John Johnstone began his career as a corporate lawyer then opted to change career and work in HR. He worked in various HR roles in the NHS before becoming employee relations manager for Standard Life Assurance. He is now head of personnel for Standard Life Bank.
Most important lesson
Look for the diamond inside people – it gets the best from people and there’s always a way to manage around the rough edges.
Some years ago I had to give feedback to a very masculine looking transsexual who had mistakenly applied for a job as "company secretary" thinking it was a secretarial job. I was profoundly relieved when he was able to see the funny side.
Dream holiday location
A log cabin in the Canadian mountains by one of the great lakes with my family and a few friends.
Three wishes to change my company
Many of our managers are outstanding leaders – I hope all our managers will some day be as accomplished as our most talented ones. Like many of my colleagues, I’d like to see more diversity in the workforce. It would be great if we could read our customers minds.
Best thing about working in HR
Handling issues which are both fascinating and crucial to the sustained success of the business.
Securing buy-in from multiple stakeholders who, just occasionally, may have competing interests.
Object from burning house
I’d save the videos of my children growing up – pretty much everything else can be replaced.
Least appealing characteristic
As a lawyer I sometimes use a dozen big words when a few small ones will do.
Nelson Mandela. His dignity, quiet but unshakeable conviction and his strength to forgive are inspiring qualities.
Travel to work
If the weather’s good I’ll walk the three miles to work but I often drive because it’s quick and I can get so much done early in the morning before the phone starts to ring.
More spare time
I would write my long planned novel.
Mastermind special subject
Mistakes I have learned from.
I have a natural change orientation and a restless curiosity to find a better way to deliver for the business without compromising my people values.
When I left a career as a solicitor in a big commercial law practice to pursue a career in HR. That was a big risk at the time but I’m glad it worked out.
1998-present head of personnel, Standard Life Bank
1997-1998 employee relations manager, Standard Life Assurance
1996-1997 director of HR, NHS Trust, North Scotland
1993-1995 assistant director of HR, NHS Trust, Dumfries
1991-1993 organisation development manager, NHS Trust Glasgow
1986-1991 corporate lawyer, City of London and Glasgow