Glynis Lee: Driving Operational Excellence with Positive Impact

The Most Influential Women in Diversity & Inclusion, 2023

Today, women are highly effective and successful Human Resources (HR) executives, just as men. In fact, many organizations have recognized the unique strengths that women can bring to leadership roles in HR. Women have traditionally been well-suited for HR roles because they tend to be highly empathetic, collaborative, and skilled communicators. These attributes can be particularly valuable in HR, which is focused on managing the people who make up an organization. Women also often bring a perspective to HR that reflects a deeper understanding of the challenges and issues that women face in the workplace, which can help organizations create more equitable and inclusive workplaces.

Glynis Lee is an experienced human resources executive who has a proven record of developing and implementing technologies and employee experiences that support the company’s goals. She uses data to make informed decisions and incorporates strategic principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to create processes that encourage the growth of high-performance cultures. Glynis achieves significant results by effectively engaging with people.

“You are the culture. To shift the culture, you must first shift.”

Life Before Stepping into a Professional Career

Glynis feels fortunate to have had a fulfilling career journey that began with her first job at a savings and loan bank after completing her undergraduate studies. She recalls feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of adulthood, having graduated from high school at the age of 16 and from college at the age of 20 without a well-defined career plan. However, she was fortunate to have a supportive mentor who recognized her potential and helped her realize it. With her mentor’s guidance and support, Glynis decided to pursue an MBA and remained open to new experiences and opportunities. She spent most of her career working in information technology, specializing in human resource systems in various industries, before transitioning to a career in HR.

Becoming a D&I Leader

Glynis Lee’s journey towards becoming a D&I leader was a natural progression from her life experiences. Her D&I journey began in elementary school, when she was the only African American student in an all-white, Dutch Christian school. Since the 4th grade, Glynis has been acutely aware of the differences in how non-white students were treated, and how this behavior is perceived as justified. Despite being an honor roll student with loving, married parents who were also educators, Glynis was constantly forced to defend her value, existence, and right to be there. When Glynis was named valedictorian of her high school class, the leadership decided to make the valedictory address an essay contest instead of allowing the valedictorian to deliver the address traditionally. Even though she had excellent grades and SAT scores, her high school counsellor suggested that Glynis not pursue an engineering curriculum in college, saying that she may not be able to compete with students from other schools. These experiences fuelled Glynis’s passion for inclusion and ultimately led to her role in D&I leadership.

Glynis’ experiences have had a profound impact on her, motivating her to act and respond differently. She learned the importance of listening and seeking to understand others, as Steven Covey emphasizes, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Glynis believes that listening is the most critical skill a leader can possess because it is the only way to learn something new. Another valuable lesson she learned was to be humble. She recognizes that our perspectives are just that, our own, and that inclusion requires being truly open to the perspectives of others, avoiding defensiveness about our perspective, and accepting others for the unique individuals they are. Humility also helps us to be open to our own shortcomings. For Glynis, every day and every interaction provide an opportunity to continue learning and growing.

Insights on Industry

Glynis Lee has played a significant role in redefining the industry, but she recognizes that there is still much progress to be made in the field of inclusion and diversity globally. Throughout her career, she has worked to change the perspectives of those she has had the honor of working with, one conversation at a time. She believes that companies should treat inclusion and diversity as a business objective rather than just a moral objective or the “right thing to do.” She suggests approaching I&D in the same manner as any other business opportunity by asking critical questions such as: Who do you want to be as an organization? What is your competitive edge? How do your people contribute to that vision and mission?

To make real progress, companies must assess their current state and ask themselves if their employees’ experiences align with the culture they profess. Glynis encourages companies to have the courage to address any differences and be honest in answering these critical questions. It is through this honest assessment that innovation and progress are born.

Values to Integrate in Work Culture

Glynis emphasizes the importance of expecting and modeling integrity in the workplace. She believes that companies should not accept anything less than integrity from their employees.

To illustrate this point, Glynis draws a parallel between the behavior parents expect from their children and the behavior that companies should expect from their employees. Just as parents model and reward good behavior and do not excuse or overlook bad behavior, companies should model and reward integrity and not reward unsavory or unethical behavior, even if it means sacrificing revenue.

