Leading from the middle for now

Yesterday I graduated as one of the first LGComms Future Leaders and although I don’t have a piece of paper to prove it, I have learned loads since the start of the programme back in February.

This was a partnership between LGComms and the Local Government Chronicle which brought together comms people with other ambitious professionals from local government across the country for a series of events, from seminars, to full-blown conferences and Apprentice-style live exercises.

It was a quick six months with a pick and mix of sessions to chose from.

The first event specifically for comms people was hosted by Westminster Council and was a full day of quick-fire sessions covering leadership, reputation, customer insight, comms measurement and evaluation and crisis comms. It was pretty full-on but the highlights for me were presentations from Cormac Smith and how he dealt with the coverage surrounding the clearing of Dale Farm, @neilwholey‘s LGinsight  presentation and Mark Fletcher-Brown’s talk on leadership in times of change.

The day was also a good opportunity for networking and it gave me the opportunity to meet @kimneville at long last and to have a good chat with @sargo from Edinburgh City Council and @RubyBhattal.

The next event I chose to attend was a regional meeting in York of Future Leaders from other areas of local government. The highlight there was a talk by the Chief Executive of York Council, @Kersten1england about leading from the top and the issues that she has had to deal with since taking the post in 2009. I’ve even stolen the format of the film she showed for York’s 800th anniversary for our own Celebrating Lanarkshire project!

I chose not to take the academic part of the course which was two days of leadership at  LeedsUniversity. I did fancy it but I’ve already completed a PgCert in Leadership and Management of Public Services at Caledonian University plus it was around about the time of the submission date of my Masters dissertation so I was granted special dispensation. I’m told by other Future Leaders that it was a great two days.

The highlight for me was the peer review day when I got the chance to work with @kimneville, @danslee and @darrencaveney at Walsall Council. This was a great way of observing how another council does their comms and I think they learned as much from me as I did from them (at least they said they did!). Darren and Dan are planning a return trip to South Lanarkshire Council sometime soon and you can read more about my day at Walsall on a previous post.

Next up was the LGComms Academy, a three-day event in Birmingham, crammed full of great speakers. I’ve blogged about the Academy before so I won’t go into the detail again.

Last up for me was yesterday’s final event in Blackpooland oh boy, did we finish with a flourish.

The venue was Blackpooland early yesterday morning we all met up with @SJHalliwell, Head of Comms at Blackpool Council. We were given a brief, split into two teams and had five hours to come up with a campaign and present it to Cormac (that’s Lord Sugar to you and I). It was a tough and complex campaign – reconnecting the residents of Blackpool with the town centre which they perceive to be just for tourists.

Both teams (Team Bobsleigh 1 and Team Bobsleigh 2 – ask Lord Sugar the next time you see him for an explanation) gave it their all and although the other team won we were all winners in the end. We were commended for our creativity and they were commended for their watertight strategy – put them together and Suzanne has a pretty nifty campaign on her hands (the consultancy invoice is in the post if you can get it past iProc, Suzanne!).

Now I just have to work out how to put into practice everything that I’ve learned.

The other highlight of the programme was the mentoring. I was privileged to have @davidhold, the Director of Comms at the LGA as my mentor. On our one-to-ones David has always asked me questions to get me thinking about where I wan to be and now that I’m finished the course I have a pretty clear idea. Unfortunately the post doesn’t exist so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, nudge the right people and hopefully the post will materialise one day.

Till then I now have a network of like-minded leaders of the future to support me and a mentor, who I’m sure will still be there to guide me and get me thinking, long after the next cohort of future leaders starts.

I’d thoroughly recommend this programme to anyone working in local government and especially if you work in comms. Keep an eye out on Twitter and I’ll let you know how to apply for the next intake. You never know, one day I may be a Future Leaders mentor – now that’s something to aim for.

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