What I would have done differently

As I arrived at my new office I resolved that I would not be the new boss who talks incessantly about their old organisation, holding it up as the paragon of agency perfection. I had witnessed many a good person come unstuck in this way, and all because they were unfamiliar with their new organisation and were grieving over what they had lost; somehow the security of the past seemed more tangible than the present. Such feelings, uttered at an unguarded moment, can be misinterpreted by colleagues as a negative comment on their working practices.

But I wouldn’t make such an error. I knew that it cuts no ice and butters no parsnips… it would not be me.

Only two minutes later, over a cup of coffee, I heard myself, it was too late to withdraw the ill-conceived words, it could not be disguised, it was heard by new polite listeners, “Hum, interesting, but in my last organisation we had fairtrade biscuits…”

My next and immediate resolve was to be very humble. I have been somewhat more successful in this aspiration, helped by being in an organisation that is exceptionally proud of what it does – and does so well.

There has been plenty for me to learn – and for others too, given the major legislative changes, local authority restructuring and ambitions for children’s services – in short, an ideal time to start in a new organisation.

But, perhaps, my best piece of advice to all starting a new job is to try something that I have done rather late in the day – I urge you to do it earlier – take the full “Cleaner’s Tour”, do not rest until you have looked into every cupboard.

Now I really know where we need to spend money as a matter of urgency, which sinks have gaps between the taps and the wall, which cisterns throughout the campus make such a deafening noise that people travel miles to use a loo elsewhere, which staff members leave their fans on, who turns all their lights off, which fridges are really science experiments and which light bulbs always need replacing. I was helped to remember just how important cleanliness and order is to the families who use our services and for staff who work here. So, thankyou, Ann and Nina, for the timely reminder that buildings are not just buildings, but places for people to work creatively, and they do that best when they are warm, safe and comfortable.

Honor Rhodes is chief executive, Coram Family

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