Lillian Ngala is the Group Head of HR at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB). She is also a council member at the Institute of Human Resource Management, a regulatory body for HR professionals in Kenya.
Lillian is the vice-chairperson of the Board of Kenya Information Network Centre and the chairperson of the Audit Committee for the same organisation, vice-chairperson of the Board of the Kenya Institute of Bankers, and a member of the Finance Committee at National Industrial Training Authority.
For how long have you been in the industry and what motivates you?
I have been in the HR profession for over a decade now. What has kept me motivated over the years is the constant one-on-one interaction with staff, coaching them and developing their capacity to ensure they do not just meet the company’s deliverables but also grow in their respective professions. My role gives me an opportunity to impact lives directly and indirectly.
You are currently the Group HR, what does your job entail?
I lead the organisation in consultation with my CEO to create positive environment that would attract and retain the best talent, which would ultimately have an impact on the bank’s bottom line.
What kind of assessment do you do to your potential employees to ensure that customers’ money is safe?
The banking sector is a sensitive industry due to the nature of our operations. Integrity is non-negotiable. Against this backdrop, any new staff joining the bank must be subjected to rigorous background checks. We have systems and interventions, both internally and externally, that we put all the new entrants through.
What is your ideal day like?
My typical day starts off with meeting my HR team to reflect on the previous day’s work and plan for the new day’s activities. I then meet the bank’s executives, who are mainly the unit heads of various departments, to implement various agreed-upon strategies. I then spend some time responding to emails and other communications. Afterwards, I hold a meeting with the Group CEO to discuss any matters arising in various departments. I equally spend my day motivating and inspiring staff (it’s a daily affair). I also do wear the hat of a coach most of the time.
What principles do you stand for?
Authenticity, truth, courage and confidence.
How was the journey to where you are?
It’s been an interesting journey of learning, adapting and growing. There have been low and high moments. I am quite grateful for it has taught me many things. Low moments have acted as learning guideposts. The high moments have been the beacon of hope to me, and those who look up to me as a mentor and coach. The Group CEO, Nasim Devji, has been a critical pillar for my growth. Constant mentorship has helped me navigate challenges along my career.
What advice would you give to young people aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
You must be passionate and possess deep grit in all that you do. HR is not just about Labour Laws and/or Employment Act — one must be a people’s person if you are to excel in the profession.
Never stop learning for continuous improvement —keep sharpening your skills and gaining new knowledge, have a solid mentor and coach, keep up with emerging trends and challenge yourself in performing tough and complex assignments.
What drives you?
I am driven by the capacity to solve problems creatively and innovatively. Learning new things that will make transformational change by creating synergies to achieve goals and the thoughts of accomplishing goals keeps me alive.
What achievements are you most proud of?
My topmost achievement is discovering my purpose and living a meaningful life. I currently run a foundation called Lillian Ngala Foundation, where I build decent homes for widows and support orphans and needy students to access education. The foundation currently has its activities in Homa Bbay County, but it is expanding to other parts of Kenya in a phased manner. I also serve on several boards in the country, where impactful and transformative decisions are made.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Shepherding the organisation through change management — change is the only constant — continuous learning and development, the achievement of strategic goals as well as creating a positive environment within the bank makes me tick!
And what do you find most challenging?
Every individual is different and therefore having a common initiative or intervention at times might not be easy. As a result, creating buy-ins in cases of change management might be difficult. But as a leader, you must learn to make employees believe in the change you want to create, get their thoughts, negotiate and reach a common ground with them on certain issues as long as you do not compromise on the organisation’s values and goals.
With your busy schedule, do you find time to be with your family?
Yes, I am very intentional about having a balanced life. I believe it’s about striking a balance. I truly believe that women can have it all, yes, it is a question of prioritisation. There are both scheduled and spontaneous moments with the family.
How do you unwind?
Long drives with music, writing and brisk walking.
What is the one thing unique about you?
Energy and passion for commitment. I give my all in everything that I do.
Your dream holiday destination?
I would love to visit Santorini in Greece and Maldives
What mantra do you live by?
Perfection is the enemy of progress, Just get started!
Rolling out coaching and mentoring programmes that would nurture upcoming leaders into the leadership space.