Top job: Tom Lea-Wilson


Tom Lea-Wilson has been appointed director of HR at Higham Group, a provider of outsourced services for the life insurance and pensions industry. In his new role, he will be responsible for creating HR strategy and building the HR team.

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I ran my own management development and training consultancy, so I was responsible for everything from marketing, finance, business development, client management, and delivery, to IT support.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

Increasing the value of the business through the way we obtain, develop and deploy people; enabling the company to keep up with itself as it grows rapidly.

Which aspects are you most looking forward to?

Working in a company that is already recognised in the market for the way it recruits, and for the quality of its people. On top of that the board members are the brightest and least egotistical senior managers I’ve known.

How will HR change over the next five years?

It will stop doing ‘HR’ things and start studying business and psychology seriously. It will start learning that to have a high-performance culture, you need to have a high celebration of success. It will also stop trying to copy what everyone else is doing and start using its own analysis and imagination to create what is right for its own business.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Having to tell a guy built like a brick outhouse with a bad attitude that people were refusing to work with him because he had such bad body odour.

What is the best thing about HR?

Helping people discover what they can really achieve.

And the worst?


Sacking someone.

What is your essential viewing?

Pine trees.

How do you fill your spare time?

Non-work is family, friends, the world, music, garden, the arts, thinking.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Ordering Bombay Duck.

What is the essential tool in your job?

Asking the question ‘why?‘.

And the most overrated?

Benchmarking.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?

Study the serious research into HR and psychology, not the opinions; know the fundamentals of employment law; develop practical skills; always be prepared to learn; look for the bigger picture.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Brad Pitt, because we look so alike – can’t you tell from the picture?

What is the worst office party you’ve ever attended?

One where the only drink was Vimto, due to a no-alcohol policy.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

My wife. We’ve only been married nine months and weekends aren’t long enough.

Lea-Wilson’s CV

2004 HR Director, Higham Group

2000 Independent consultant

1998 Management development advisor

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