Managing Change: How My Company Is Responding To New Leadership Challenges

Sarah Day - Managing Change – The leadership skills that have helped my company thrive.

I’m Sarah Day, Chief Executive at Practice Solutions. I started the 20Twenty programme back in 2010. At the time I was the Communications Manager for the business and it was a completely different entity. We had managed to weather the credit crunch of 2008/9, but things were tough.

I remember being sat at my desk, looking at the 20Twenty taster flyer and saw it as a lifeline. 

The course was an opportunity to create relationships and learn new skills that would help us to move to a different space, which at the time, was essential. We either had to do something different, or we’d become another statistic of the businesses that didn’t weather the storm. For both my father (who set up the business) and me, that simply wasn’t an option.    

My colleague, Business and People Manager, Glenda George, also attended the 20Twenty programme in 2019. I was keen to ensure we developed the right skills and experiences in our management team to secure our future for the next 10 years, and beyond. 

Leadership Challenges

Well-being: communication is key

We’re in a completely different space to the one in 2010. We did weather the storm and returned bigger and stronger from the whole experience. However, this crisis has had a different impact.

We now employ fifteen staff, so it’s been vital that we’re able to support their well-being. Our productivity relies on the skills, knowledge and experiences of people and we have had to make sure they feel supported to do this in the best way possible.

Over the past two months, the Microsoft Teams environment has been really useful in ensuring we maintain regular communication with colleagues. It’s been a life line when we’ve all been confined to homeworking arrangements.

The wheel of business has slowed significantly for us. Many of our clients, as public service providers, are heavily involved in the front-line of leading and delivering the Covid-19 response. Previously planned projects that were on the horizon have fallen off a cliff edge while their priorities are, understandably, elsewhere. 

In response, we’ve had to demonstrate creativity, leadership and confidence; showing that we’re stable, prepared and ready to do business.

Most of all, we have worked hard to understand what our clients need most right now, joining the dots to how we can put the best support in place to help them meet the needs of their communities and their workforce.

Cash Flow

When the wheel slows, so does the availability of cash. To date we’ve been lucky that due to an abundance of projects and the way in which we manage our cash, running out of money has never been an issue. However, in the past few months, we’ve had to work hard to get a tight rein on money going in and out of the business.

The knowledge gained from the Accounting and Finance modules in the 20Twenty Programme has proved invaluable.

Being Present – Virtually

Our business is all about supporting other people to improve the health and social care sector. It’s been a challenge to get all our teams and clients to operate and connect in the virtual sphere.

As an organisation we’ve immersed ourselves in the Microsoft Teams environment and taken advantage of the online training provided as part of the Office 365 platform. We’ve also familiarised ourselves with software, such as Zoom and Webex to ensure we’re confident in engaging with other technology that might be preferred by our clients and collaborators. 

Ensuring effective communication, with the ability to work and communicate in a virtual sphere is essential. Whilst one person might feel completely disconnected from the rest of the organisation, another might feel completely overloaded by the amount of time they spend online. Therefore, ultimately, it’s the role of managers and leaders to check we have the right approach. 

At present, the key for us as leaders is to be flexible about the ways in which our colleagues choose to communicate, but it has also been important to lead by example. If we’re confident in using the technology, then our experience tells us, that soon enough, it becomes a normal working practice within the organisation.

Opportunities and Innovation

People have certainly had the opportunity to shine during this experience and as such they have and will continue to be rewarded for their involvement.

We have used this time to streamline our processes, making sure that everyone is using their time efficiently and using technology in the best way to support business efficiencies and opportunities.

Building a virtual presence has the potential to open new doors for us. We pride ourselves on being a company based in Wales delivering for Wales, but our skills and experiences have value in other sectors and countries.

There are opportunities to position ourselves as a business that can help foster connections for companies outside of Wales wanting to work within the Welsh context. 

Putting Theory Into Practice

Steven Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and the 8 step process of Kotter’s change model have been really helpful to revisit during this time. It has helped me ensure that as a leader, I’m doing all I can to enable us to move on from this experience and leave us in a stronger position than we were before COVID-19.  

In recent months, my colleague Glenda George has also been on the 20Twenty programme, and she has gained knowledge that has been very useful during this time. 

Glenda applied what she had learnt from the 20Twenty accounting modules to our own business situation. As a result, we now have a far tighter grip on how our money is managed, and that responsibility is shared across our senior management team. 

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

These times have been extremely difficult for most, but I think it’s important for us all to be able to take time out of the ‘day to day’ job to reflect on what’s been achieved. Engaging in the programme is a great way for this to happen and to seize new opportunities.

The knowledge you gain from the 20Twenty Leadership Programme and the networks you create will serve to help you develop as an individual for many years to come.

It will also help to you to look objectively at the areas of your business you need to work on to achieve success.

Talk to colleagues, build your networks and know that you can always achieve more by collaboration. Be prepared to trust yourself and others and do something differently, there will always be a benefit. 

Related Links

Ted Talk – Brene Brown – The Power Of Vulnerability

Practice Solutions Blog – Developing a Healthy Organisation

Book – Steven Covey’s, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

CMI Insights – The emotional fallout of homeworking, and how to manage it