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Trailblazer Inspiring Innovation


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  • 1. “If you come across someone in public service who is cheerfully passionate about helping people, has demonstrated courage in the face of adversity, and is always looking to change things, then stop and think.... you may just have found yourself a Trailblazer”   
    Steve Bennett & Laurence Jackson
    Innovation Manchester – 10th March 2011
  • 2. Today
    Objectives of research
    What we did
    The Results:
    Career History of Trailblazers
    Characteristics of Trailblazers
    Trailblazers vs Other Public Sector people
    Trailblazers vs Private Sector Stars
    What does this mean for you?
  • 3. Objectives of Research
    Identify the characteristics of high performers in public service
    Contribute to the leadership debate
    Deepen our understanding about talent
  • 4. What we did
    Defined a Trailblazer
    Identified pool of potential people
    Narrowed down to 30 Trailblazers
    Sample from across public sector: local government, regional and central government, education, health, the emergency services and the voluntary sector
    Completed personality questionnaire (OPQ 32)
    In-depth interview: key career events, seminal moments, personality features, aspirations, points of difference with those around them
  • 5. Definition
    Someone who is known to drive transformation in public services, whilst delivering results
  • 6. Career History
    Clear sense of vocation, make a difference
    Early life experiences
    Diffuse career paths
    Mentors/ role-models
    Appetite for responsibility, put self in harm’s way
    Overcoming obstacles, been doubted by others
  • 7. Characteristics
    Hard driving
    Low rule-following
    Local-place shaping
    Seek to understand people
    Taking charge
    Imposter syndrome
  • 8. vs Public Sector
    How did we measure this?
    Wickland Westcott database of Executives
    Created Public Sector subset, compared competency ratings vs Trailblazers
    4 key differentiators
  • 9. vs Public Sector
    Leadership(direction setting, gaining commitment, people development, delegation)
    “I love creating great teams – making others great”
    Strategic Thinking(vision, global perspective, organisational awareness)
    “I back my own judgement but rely heavily on the skills of others in advising me on the detail”
    Managing Change(initiating change, driving change, overcoming resistance)
    “I’ve been rapped over the knuckles for not going through due processes – but it worked”
    Motivation(initiative, energy, resilience, accountability, goal focus)
    “In my early days I had a real reputation for toughness”
  • 10. vs Private Sector Stars
    Subtle differences at work
    Private Sector Stars
    Better in...
    • Analysis and Decision Making
    • 11. Commercial Appreciation
    • 12. Communication
    • 13. Implementation
    Better in...
  • What does this mean for you?
    Recruiting/ Identifying
    No classic background
    Look for burning sense of vocation, acting in line with values (even at personal cost), learning appetite, readiness to back selves
    Assess candidates vs list of characteristics
    Engage them emotionally in the mission
  • 17. What does this mean for you?
    • Give clear objectives, plus latitude to deliver
    • 18. Lots of challenge, stimulation, variety
    • 19. Partner with a detail-buddy, share credit with buddy
    • 20. Encourage progress-monitoring (to counter TB over-optimism)
    • 21. Tolerate non-compliance where possible
    • 22. Keep engaged/aligned through frequent sharing of ideas
  • Working with client organisations
    Applying the principles within local government, NHS, housing and police
    Robust framework for assessment of future leaders
    Evidence from participant feedback
  • 23. Local Government
    Major review of staff at various levels versus Trailblazer characteristics
    Tailored to the Council’s own competency framework
    Behavioural indicators specified at three key levels
    Structured analysis of skills and potential for the future
    Support in shaping the Council to meet changing priorities
  • 24. NHS
    Stimulus provided by World Class Commissioning
    National framework did not fit local priorities and needs
    Attributes for leadership and management defined and codified
    All senior managers assessed on a one-to-one basis and confidential reports prepared and fed back
    Assistance in identifying future leaders in merged structures
  • 25. Housing
    Organisation restructure led to need to assess leadership capability
    Trailblazer characteristics used to assess senior executive against redefined and new roles
    Robust and objective assessment in relation to specified skillsets and behaviours
    Assistance in transition to new structures
  • 26. Police
    Worked with two UK police forces
    Assessment of selected senior staff against Trailblazer characteristics
    National leadership programme seen as lacking in focus and local relevance
    One-to-one assessments and feedback of reports
    Direct link to personal development programme
  • 27. Participant Feedback
    Clarity around purpose of assessment
    “Was not sure and was somewhat surprised to have been nominated as I thought there were more competent ‘high flyers’ than me that could have been asked”
    Relevance of assessment
    “I went into the process with a very relaxed and open mind not thinking I would come out with any real sense of purpose to do something about myself. How wrong I was”
    Accuracy of assessment
    “I found the results of the questionnaire uncannily accurate once they were explained to me. Questions and observations were thought-provoking and appropriate”
  • 28. Other Observations
  • 29. In practice...
    "People are important in most organisations. In policing they are vital. We are constantly seeking to help our people develop and as such Trailblazer has offered us a different way of approaching this. It has allowed us to move away from core competency silos and to engage with people in a way that is more accessible and focuses on the key factors. It has delivered improved self awareness, highly motivated people and meaningful development that is moving the force forward."
    Justine Curran, Chief Constable, Tayside Police
  • 30. Making it work for you
    Building Capability in executive, top team and board development:
    Benchmarking Senior Executives vs Trailblazer attributes
    Identifying personal development needs
    Structuring coaching programmes
    Structured, cost effective improvement plans in line with Total Place/Big Society
  • 31. Contact Details
    Laurence Jackson
    07875 315775
    Steve Bennett
    07946 650120