Last month, I was appointed the new Chief Executive of Sense, after five years as its Deputy CEO.
Most new CEOs joining an organisation would start with visiting its services and meeting as many of its stakeholders as possible. It’s about discovering the lie of the land, learning more about the work the organisation does, and meeting its staff, volunteers and beneficiaries, all for the first time.
I approached my first month as if I was new to the organisation
When I was appointed CEO last month, it would have been easy to think ‘Well, I have been Deputy CEO at Sense for five years, so I know all there is to know…” Instead, I have tried to approach my first month as if I am new to the organisation. That means I have spent a lot of time on the road visiting as many services as possible, to learn afresh about Sense.
At the beginning of the month, I visited our newest service. Based in Brent, it will provide a home for twelve adults with sensory impairments and complex needs. It is of particular interest to me as I had worked with our operations and business development colleagues on the tender for the service, and was part of the team that presented to commissioners.
I arrived at the end of a very inspiring day – the first get together for individuals, families and the registered Manager – a chance to see their new homes and choose the flats that they are going to live in. There are already connections to Sense. Two people currently go to TouchBase South East, one of our Centres in London.
I was blown away when I was shown around- it is an absolutely fantastic environment – modern and spacious with state of the art high-tech equipment. I have no doubt that it will create an environment where individuals will thrive. I have promised to do a shift when the service opens later in the year.
I was blown away by the quality of our services and staff commitment
I also spent a day as a volunteer support worker at Warren Farm in Birmingham. It was a pleasure to do a shift alongside staff, which helped provide a greater understanding of the people we support and what it means to work for Sense. At first, I think a few of the staff were a little awed by my title and must have thought I was checking up on them, but this didn’t last long.
It was clear as the staff got on with their jobs that they are totally committed to the support they provide and go the extra mile. But of course it was business as usual for all the team, which means they are probably last to recognise the positive impact of what they do.
I have also had the opportunity to visit our services in Norfolk. The highlight for me was meeting Bunty, the daughter of one of our founders, Peggy Freeman, whom you can imagine is something of a celebrity in Sense’s terms. A dignified and calm lady, who to the staff’s delight gently kicked me when she felt that she had enough of interacting with me. Bunty wasn’t fazed by the title of CEO, and why should she!
And as I write this I am on a train returning from a trip to see our excellent services in Louth.
What have I learned in my first month?
I have tried to approach my first month as a proper induction into Sense. I don’t want to take the fact that I am known at Sense for granted. It is important that I am a visible CEO – that means visiting services, meeting stakeholders, giving regular updates on what I am up to. It means trying to put myself out there and representing Sense publicly.
It is clear that the role of Registered Manager is critical to the success of our services. All our managers are fully motivated to support staff to be able to adapt what they do for each individual, and always strive to improve and provide the best support. They do amazing work, and the organisation is proud of them and their staff teams.
Finally, it’s about me making the connections between the work we do every day and how that can be used to inform government thinking or persuade people to support our work. The world of Westminster politics doesn’t have to be far removed from services. Our work as a service provider can inform policy.
During my visits, I saw that we are committed to promoting friendships, including bringing individuals together from different homes to spend time together and to ensure that individuals are part of their local communities. I was able to feed this back to a round-table event on loneliness that I chaired last week, and how as an organisation, we are committed to supporting people to develop and sustain friendships.
Learn more about Sense’s pioneering centres, education and day services.
Find out more about the housing options and individual support services Sense offers for people with complex disabilities.