scores almost every call – Quality Queen! I don’t know how she does it. It’s her memory, her ability to retain knowledge and to share that with everybody else. She makes it seem easy, but it’s really not. And that’s an absolute skill in itself.
Joey is pretty new to our team. She recently passed probation, an absolute formality that was too – well done Joey! She’s so eager to learn every single day, she’s proactively asking other people for help on what to do and how to do it, and she recently joined the engagement too and she’s an absolute pleasure to have on the team as well. Jacob, who’s new, he’s been doing really, really well with selling and his quality is improving as well. So really well done to him for the improvements.
Nameetha – amazing. She’s been working really hard to continuously improve her approach with quality and has achieved for the past six months. Now, this month she is one of our top performers for sales too so she should be really proud of herself because I am, she’s a superstar. I’m worried I haven’t sung their praises enough! And if I’ve missed something about one of them its not intentional as I’m really proud of all of them on the team.
My days wouldn’t be the same without them 😊