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What Leadership Can Look Like in a Crisis

Appointed with the help of CO3's recruitment service, Engage, Northern Ireland National Director of Diabetes UK, Tina McCrossan was barely into post when Covid-19 hit in early 2020.  Here she tells CO3's members about how a focus on planning and communications kept her new team on point.  

I’ve been in post as National Director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland for 14 weeks and for 10 of these weeks I, along with all my colleagues, have been working from home. Needless to say, my induction plan pretty much went out the window as we were all thrown into crisis mode.

Working for a well-resourced organisation meant that, by the time the restrictions were put in place, almost all staff had the equipment and support needed to work from home and only a small percentage had to wait for this to be put in place. The transition was fairly seamless. This wasn’t an accident – key staff across the charity had been scenario planning for weeks. As someone who was new to the organisation, two things struck me. Firstly, in the planning and decision-making, there was a genuine focus on getting it right for people, people living with and affected by diabetes as well as staff. This was clear across the leadership of the charity, and in the decision-making processes. Secondly, I was really struck by the level of communication with staff. Clear messages were given to staff from very early on outlining options and timescales and providing reassurance. There was a real intention to be transparent and thoughtful in communicating with colleagues.

We’re now thinking about what a return to working in offices might look like and conversations about this are happening across the charity. Within our own team we’ve been talking about the impact of working from home, what has worked well, what’s been challenging, and what we want to hold on to.

For me, I’ve found the amount of screen time difficult. There’s virtually (sorry!) nothing I can do that’s doesn’t involve the screen. Online meetings take a different type of energy and I find it harder to move from one thing to the next.

Overall, though, this has been a very positive experience and there are some things I really want to hold onto as we move forward including:

  • The sense of everything being stripped back so that we can focus on our core purpose
  • Working closely with colleagues to get things done – it seems that silos have been broken down in ways we couldn’t have imagined just three months ago
  • Getting it right for people – this has been so tangible and, as a new leader within the charity, I find this refreshing and empowering
  • Transparency – being open and humble in communications with staff. It’s better to keep talking, even when there’s huge uncertainty, than to hold back until the message is 100% accurate
  • Less time travelling and, in particular, flying – there’s a real opportunity for us to be mindful of our impact and become a greener charity.

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