July

Month two of being a ‘CEO’. I’m still not sure I really know what that means given really we are a lean early stage start-up and I’m…well…me. What I do know is that there are a lot of balls to juggle and if I wasn’t doing this as a double act with Jon they’d have all crashed to the floor already.

The combination of sales, delivery, finance, governance, people, group relations, marketing and who knows what else (well I suppose I’m the one who is supposed to know what else!) is a heady mix. Combined with the amost constant requirement to be in London means my head is spinning a lot of the time. My work/life balance is totally in the toilet at the moment and my diet has fallen apart.

The thing is that despite all this I am enjoying things. There is a lot to learn and I suspect I am making more than my share of mistakes but I like being in the more strategic discussions, having my opinion listened to by other senior leaders, being able to implement some ways of working, thinking about our comms and marketing approach and getting stuck in to the people operations stuff. Over the years I have been lucky enough to work with and for so many talented people – not to mention all the amazing people in my network who constantly, openly share their learning – and it seems some stuff has managed to land in my addled mind. I really do have a picture of what success looks like and the beginnings of an idea of the roadmap to get there. Just need to build the resilience to make that journey.


Things that happened

Our work with the Food Standards Agency got started in earnest. This is really exciting for a whole bunch of reasons – not least there are some great people involved on their side of things and they just exist in the niche I really enjoy. Non-Ministerial, not huge, reasonable risk appetite, really important (and clear) mission and data-centric. I’m trying not to get too involved day-to-day. The risk of the kind of ‘player-manager’ role that I have at the moment is you can stick your nose in but then only have the time to do a half-arsed job because of all the other commitments. This is proving difficult but we have an amazing team on the programme so I’m working on it. It was nice to get a chance to visit York as well (well it was nice when I got there – the trip from Bristol was a slog!).

We had our first team meeting since Jon and I took the reins. I have a love/hate relationship with meetings. I often joke that what I offer clients is MaaS (Meetings as a Service) and my lack of a poker face means many jokes are made at my expense about how much I hate meetings. This is only partly true. I hate bad meetings. I believe team meetings particularly are really important and vital to nurturing a good culture. You just have to get them right (in fact yesterday I was at the Futuregov team meeting and that was a good example of a meeting that worked…without feeling like a burden.) I believe in the idea of ‘meeting design’ and I attempted to start introducing an element of that – just some basics at this point. I also bought a Time Timer for the meeting which I enjoyed a lot.

There were a couple of Group gatherings. The chieftains of the Panoply clans in a room is a lot of ‘alpha’ personalities. I fear I am gaining a somewhat bad reputation in these meetings. That previously mentioned lack of a poker face doesn’t help and a couple of times I’ve allowed my frustrations about some of the process to bubble to the surface in not entirely constructive ways (nothing really bad I think but perceptions tend to stick). I genuinely like all the other characters and I am totally on board with the vision of a ‘small pieces, loosely joined professional services powerhouse’ but I suspect my coming from such a different career background means my priorities and expectations are different. Anyway I need to improve my behaviours even if my attention is to keep pushing the same points.

I did 1-2-1s with a few team members for the first time. I wanted to bring a little more structure to things so we are going to be doing these properly every month. For a small company our internal comms hasn’t always been great – because we are so busy and conversations tend to be very of the moment things get missed. I’m keen to make sure that gets better and also we start thinking about developing our people for the medium and long term not just the next project. We are (very) loosely using some of the questions and structure Louise Cato uses at Delib (thanks Lou) and I’m trying to do them face to face (2 out of 3 this week) and book a proper private meeting room for them. I enjoyed them and found them helpful – hopefully everybody else did as well.


This months hotels:

  • The East London Hotel
  • Park Inn, York
  • QBic London
  • Hub by Premier Inn – Kings Cross
  • Point A – Liverpool Street
  • Artist Residence, Brighton

Best thing I read this month was ‘”Finding the ‘So What?'” by Doteveryone. How to write great research/consultancy reports. https://doteveryone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Doteveryone-definition-of-done-.pdf


If anybody needs me this weekend – forget it. I have done the necessary to view the new series of Veronica Mars. DO NOT DISTURB.

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