Taking time out to tackle challenges

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Turbulent times, alongside unsettled weather, highlight the need to restore inner calm and thinking space. Reside Housing Association’s Chief Executive Officer, Diane French, discusses how she and her team tackle challenges in a fast-changing world.

At the time of writing my last blog, it was not quite spring but I was looking forward to the lighter mornings and blossoming of flowers which I knew were just around the corner.

Now, finally, spring has sprung – although the vagaries of the British weather meant that early April saw me leaving home in the dark with snow on my windscreen. My umbrella then blew inside out on the way back from a meeting, so I ended up returning home cold and wet.

Here in the UK we like to talk about the weather. Indeed, the unsettled conditions we’ve experienced recently certainly feel like a metaphor for aspects of the turbulent world around us – whether we ponder Brexit, the state of the environment, the reported rise in knife crime or our own personal trials and tribulations.

At Reside we have seen, and continue to manage, a great deal of change. When we feel buffeted by all that is going on around us it is important to sometimes step back, reflect, press the ‘pause’ button and find some space to calm our minds.

Of course we all have different ways of doing this and we have to find what works for us, while also trying to build this into our lives and working environment.

The bigger picture

As an executive team, here at Reside, we spend an afternoon together once a month. This provides us with the chance to specifically talk about the bigger issues, without a busy business agenda. We sometimes start our routine meetings by checking in with each other or answering the question “What is going well?” and, conversely, “What are we worrying about?”

One of the things we can always offer our colleagues is the opportunity to act as a sounding board, for them to talk and for us to really listen. When I have a lot going on, I often think of my brain as being like a jumbled ball of wool and the simple act of talking about it helps me unravel it for myself.

My friends, family and many of my colleagues have, over the years, got used to me just needing to download my brain or ‘think out loud’. I know their listening and input – their collaboration, if you like – is part of what makes me function.

I also make time to meet peers, as talking to other CEOs about the challenges they face helps me to think about ours. I sometimes also work specifically with a coach I’ve known for many years who is skilled at helping me to analyse and think things through.

I absolutely believe that we achieve more, make better decisions and release creative problem-solving when we collaborate well. So our challenge, personally and professionally, is how we ensure we build time for that into our teams and our lives.

In a busy and often troubled world, giving our attention to someone – taking the time to listen, talk things through and help them think – is a gift. It is an important gift, which can make a huge difference. But it is a gift we can all give, however unsettled the world is – and whatever the weather.

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