Other Voices

Pershing's Lisa Dolly asks one key question to judge a job candidate

CEO recommends women gather as many skills as possible while coming up

Nov 18, 2017 @ 6:00 am

By Jeff Benjamin

In 1988, when Lisa Dolly was hired right out of college into Pershing's corporate trainee program, she felt the spotlight on her: She was a woman working in the financial services industry.

Even after becoming CEO of that same firm last year, Ms. Dolly, 51, still feels the glare of the spotlight and tries to use it to her advantage. Yet she doesn't let the fact that she is a female in a mostly male world define her or cloud her focus on what is important for her company and the industry.

From Ms. Dolly's perspective, as the head of one of the nation's largest custodians, the opportunities for women in particular and young people in general in financial services have never been better.

Jeff Benjamin: How would you describe your leadership style?

Lisa Dolly: I would hope folks would say I'm collaborative and allow lots of voices in to help shape my decisions. But I'm also decisive. Once we talk through something, I like to conclude and move forward.

JB: What are some leadership lessons you learned along your career path?

LD: People want to do well when they come to work, and they will be on board in helping you move in the direction you're trying to go if you do a few things. Share with the team where you want to go, why you want to go there and how they can help to get there and their role in it. People are more than willing to help you achieve what you're trying to achieve if you ask them to participate. I also learned that people watch their leaders. They watch every move they make, they interpret it and mimic it. So, if you want certain behaviors to be commonplace, you have to walk the talk.

JB: What kind of culture are you trying to foster at Pershing?

LD: As you know, I grew up at this organization, and one of the things I appreciated is the collaborative culture.

I think we create a respectful environment by which everyone can contribute something. We are considerate of the community around us, our clients, our shareholders and our coworkers as we come to work.

(More: Meet the 2017 Women to Watch)

JB: Is there anything you don't tolerate among the people who work for you?

LD: You don't have to love or like everyone who works for you; even people with different styles have great things they can bring to an organization. What you can't tolerate is people who are deceitful or not working toward the good of the organization. At Pershing, people who are individuals or have rock-star attitudes don't survive here, because the island votes them out.

JB: Did you have any important mentors throughout your career?

LD: I've had loads of important mentors. My philosophy is to try to learn from everyone. My parents taught me about growing up with values, and professionally, I've known lots of leaders at Pershing. You can learn something from virtually everyone around you.

JB: What are the qualities you look for when you are hiring someone?

LD: When I'm hiring, I'm entirely focused on whether they will be a good cultural fit in our organization. At a certain level, people have the skill sets, but it's whether they have the personality to fit in.

JB: How do you gauge whether a person will be a good cultural fit?

LD: You gauge that by asking questions. And one of the most important questions I ask is what motivates the person.

JB: As the leader of an organization, how do you approach challenging times at your company?

(Watch: Pershing's Dolly: Lessons in leadership)

LD: My personal style, and that of other leaders in our organization, is that there's just one way to handle challenges: with openness, honesty and sharing information with employees, clients and the management team.

JB: What kind of feedback have you received over the years about the way you manage?

LD: Throughout my career, I've been very passionate about coaching, mentoring and guiding others. Some of the positive feedback has been that I want the best for others. In terms of constructive feedback, I've been told that I sometimes try to reach conclusions too quickly, and I'll shut down a conversation. Of course, I'm working on that because you're never at a stage where you're not learning.

JB: What advice would you give to other women working their way up the ranks in corporate America?

LD: I would say focus on gathering skills and trying on new experiences, because that allows you to become more relevant and more well-rounded. It's about figuring out how to put the pieces together rather than being a mile deep in one or two subjects.

JB: In terms of opportunities for women, can you talk about some of the changes you've seen throughout your career?

LD: My personal opinion is that the opportunities for women in our industry have been better than have been written about. Early in my career, if you did well you were in the spotlight, but you have to take that and run with it. The world has changed, and there are more women in our industry. I think it's been beneficial to be a woman in financial services, but I'm sure that's not the experience of every woman.

JB: Can you elaborate on the spotlight being focused on women?

LD: I'm the first female CEO of Pershing and that puts a spotlight on me that's different than my predecessor. There is a heightened awareness. This is my personal experience. I'm sure in some companies, and in some parts of our industry, it has been a tougher go for women. But I think financial advice is an area where women can contribute in a big way. The skill sets women bring to the table are particularly suited for giving advice. The demand for advice by Americans is increasing. We're going to have a labor gap that I think young women can fill and play an important role in.

JB: What career advice do you give young people?

LD: I recommend getting into the financial advice industry. For young folks, I tell them not to worry so much about status or title or pay, but to make sure they are in a place where they can continue to learn and grow, and where somebody is focused on their career.

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