Week 1: why leaders should be open

This was my first week as CEO at the charity Addaction. It’s a huge honour and I’m looking forward to meeting and learning from as many of our 2,000 staff and 75,000 service users as I can over the coming weeks, months and years. I’ll be going to prisons, schools, GP surgeries and every kind of local office and outreach from Glasgow to Truro.

I wanted to join Addaction because I believe in the work we do and the services we offer. We help a lot of people take more control over their lives. That’s often hard work. It can be frustrating. But there’s nothing more important or rewarding than seeing someone’s life change for the better.

Over the past few years Addaction has grown and developed enormously. (That’s a testament to the work of both Simon Antrobus and Guy Pink as leaders, our trustee board, the teams who worked closely with them, and the hard work of many people across the country.)

Following a big merger a couple of years ago, we now offer support from more than 120 different locations, providing a huge range of practical services. We’re helping more people than ever before.

Leading such a diverse and geographically dispersed service brings its own challenges. We can’t bring everyone together in one place, for example. And when you’re delivering tailored local services, it can be harder to learn from and spread what works.

How I’ll lead

I believe strongly that being open, available and straightforward is crucial for leaders today.

I believe that great ideas come most often from those closest to service delivery. My job is to find and champion these ideas, and people who want to make a difference — wherever they are.

I’ve spent the last few weeks meeting the senior team, and talking with as many people as I can about their experiences of Addaction’s work. For the next two months I’ll be continuing to do that, spending as much time with front line workers and service users as possible. I’ll listen to what people say is working well and what needs to change.

While it’s clear even now that some things are going to be priorities — such as making sure our delivery to service users is as good as it can be — I’m very conscious that right now I know less than anyone else at Addaction.

So for my first three months I’ll try and take as few big decisions as possible — without slowing things down!

I’ll write here about what I’m learning and experiencing. I’m deliberately doing this publicly so it’s there for all our staff and volunteers, and our service users and stakeholders (horrible word!) too. The people who use our services don’t have access to our intranet or internal emails, and neither do many of those who care deeply about the work Addaction does.

After three months, I’ll share the lessons I’ve drawn from what I’ve heard. I hope everyone who’s taken the time to talk with me will recognise at least part of what they said.

If you see me, come and introduce yourself. Say hi. (Please forgive me if I don’t get your name first time — I’ll be meeting a lot of people over the next few weeks!) Tell me about what you do. I want to know!