Open leadership – reflecting on my role as Chair of ALT (1)

Photo of my ALT C conference lanyard where I am call The Boss
It’s all about being The Boss!

Do you ever have those moments in conversations with colleagues about their working practices,  realise that you should actually be doing a bit more of what they are doing? Well,  that happened to me last week as I met with Maren Deepwell  and Martin Hawksey, ALTs senior management team, for their annual appraisals.   Openness is one of ALTs core values, we try to support open education, research and practice as much as we can.  Over the past year as we have transitioned into a fully independent, distribution organisation Maren and Martin started to openly share their experiences – of leading and managing a virtual organisation via a series of blog posts.

These monthly posts are now augmented with podcasts.   I feel that these posts are exemplary in terms of  open practice and open leadership.  The process of writing the post, planning, discussion, writing, recording are also becoming a really useful way for Maren and Martin to catch up and discuss a range of activities. They both really value the different space and focus that this somewhat experimental process has evolved into.  

During the appraisal I realised that I haven’t actually shared openly my experiences and reflections of being Chair of the Board of Trustees. So, I’m going to change that, and this year I am going to share more about my role and responsibilities

Part of my role as Chair is to contribute to “official” correspondence – yearly updates, the conference etc. You can find out about our governance on the website. But, well, it’s a bit dry, and doesn’t really give an insight into what Trustees actually do. I think that for members of ALT, the Board and it’s workings are quite remote and a bit invisible.

Being Chair does require more of a time commitment that a regular Trustee.  I have more regular contact with ALT staff, primarily Maren and Martin.  So outwith our monthly online GPC (general purpose committee) meetings I am kept up to date with more of the operational aspects of the running of the organisation. I also work with Maren to prepare the agenda and papers for our face to face Trustee meetings.

I see a key part of my role as Chair in providing support for our full time staff members and in particular our senior staff.  If our staff don’t have a supportive environment, then that could have detrimental impact on our wider community and the ability of the Association to continue to do the work that it does.

With the governance changes brought in last year, I am the first Chair to be in place for more than a year. One of the reasons for this change was to bring more continuity to our governance procedures. In a year you just get the hang of things and then you move on.  In terms of staff development,  having to have an annual appraisal with someone different every year is not easy for the person being appraised.  Context setting can take up most of the appraisal time instead of forward planning.

During this year’s appraisal with Maren it was really pleasing to see how greater continuity in this process has help Maren with her development goals.  It’s also been really rewarding for me as I can see how much progress has been made over the past year and what impact our appraisal meetings have had. They’ve been so useful that for the first time this year I had an appraisal with Martin, and then a joint appraisal with both Maren and Martin.

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish Maren and Martin from ALT, so a central focus for our discussions is how to allow their own voices to flourish and grow as part of their roles and responsibilities to the organisation. Over the past year, their joint leadership and management of the association had evolved into a really productive and significant partnership (exemplified but the joint blog posts)  allowing ALT to grow from strength to strength.  

Making sure our core staff are fulfilled and empowered is a key focus for me. Seeing how our staff (and the association) grow each year is incredibly rewarding, and one of leadership roles I cherish the most. 

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