Helping a new leader hit the ground running

Commonweal Housing

Consultant: Andrew Middleton

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Andrew Middleton

“Andrew’s coaching was very beneficial. He acted as a very experienced and sensible sounding board that teased out my thinking and helped to formulate it in a more sophisticated and clear way, and helped to stimulated conversations in important directions.”

Jack Mactaggart, Chair, Commonweal Housing

Commonweal Housing works with partners to test and develop ideas to provide housing solutions to social injustice. Jack Mactaggart, who had been a Trustee for four years, including one as Vice Chair, had recently taken on the vacant position of Chair, his first time in such a role, and wanted to gain experience. He had undertaken some training in governance and leadership when the opportunity came up to bid for one of our Pearls of Wisdom, promising coaching for a Trustee or CEO. It seemed ideal for helping Jack grow seamlessly into his new role.

Pearl of Wisdom:
Three Months Coaching for a CEO or Trustee – delivered by experienced mentor and Governance and Strategy Consultant Andrew Middleton.

The brief was simply to provide Jack with coaching support over a period of time as he grew accustomed to his new role.

Andrew began by listening to Jack’s ideas for the evolution of Commonweal and what he wanted to achieve during his tenure as Chair. The aim was to draw out Jack’s own thinking and repeat it back to him with added objectivity and clarity.

Over the course of three two-hour sessions, Andrew took Jack through a course of “friendly interrogation”, focusing mainly on strategic questions rather than any specific challenges. There was some attention paid to governance, including matters such as collective responsibility, key person risks and the Trustees’ sense of ownership.

Andrew’s conversations with Jack resulted in a two-page document detailing the key ambitions for Commonweal, such as increasing engagement between the Trustees and the organisation and building collective responsibility.

Jack was encouraged to think about how the organisation could share data and insights to achieve greater impact, eg through reports or lobbying – a question the Board had not been asked before.

Andrew also recommended a Governance Review, which Jack agreed to implement over the next two months.

Consultant’s insight:
Having a mentor or ‘sounding board’ to bounce your ideas off is essential for anyone in a leadership role, and particularly so when you’re new into the role and it’s something you haven’t done before. But asking for this sort of support takes a degree of humility, especially when there are no problems, as such, to be resolved.

Commonweal is a well organised entity and there was certainly no immediate crisis to tackle – our conversations were more about evolution and strategising, helping to crystallise Jack’s thinking and how his ideas could be converted into change.

It was a pleasure to work with Jack. He was focused and open-minded and seemed to appreciate my questioning and the subjects that we tackled as a result. He showed all the signs of making a great success of his time as Chair at Commonweal.

About Pearls of Wisdom
Pearls of Wisdom is our campaign to mark the 30th anniversary of Action Planning, for which we have given away £100,000 worth of free consultancy, spread over 56 separate packages. You can read more about it here.

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