Today’s interview is with Rachel Neaman, a technology leader, Non-Executive Director, leadership mentor and coach with extensive experience in the technology, health, governmental, digital and not for profit fields. Rachel joins me today to talk about some of the organisational changes taking place that she has noticed over the last few months, some of the challenges facing us, how leadership has changed and why many female political leaders, in particular, have been so successful during this period.
This interview follows on from my recent interview – Difficult conversations and building more inclusive and diverse organizations – Interview with Jenn Graham of Civic Dinners – and is number 355 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.
NOTE: A big thank you goes out to the folks at Amplexor for sponsoring my podcast for the coming month.
Amplexor is preparing to launch a really exciting virtual series called: Ignite Revenue Through Content which will feature leading speakers and thinkers in short, punchy and thought-provoking bi-monthly episodes exploring and highlighting insights and best practices of how to leverage Content as a strategic differentiator.
It’ll run from August through mid-December and kicking it off on August 20th will be yours truly talking about “Unleash(ing) your Inner Punk: a Rebellious Take on Customer Engagement”. I think the session that we have organised will be awesome, it’s a real honour and I’m really looking forward to it.
So, go to Amplexor.com to find out more and register.
Here’s the highlights of my chat with Rachel:
- We’ve seen a greater increase in digital adoption than we have in the past few years. It’s really quite extraordinary to see what’s going on in health care and in business.
- How do you maintain a sense of team, a sense of morale and a sense of connection when you’re all working separately at home? I think there is a need for leaders to adapt, to be more communicative, to be more empathetic, to be more aware of their employees and staffs individual circumstances and that has become a real prerequisite.
- I think the big thing that maybe we haven’t done yet is actually to learn the lessons from the pandemic. And, how do we turn those into sustainable behaviours for the future.
- We need to be mindful that everybody is reacting differently to the pandemic. And, what is right in one environment may not necessarily be right in another.
- If we learn lessons at the end of something are we going to lose momentum? Will we have snapped back to something and then we will start trying to learn lessons? Will it then be almost too late?
- From a digital point of view, we need to be constantly reassessing and adapting and looking at how we’re doing and constantly evaluating whether what we are doing is working and is it the right thing for business, people, customers and citizens.
- We need to be careful not to assume that processes have to be set in stone and always have to be done in a certain way.
- It’s about adapting and being responsive to the reality rather than feeling that things have to be done by the book.
- It’s very difficult to break down old behaviours and familiar patterns of working.
- The only guarantee is there will be another crisis.
- The question is …How do we start increasing our resilience and preparing ourselves for the next crisis to come along?
- Many women leaders have excelled throughout this period, particularly in the political sphere.
- A lot of these female leaders have a massive dose of empathy and common sense.
- They’ve also been very honest and transparent in their communication. And, those things have added to a sense of trust and confidence that others haven’t managed to achieve.
- There’s an overarching sense of humbleness in their approach too. They put their people first. So, their humanity and vulnerability comes through, which is not incompatible with strong leadership.
- Transparency, honesty, empathy, listening, true communication and humanity all inspire trust and confidence in a crisis.
- When people are feeling very uncertain in a crisis, people want clarity and direction and they want that in a very human way. They don’t want it in a command and control and potentially dismissive way.
- Taking people with you is really critical at any level of leadership.
- However, leaders at all levels also need to be supported because it’s lonely at the ‘top’.
- As a result, leaders need to be more proactive in reaching out to their networks, to their peer groups, to their support groups because it’s essential for them to do their job. It’s not a sign of weakness.
- This pandemic has exposed the fragility of the assumptions that we’ve made about people’s capability to manage.
- Moreover, an additional complexity is the changing expectations of many of those coming into the workplace…..younger people are looking for different things from their experiences at work. They don’t want to work in the way that we might have been used to working. They want to work in a completely different way and value different things . So, leaders need to manage that alongside other people who will have their own preferences.
- So, how do you manage different preferences in order to get the best out of everybody without losing a sense of it being one team working together towards one goal or outcome. That is very challenging.
- Rachel’s best advice for leaders:
- Accept that you will not have all the answers;
- Get more comfortable with constant change to the point that you enjoy adapting, experimenting and trying different things; and
- Listen to and understand the needs of employees, customers and the business so you can put all three bits together to create something that is sustainable and delivers the right outcomes.
- Service in the future is going to be much more personalised, more self service oriented, more convenient, more tailored and more digital.
- However, the uniquely human elements, the uniquely human aptitude…they’re always going to be required in both the customer and the employee experience.
- Rachel’s Punk CX word: Non-conformist.
About Rachel (adapted from her LinkedIn bio)
Rachel is an influential technology leader with a focus on digital transformation & leadership, healthtech, and inclusion. She provides strategic advice to organisations & business leaders; is a mentor and leadership coach; holds non-executive board roles; and speaks regularly at conferences. Passionate about harnessing technology for social good and ensuring technology works for everyone, she is a former CEO, and was the first CDO and Digital Head of Profession at the Department of Health.
With extensive senior leadership experience in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in the UK and internationally, her experience is in creating strategy, developing B2B relationships, and thought leadership, backed up by a strong track record of delivering results through smart partnering and collaborative working.
A strong advocate of the importance of diversity and gender equality to increase productivity and improve outcomes, she champions the need to address the under-representation of women in tech, as well as to resolve the digital divide and improve trust and security in technology.
She is a Non-Executive Director of Checkit Plc (checkit.net) where she chairs the Remuneration Committee and sits on the Audit Committee. Other non-executive roles include the Digital Leaders Board of which she is a former Chair, and the Academy of Social Science’s Campaign for Social Science. She is a mentor for PUBLIC’s GovStart programme, an advisor to the Money & Pensions Service UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing, and advisor to DigitalHealth.London.
She is a regular speaker at conferences and seminars in the UK and internationally, a regular judge of digital awards – including the DL100, the Tech4Good Awards and the Charity Governance Awards – and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).
She was a finalist for Digital Leader of the Year at the Women in IT Awards 2018 and received the Founder’s Award at the 2017 Digital Leaders 100 Awards. I have featured in Computer Weekly’s list of Most Influential Women in IT since 2016.
Say Hi to Rachel on Twitter @RCNeaman and do connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Image by Mango Matter, sourced from their portfolio of images on Pixabay