In the latest edition of our Transformational Leaders series, Berwick Partners’ Principal Consultant, Sandra Hamovic spoke to Terry Hawkins, who we placed as Chief Executive at Crossroads Care Surrey about leadership, driving transformational change and striving for continuous improvement.
Following a successful commercial career, Terry moved into the not for profit sector and seven months ago joined Crossroads Care Surrey to provide vision, direction and strategic, values-driven and commercial leadership, to enable the charity to thrive and deliver long term and sustained growth. Terry has been focused on driving the necessary digital transformation and associated changes to culture and practices, to ensure that the digital agenda supports delivery of a new commercial strategy, as well as continuous improvement of the charity’s services. Terry’s inspiring leadership has enabled the organisation and service users to contribute their innovative ideas to help transform service development and create a sustainable growth strategy for the future.
Your career is made up of a diverse mix of roles, organisations and sectors. What has been the golden thread linking these jobs?
All of the organisations that I have worked for have either required someone who can re-structure and transform the business, or someone who can come into the business and drive income generation. Through the experience I have gained within the commercial world and being fortunate enough to have worked with some very distinguished colleagues, I have learnt how to do both, and how to deliver change quickly. I also think that all of the organisations I have worked with, have provided me with really challenging opportunities, and that has stimulated my interest and curiosity to deliver on the interesting objectives I have been tasked with.
What inspired you to want to work in the not-for-profit sector and in particular, Crossroads Care Surrey?
After working in a demanding commercial environment for over 30 years, in very senior positions, I was acutely aware of the driving force behind all of the work that I did, which was purely about driving profit for the shareholders. Whether it was launching a new product, or re-structuring an organisation, it was about the ROI for the investors. Whilst I totally bought into this and understood it, because it provided me with a certain type of experience and remuneration, I decided to leave the commercial world because I really wanted to use the skills I had developed in an environment with a different purpose, and one which was about helping people. I spent a short time working in the NHS, in acute medicine and I saw how important it was to keep older, and vulnerable people out of hospital, where possible. So now, to be able to help the carers who are working so hard to do exactly that at Crossroads Care Surrey, is all the incentive I needed.
What was your approach to transitioning to a new working environment?
I took exactly the same approach to any other new senior role with a brief to transform the business. I give myself six weeks to come up with a plan. It is hard, but I believe you only have a short window of time to see the real opportunities and to remain truly objective and unbiased about all of the good and bad things that you discover early on. After that time, you still learn, but you see things differently, find reasons to support decisions. In those first six weeks, I talk to everyone, at all levels, top to bottom of the organisation. I learn so much from the people who are actually delivering the service. After six weeks I had built my transformational plan and delivered it to the Board of Trustees.
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced so far?
I have been very lucky; the chair and the trustees have been very supportive. It obviously helps that they believe in what I am doing, but nevertheless, they support me fully. In terms of challenges, the timing of the coronavirus outbreak was a challenge. I had only been in post for just over seven weeks when we were forced to suspend our core service delivery of home respite care. At that point the business was stunned, and we could easily have lost our way. However, I saw it as a positive. I looked at the opportunities and the potential needs of the community and our clients, and we set up a telephone befriending service as well as a shopping and medicine outreach collection service. Amazingly, we experienced a very high level of demand, and were at full stretch.
The team responded brilliantly, and we had so many grateful, and some very sad messages of thanks from the people we supported, it was quite overwhelming! Some of the people we helped would undoubtedly have been unable to survive in their environment without our help and support. In the background, we took the opportunity to develop the infrastructure of the organisation. So, to a certain extent the crisis propelled the organisation into a more modern world. We introduced a VoiP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone system, which has been a game-changer, with apps for all our outworkers. We built a CRM system, and we engaged an agency to re-skin the website, develop new clear branding and messaging. It has been a really positive time for us.
With a clear drive to transform, what are the skills which you feel are critical to enable you to drive meaningful organisational transformation?
I have had a lot experience in driving transformational change, and it is really something that either you have the skill to do, or you don’t. You really have to enjoy the challenge of taking something apart and re-building it. Often without the resources you would like to have in place to do it.
I think having a really positive outlook is crucial. Whenever I am confronted with any situation, I always look for the positives, the opportunities, and how I can take advantage. Listening and learning quickly is key to understanding what is required and having the ability to quickly understand whatever market you are working in, is paramount. In terms of making change, I believe you have to ensure that the people you are working with understand why the changes are necessary, the outcomes and the benefits of the changes. I try to engage with all levels, and I really try to incorporate all the ideas that I get from the people I speak to, whatever they do within the organisation. Often operational or structural change goes hand in hand with culture change, and I think you have to get this right. I learnt very quickly that if you get this bit wrong, you are really up against it.
So, ensuring that people are onside, and they are able to work at the speed you require is really important. I like to identify early on, the key people that I believe will help me transform the business and I like to share my vision as early as possible with the team. I always believe in realising and accepting when something isn’t working, and always taking an agile approach to the project.
Reflecting upon your career so far, what have been the pivotal successes which have shaped your approach to transformational leadership and the delivery?
In my commercial roles, there were many successes, the launching of The Times Tabloid, The Sun/Times weekend magazines the sectioning of the Sunday Times newspapers and setting up new print sites abroad. All of these gave me a good understanding of how to project manage and within the newspaper publishing world, we were always looking to next advantage, which really suited my competitive spirit. I have had to manage remote business sites and large workforces, all of which helped me to understand the difficulties of introducing change across diverse situations. Even the challenges of re-structuring and centralising operations during a period of negative performance gave me an understanding of always looking for the best, and most cost-effective ways of covering all operations. Within the third sector, I think my time at RNIB, the transformational change we undertook there, the development of a standalone business that grew to be worth over £15million, was a real achievement. On reflection, it was a really big ask, and it was done in such a short period of time and I am very proud of the engagement we were able to deliver, and the associations with some really significant global organisations we built up. I truly believe that you learn something from every experience, good or bad. Even after 40 years of senior management I still feel I am still learning every day.