When you are offered the chance to take on a completely new and exciting career challenge, what is your first response?
That is the dilemma I found myself facing not so long ago, when after 12 years working for Buckinghamshire CC, culminating in my role as executive director for resources, I was given the opportunity to take on a new position, heading up our communities, health and adult social care directorate.
Never one to shy away from a challenge, I was both flattered that people had faith in me to do the job and also excited at the thought of getting my teeth into something new, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t also daunted by the prospect of taking on a portfolio about which I knew very little. My 34 years of experience in local government had always been in back-office functions. Now I was looking at managing a very different, customer-facing service with huge budgets and equally huge challenges.
I’ve now been in my new role for two months and when I look back at those initial reservations I realise I had nothing to worry about. I have come to see that the majority of leadership and management skills are transferable and can readily be applied to any senior management role. These key core skills are:
- Risk management: the ability to understand areas of risk and know where to focus attention. This is especially important in an area such as adult social care where people’s lives are potentially at risk if the correct systems and safeguards are not in place.
- Budget management: knowing where each pound is spent and ensuring it is spent wisely.
- Planning skills: good time management is essential in such a varied role, ensuring every minute of your day is used to its best.
- People skills: staff want a senior manager who will give them direction and leadership but also someone who will give them empathy and understanding as well as help them to perform at their full potential.
In the past two months I have learned that you don’t have to be an expert in an area to lead effectively and stepping out of your comfort zone is easier that you might think. Taking on this new role has given me renewed confidence and made me realise that I could actually have done it sooner. Change is invigorating and energising, I feel more rounded and effective as an officer having taken that leap into the unknown.
So, for all you budding chief executives out there, my advice is this: you’ve got the skills and experience, so don’t hold back, take that leap of faith and who knows where you might end up?
Gillian Quinton, interim executive director of communities, health and adult social care, Buckinghamshire CC