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7 Questions with Abbie Lennox
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7 Questions with Abbie Lennox
Name: Abbie Lennox
Current title: Chief Regulatory, Medical, Safety & Compliance Officer
Current organisation: Bayer Consumer Health
I am passionate about science and self-care - strongly believing in the fact that the ability to control your own health and wellness is a basic human right for all. Currently leading end-to-end regulatory, medical affairs, safety, R&D quality and compliance for our products at Bayer Consumer Health, where we are working with a consumer centric approach across all areas to deliver innovative, high-quality, safe solutions that are scientifically proven while providing iconic product experience.
Everyone should be able to live a better life everyday. With over 20 years experience in Regulatory Affairs and product development my aim is to make that a reality by identifying the medical unmet needs, and unlocking the pathway through regulatory strategy and a drive for success. I truly believe in the need to educate on science and the impact of self-care to empower people to transform their everyday health.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging thing in my role leading a deeply scientific and technical community in a consumer health organisation is influencing my team and my peers to better understand how science and technical topics should partner with business acumen and commercial understanding to create brilliant products based on science , and aren’t a ‘necessary evil’.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became the Global Chief Regulatory, Medical, Safety & Compliance Officer of Bayer Consumer Health by showing that I was able to bring strategic understanding and thought in a business environment. In addition, I have the ability to bring a team together and set a vision and to then work globally with the organisation across all functions to implement the strategy. I have always worked in health in some capacity and a lot of it has been in Regulatory Affairs, which traditionally was seen as a back room, paper pushing function. However, I quickly realised that immense competitive advantage comes from great Regulatory activities and strategies, so I would always be looking for how to share, educate and put into practice the activities that I felt we could do. Now I get to do that but not just from a technical perspective in the functions reporting to me but also at a divisional level – bringing my experience to the enterprise leadership level, and at a people level – supporting, developing and leading the team.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My day starts with a very organized morning, two children to get up and out to school and two kittens to feed mean that organisation and routine are critical. When I wake up, the first thing I do is go and wake my two daughters (Maddie and Scarlett); then after taking care of showers etc., one or both of them are normally waiting in my bedroom for me to plait their hair for school. My husband (Gareth) will go downstairs and get breakfast sorted and then we all sit at the table, Gareth then drives the girls to school and I clear up and move into the home office. I don’t have a set routine from that moment on for my work day. One of the best things about my job is every day will be different, so it may be reading the pre-read for today's meetings, a call with Asia, working through my inbox or any other topic that starts my day. Once the day is over, I normally join Gareth and the girls for dinner and we eat at the dining table catching up on each other’s days, followed by showers and at the moment watching never ending re-runs of Victorious, which both girls are obsessed with! Once they’re in bed it’s either a good book or a boxset with Gareth before off to bed and ready for the next day.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Vulnerability and weakness are not the same thing, and a vulnerable leader can be a good thing. Showing regardless of position, title or role that you are first a human being is and I think has been, even more important during the pandemic. As leaders, we have a truly important role in ensuring the individual is seen, that everyone is aware that sometimes we can all struggle. Our role as leaders is to provide the safe environment to ensure that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness or failure but a way for us all to grow and learn together.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I’m not great at reading leadership books, I tend to flit between chapters and relevance at the time, so I don’t think I can give an answer to this that shows a profound impact. What I would say is that experience and networking I think also have a great way to impact your leadership and learnings and even without a particular book I believe that ensuring you’re open and seek to understand, whether from a book, TED talk, colleague, friend, child or someone else is a good way of growing your knowledge and understanding.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Across a large organisation we have to understand that we need to walk the walk and talk the talk to truly engage and move the needle on leadership. Setting a vision and a goal is important – but also building that and driving toward it with the team makes it a shared objective, destination and vision which means that the number of people engaged grows. As humans I believe that engagement and enthusiasm come from the emotional connection more than facts and figures so showing the behavior and actions you are looking for is a big part of being a leader. A key part of this is to also ensure that you have the tough conversations when you need to, be courageous in approach.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
During my time in my current role there have been quite a few external factors – one pretty big one of the COVID-19 Pandemic. There is one particular day that really sticks with me, we have employed a tool in the company called ‘rounds’ it’s a way that especially when in the virtual world and video calls you can engage with everyone on the call, giving everyone space to speak vs. just the talkative ones! It works exactly as the name would suggest – you move around the ‘room’ giving everyone the chance to comment/build or pass if they don’t want to -> This particular day we were doing a team check in – going round the room how is everyone, and as you’d expect there was the usual í’m fine’; ‘all good’; etc. Until we got to the one brave person in the room, someone who I will always admire for this one act above all else, who said “am I the only one who’s not ok? I don’t feel like I’m ok with this and lockdown”. Now this simple sentence suddenly gave everyone else the opportunity to speak up and say – no I’m not either. The learning I took away from that stays with me – it's ok to show vulnerability, it's not a weakness, everyone is struggling at times in their own way, make the space and make it clear that it's ok to sometimes not be ok.