It doesn’t get any easier in the housing sector, does it? Along with health, housing has long been seen as the area of public policy affected by more changes in legislation, guidance and practice than any other. But the changes and challenges of the last couple of years have taken matters to new heights.
Last year, ahead of the first lockdown, Campbell Tickell set up a WhatsApp group for housing chief executives. We had always been conscious that the position of a CEO is not an easy one. You are the key leader of your organisation, but you need to share and unload too, as you face up to real-life challenges. Where do you turn? Your Chair and Board members may not provide the engagement you need, however positive the relationships. It isn’t easy to share everything with your executive members who report to you. Many CEOs have coaches, but that role is different, and coaches are commonly sourced from outside one’s sector. What about other CEOs though? Especially when all are facing similar and directly comparable challenges – which was where we all found ourselves with the arrival of the pandemic.
Earlier in the pandemic, the group’s focus was inevitably on immediate issues such as:
Managing repairs and judging what was deliverable;
Keeping in touch with residents, especially the most vulnerable;
Mental health and wellbeing of customers and staff;
The group’s membership swelled and swelled, to 220+ CEOs of housing associations and ALMOs, drawn from right across the UK and into the Republic of Ireland. Perhaps as remarkable, the membership has remained at that level right up to the present. The amount of ‘traffic’ has inevitably reduced – over the first six to eight weeks of the group’s life, we were seeing up to 150 messages a day posted – but it remains active to this day, and for its members, an invaluable medium to share information, ideas and good practice. While the prevailing issues have shifted from those requiring immediate attention at the onset of the virus, the current topics demanding CEOs’ attention also require sustained focus and agility, and shared insight continues to be valuable.
Over recent months, attention has gravitated to longer term questions, and I’ll be talking about these at the Brighter Future Conference on the 14th October.
This group showcases much of what is best about the housing sector, with a willingness to share, collaborate, develop partnerships. In the early days of the pandemic, it led for instance to some joint purchasing of equipment and supplies. The ‘Media, Docs and Links’ section of the group’s feed is a veritable library of policies, procedures, action plans and best practice guidance.
Colleagues have recognised the value of sharing where there is no need to compete, but every need to work together. That must be one of the big takeaways from the way we have all had to face up to the pandemic, and find positive ways through it, in the interests of our customers, our staff, our local partners and our communities.
I’m looking forward to the Brighter Future Conference, when I’ll be sharing the view of housing leaders on what is next for the housing sector, and how reimagining, resilience and collaboration are the key tools for not only recovery, but to continue to progress.
Partner at Campbell Tickell
The latest digest of discussions on CT’s CEOs WhatsApp group is at www.campbelltickell.com/2021/07/20/housing-ceo-whatsapp-group-digest-summary-19-july-2021/. Housing CEOs wishing to join the group are welcome to contact Greg Campbell or James Tickell.