Forum Strategy’s National #Trustleaders Symposium was inspirational not only in its content, its informed, engaging guest speakers, and wonderful hospitality, but also in the overall energy exuding from every Trust leader in the room. With extraordinary demands on our time, it’s all too easy to pass up invaluable opportunities to prioritise ‘headspace’, and meet with our peers and with pioneers. To see so many out in force was testament to a shared vision, sense of purpose and commitment. The ambition was all there, and the Symposium was the touchpaper required.
Aptly entitled ‘Accomplishment at Scale’ the theme of the day recognised the enormous achievements and resilience of the sector in the wake of two-plus years of pandemic chaos. More importantly however, it re-ignited courageous and creative thinking by simply posing the question ‘is our ambition for our Trust, our children, bold enough?’
“it’s time to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable and ride the waves of uncertainty, as for the time being, our social, political and global landscape remains unstable.”
Effective storytelling from raconteurs extraordinaire, Sir Steve Lancashire and Sir Michael Barber – with Maggie Farrar’s addition of ingenious glue to each narrative – highlighted the fact that treading water is no longer an option. From the fable of Joseph (Old Testament) to Reach2’s twenty first century story of growth, each account shared common themes of triumph over adversity. The overriding message was ‘we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again’, there will always be challenges, there will always be problems to overcome. But it’s time to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable and ride the waves of uncertainty, as for the time being, our social, political and global landscape remains unstable.
Easier said than done. But where to start? Group work led to wider discussions around the individual aims of each Trust, but what was interesting to me was whatever the aim there was an overall agreement that the ambition could and should be higher.
Organisations, large and small, that not only survive but thrive in times of uncertainty, share some common attributes. They are largely agile, creative and courageous, and they are prepared. But in my experience, the main component of success starts and ends with effective communication – and never more so than in times of turbulence. Ingenious ideas, best laid plans, and all the hard work and commitment combined will struggle to survive without clear, coherent, and consistent communication. Insights shared from the stage and the floor concurred.
“With creative thinking, purposeful action and communication aligned, bold ambition will lead us to accomplish many great things in calm or choppy seas.”
Sir Michael encouraged us to listen to the right people and find courage to ‘release the prisoner in chains’ and give them a voice. Original thinking will often come from left of field – because typically we aren’t asking the right questions, let alone the right people – the agents of change we need today. A cultural shift across every aspect of Trust life may be required, and a fitting communication strategy should be key in chartering significant change.
Sir Steve surmised, we must get into the mindset of ‘the art of the possible’ and not let problems thwart our ambition. Facing ‘big inevitable problems’ will always be part of the day job, it’s how intent we are on finding solutions that counts . Solutions required to solve today’s problems will require different thinking and different approaches, but we mustn’t rest there. With creative thinking, purposeful action and communication aligned, bold ambition will lead us to accomplish many great things in calm or choppy seas.