Glynis believes that leaders must make difficult decisions and model the behaviors we want to see in our teams. It is only by doing so that we can create a culture of integrity and lead by example. In the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

A Supportive Leader

One of Glynis’ staff members expressed gratitude towards her for assisting them during a challenging personal phase. They conveyed that they felt no criticism, only genuine willingness to provide support. It dawned on her that Glynis’ actions were instinctual, and aligned with both her heart (intentions and motivations) and her mind. She says, “Knowing your employee’s experience matches your intentions is the greatest recognition you can receive as a leader.”

Words for the Next Generation of Women Leaders

According to Glynis, leadership is an inherently difficult and challenging task, as any leader in any industry can attest. However, she believes that for women, especially women of color, the challenge becomes even greater. Despite their talent, experience, skills, and capabilities, they often find themselves having to continuously prove their worth and fight for a seat at the table. Glynis finds it interesting that although much effort is expended on building underrepresented populations, providing them with additional resources, mentoring, sponsoring, supporting, and encouraging them, they are not the root of the problem. Instead, current leaders need to focus on challenging their biases, removing barriers and obstacles, and learning to operate in an authentically inclusive manner. They must ensure a level playing field where the next generation does not have to face the same roadblocks and uphill battles. Glynis hopes to contribute to this space by helping to ensure inclusivity and opportunities for all.

Aligning Priorities

Glynis believes that achieving balance is not possible because there is always too much to do, and priorities are constantly shifting both in life and at work. Instead, it is crucial to understand what is most important at any given moment and navigate those priorities effectively. This requires an artistic approach rather than a scientific one. Unfortunately, there have been instances where she has made the wrong call. As women, we often feel pressured to “do it all” and question if we can “have it all.” For Glynis, the key is to maintain laser focus on critical tasks and plan and act accordingly. It’s about recognizing what matters most and dedicating my time and energy to those priorities.

Glynis holds the belief that effective leadership begins with internal qualities. As a Christian, she follows God’s commandment to love, including loving oneself. Glynis shares her pastor’s wisdom that self-love is not conceit but rather essential for mental well-being. She emphasizes this to her employees, reminding them that they must first love themselves before they can love others. This is similar to the safety presentation given before every flight, where passengers are instructed to put on their own oxygen masks before assisting others. Self-care is crucial, not selfish.

However, Glynis also acknowledges the reality that life is a mix of positive and negative experiences, and as leaders, they must make difficult decisions. In such moments, she believes that being transparent and vulnerable with employees can be helpful in motivating them. By doing so, employees feel understood and supported.

Glynis expresses gratitude for having a supportive community that understands her goals and dreams. She particularly appreciates her husband of 35 years, who has consistently provided unconditional support in her pursuits. Together, they have navigated the priorities of managing their household, raising their children, and supporting their extended family while also advancing in their professional careers.

Success Define by Individuals

Glynis Lee strongly believes that success should be defined by the individual themselves. She emphasizes that pursuing one’s personal passions and achieving the milestones that matter to them is what shapes their success. Glynis recently ran across an interview with the rapper TI, and he said something that resonated deeply within her– “If you live for the applause, you will die by the boos”.  She says, “You cannot allow others to define what success means for you, as the definitions of others are ever changing.  Only you know what success means to you.  You must find your place, your “happy” place; only then will you be content with who you are.”

Individual Goals  

As a female businesswoman, Glynis is committed to continuous growth. This spring, she plans to begin her doctoral studies in leadership, which will further enhance her knowledge and expertise. She is also gearing up to expand her impact through entrepreneurship and consulting. Furthermore, Glynis’ spouse and she are in the process of establishing a non-profit organization aimed at mentoring young individuals in exploring unconventional paths and understanding their life options.

To women with aspirations, Glynis encourages others to pursue their dreams unapologetically. Your path to success is entirely yours to define. She asserts, “There is no one way to reach success – be authentically you so you can deliver the unique value you possess. Chart your own course and soar!”