SSE Residential: Day Three

As the week goes on here in Devon, and the breakfast:hangover ratio continues to rise, it’s been great to watch how the students from different programmes and different SSEs have been networking and building relationships with each other. Which, Eden Project + Dartington Hall aside, is really what these few days are about: sharing experiences, building networks and learning new skills and confidence.

Today’s witness session was from Vaughan Lindsay, the CEO of Dartington Hall on strategic planning, using Dartington itself as a case study. Always a great session not only because of Vaughan’s practical and pragmatic approach, but also because it provides such a useful counterbalance to the Tim Smit model of leadership as witnessed yesterday. Not to say that one is "better" than the other, but that there are different role models out there with different approaches to achieving success, creating momentum and making change.

I’ll try and get Vaughan’s powerpoint to share, but the key nuggets for me today were:

– the dangers of poor governance, and the importance of the relationship between a CEO and a Chair of trustees (or of the board)

– clarity is key for engaging and inspiring people to join you on a particular journey; if they don’t know where you are all heading, why should they come?

– process is for a purpose, not procrastination (when Vaughan joined Dartington, there were 42 different sub-committees that reported in to him….)

– the assumption that great ideas only come from the young should be resisted: the combination of wisdom and not caring what people think can lead to a new wave of "silver radicals"

– strategic planning can galvanise people, focus resources for most impact, and help gain clarity of mission

– talent is hugely important: one rule is to make the most ambitious appointment, rather than the safest

– consider governance, or a board, as a management task, rather than as an entirely separate entity outside day-to-day work

– engage with ideas that have nothing to do with the day-to-day job

What’s interesting to me is that though Tim Smit and Vaughan are incredibly different people, with different styles, there was much in their content that was similar:

  • both pointed to a good relationship with their chair
  • both talked of going outside the day-to-day (every 3rd invitation / engaging with other ideas)
  • both talked of the importance of people: of recruitment, of management, of mobilising and galvanising them (be it samba drums or clarity of mission)
  • both used positive and negative incentives to achieve change (future truths, scaring the board)
  • both talked about employing the best people possible (not being afraid of employing people better than you / making ambitious appointments)

And so on. Much for our students to ponder and reflect on, and apply to their own projects. Which, at least from the gorup that I was facilitating, led to some great conversations and insights.

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2 thoughts on “SSE Residential: Day Three

  1. Hi Nick
    Great that you’ve had a good week at Dartington and thanks for covering Vaughan’s witness session on Wednesday. Just to say, the Dartington website is as your link takes reader’s to a different site.
    All the best

  2. Thanks Matt – sorry I didn’t get the chance to have a chat while we were down there: the residential went fantastically, so thanks to all at Dartington for their help with that.
    Have updated the link….