The North Star way – creating the culture of the future
To us culture is about the way we do things. It is not only about what we do, it is also about how we do it and why. This is at our heart and is what sets us apart. The increasing challenges we face as a society demand courage, flexibility, innovation, resilience, robust relationships and dogged determination to make a difference. This all requires new and different ways of working.
The shared leadership model we agreed to develop has required more people to demonstrate leadership qualities, to be more accountable and to have more influence. At its core are higher levels of trust and adult relationships. This approach is by no means the easy option, as it requires behavioural change and starts at the top. It has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure, with remarkable outcomes.
Why shared leadership?
It has become something of a cliché to talk about the increasing speed of change but it is a well-researched fact. In response, most organisations have gone through rounds of change programmes, mergers, centralisation and decentralisation, new IT systems, new mission statements, new scorecards or new incentive schemes.
It felt to me that we have stretched the current way we run organisations to its limits. My fundamental question was – can we draw out more of our human potential? I felt like a new type of company was needed. One that went beyond the usual words and encouragement, to one that created high levels of trust, because when trust is extended it breeds responsibility in return.
We wanted to think proactively in terms of the internal world that needs to be created in order to ensure flexibility and agility in turbulent times. We believed doing nothing could lead to poor health and wellbeing as people try to fit old ways of working into the new world. Increasingly people want to move away from a transactional model of operating towards one that is more relational, and to engage in more meaningful work, and having greater freedom to work with others.
I was intrigued to learn if we could have different decision making. Could everyone make meaningful decisions and not just the higher ups? Could we have meetings that are productive and uplifting, where we can speak from the hearts and not the ego? Can we make purpose central to all we do and avoid the cynicism that lofty sounding mission statements often inspire?
Keeping North Star strong and ensuring this strength is shared across the business has been the driver.
Creating the workplace of tomorrow
We have worked long and hard at creating the right environment and culture that answers some of the above questions.
The outcomes speak for themselves.
- Sickness absence in 2017 was 1.4%, down from 6% five years ago – with no sickness absences due to work related stress.
- We are the first, and so far only housing association, to be awarded the Investors in People Platinum.
- Our changing culture has also improved our relations with tenants – tenant satisfaction with the overall service provided stands at 93%.
Our culture of shared leadership frees, liberates, and encourages curiosity and experimentation. We are pioneering and experimenting. We have more dialogue, we trust more, and involve many in very innovative and new ways. We place a lot of emphasis on relationships, have great dialogue, give and receive constructive challenge and feedback all through adult conversations. We plan differently, we use more guiding principles and less policy, we learn together and we celebrate more.
By Angela Lockwood, Chief Executive of North Star, a North East based Housing Association.
Housing associations have always turned society’s challenges into opportunities to improve people’s lives. Creating our Future taps into the energy and enthusiasm of the entire sector to better understand the trends shaping the future and co-create groundbreaking ideas in response. You can see more examples here.
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