Friday, 18 January 2019
Everyone tells you it is lonely at the top. And that is true.
Throughout my career I have been passionate about partnership, collaboration and adding value. To my mind, better outcomes are achieved when people and organisations work together and the sector pulls in the same direction.
I recently completed my first year as Reside’s CEO and, during that time, spoke to several of my peers and received invaluable support that was much appreciated. In the current public sector funding environment, it is imperative we work together.
And yet, in my experience both in social care and now in housing too, it’s easy to focus on competition, potential mergers and the survival of the organisation. Of course, in housing, as in other sectors, whether commercial or charitable, it is natural to work towards the success of one’s organisation. But suspicion and, say, the covert reading of other’s accounts before meetings, does not generate an atmosphere of positive networking or problem solving. We must overcome these limiting habits in order to find opportunities to work together and generate the kind of creative solutions that can only come from an open environment.
One very good aspect of being a small organisation is that we simply cannot single-handedly meet the need for supported housing. And, because we do not provide support, every scheme requires us to work in partnership with care providers. This means we are perhaps seen as less ‘threatening’ and have more opportunities than most to work with other organisations. Collaboration is something we believe in so much it’s one of our core values.
It seems to me that there might also be space for some more formal collaboration among the leaders in the sector. Perhaps leadership learning sets or a scheme like Cascading Leadership from The King’s Fund; an opportunity for leaders in health and care organisations in the voluntary and community sector to develop leadership skills and receive practical support.
Last year I was invited to a National Housing Federation dinner for new CEOs. Our audience with David Orr quickly ended up as a discussion about political influence and seemed to assume that as a new CEO in housing you must have worked in housing for years. Many of the audience had of course, but what I really wanted was less of a conversation about the politics of housing supply and more a collaboration between a new set of peers for the journey ahead.
During my second year in post, I will be seeking more opportunities to collaborate and support my peers. Our end users benefit when the sector works together.