What happens when you get together with Asset Directors, Transformation Directors, Housing Directors, People Directors and most roles in between from across the length and breadth of the country, representing every size and type of organisation, including Clarion, Origin, Peabody, Rochdale Boroughwide Housing and Notting Hill Genesis to name just a few?
At Greenacre Consult’s summer leadership lounge, it was a real privilege to Chair a webinar packed full of the sectors top talent, and as someone who has been doing this kind of thing for many years than I care to remember, I love the fact that I’m still learning too – listening, reflecting, incubating seeds of ideas and being blown away by the professionalism, energy, passion and commitment of Greenacres leadership lounge cohort of senior leaders who are making a significant contribution to their own organisations and the wider sector.
What really struck me, was the fact that this group of aspiring executives and CEOs are the absolute backbone of tackling the challenges the housing sector is currently facing. We hear a great deal about what’s keeping CEOs and Boards awake at night, about the drive for service quality improvements by housing management and repairs teams and also how executive teams are juggling multiple balls, with stretched capacity and the biggest regulatory and policy change for decades. But it’s this group of tomorrows senior executives that are running complex services with multi dimensional considerations, developing programmes to transform and improve the customer experience and create greater capacity and galvanising and motivating a workforce who are leaving key operational roles or experiencing burn out.
Let’s step back for a moment and think about what the current landscape looks like. Firstly, capacity is stretched, as landlords grapple with competing demands for asset investment – decency, building safety, cyclical maintenance, post pandemic repairs back logs and decarbonisation, whilst revenue is down in real terms following the rent cap and supply chain and operating costs are up. Natural hunting grounds for capacity generation are also being squeezed with the cost of borrowing, digital, technology and data immaturity and staff delivering services experiencing burn out – absence and attrition levels in key operational roles are starting to show worrying trends. All of this is set against a backdrop of significant policy and regulatory change and the sectors reputation being at an all time low with residents, the media and Government.
We don’t always take the time to reflect on the weight of responsibility that key owners of service delivery and infrastructure carry. They are key to the challenges the sector and their organisation is actions face. Think about it – they manage and motivate the teams delivering the service, they balance the books – ensuring that the business is properly resourced within constrained budgets, they transform, develop and design new ways of working, delivering complex priorities and they also manage key stakeholders, provide assurance to CEOs and Boards and ensure organisations are robust, compliant and on track to deliver business plans.
To coin an old political campaign phrase, have our aspiring senior leaders and executives become the squeezed middle, carrying the burden of expectation whilst holding the key to success ? We have a responsibility to nurture the kind of talent I spent time with at the Greenacre Consult Leadership Lounge, to ensure that we understand what makes them tick, what their needs, preferences and aspirations are and how we can keep them stimulated, motivated and challenged without tipping into overloading, which is a real and present danger for these types of key senior roles. Having a deep understanding of your talent is no different to understanding stock condition or residents, it’s critical insight that will de risk your business.
It would be easy for me to share my experience and top tips for successfully leading and retaining top talent, but I’m not going to. I’m going to let them do that, as their rich dialogue and reflections are much more powerful.
Leadership Lounge Top Tips for supporting senior talent:
- Allow time to share and decompress – our group called it ‘therapy’ Recognising that we all face the same challenges really helps
- Not too proud to make mistakes – sharing things that haven’t gone well and learning for those who may be about to tackle the same challenge is really valuable
- Being honest about where you are at – our group talked a lot about how prepared they were for the complex landscape, and that honesty about gaps and plans to address helped with perspective
- Tailor any learning input to alleviating pressure and supporting objectives – this level of senior leader hasn’t got the time to sit around discussing abstract principles. They want action and solutions that will give them a return on their precious time investment
- Ideas and Experience exchange – mix up the discussion cross functionally and problem solve together. Sharing recent experiences such as new style IDA or decency resolution helps others get ahead.