Four years on - Tracey Stead reflects on Bath Future Talent

From the very start when I began supporting and co-facilitating with Lee Sears, founder of the Bath Future Talent Programme in 2015 and 2016, through to directing the last two year’s cohorts of participants, it has been a privilege to meet and work with so many talented and dynamic people from within our amazing city. The value of bringing early career and aspiring leaders from a diverse group of Bath-based organisations together, each embarking on their own personal leadership development journey has been evident at all stages of the programme over the last four years. It is one of the many aspects of this Programme that makes it unique – its diversity, breadth and key purpose in supporting the city’s future leaders to learn together. Furthermore, increasing the sense of connection between our leaders and the different sectors and organisations that make up the fabric of Bath.

As I step down from my role as Programme Director, passing the baton to Sarah Williment to take the Programme forward, it seems timely to reflect on some of the key takeaways and why the Future Talent Programme works.

The Programme is formulated on the basis and assumption that the role and process of leadership is a motion towards something – a ‘something’ that is always changing, whether that be the team, the individuals within that team or the tasks the team is engaged in completing. For any leader to be effective, they need to be equipped with the skills, confidence and resilience to recognise the importance of learning, regardless of the stage they are at in their career journey. This means building the ability to be open to developing new skills, generating and exploring new ideas and perspectives, data, statistics and policies, all of which are combined with the emotions and needs that underlie every individual within a team. It is this which, inevitably, means the role of a leader is a dynamic and demanding one regardless of organisational context. This is why engaging with the process of learning about oneself, others and the task ahead (and making this a habit) is critical. The Bath Future Talent Programme provides a safe space for the city’s leaders to do exactly this.

The Programme not only provides the space needed for individuals to engage in learning but the time, structure, process, tools and, perhaps most importantly, the accountability in order to create and learn new habits and ways of working. Within this, our future leaders can learn about themselves, identify and understand their own values and explore, together with input and ideas from others, what type of leader they are, want to be and what is most important to them. Through their engagement with the learning process from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence, and the steps in between, each element of the Programme is designed to provide:

• Time

• Practice

• Repetition

• Noticing

• Reinforcing

Underpinned by Kolb’s Learning Cycle of Plan, Action, Review, Theorise and Conclude, the Programme’s participants are able to work through each of these stages, during the four taught modules, each of which supports the building of new habits as leaders. Add in the benefits of working as part of a diverse cohort of learners – a software developer could be learning alongside a GP, a charity worker, a housing manager, a web designer, a communications specialist or a finance manager, supported by highly qualified consultants, inspiring national and local speakers, one-to-one coaching, business mentoring and participation in a social community project, within which to practise some of their newly acquired habits, and this amounts to an extremely valuable and very empowering leadership development programme. My own view on this has been borne out every year by feedback from the Alumni and their sponsoring organisations.

I am so pleased to be continuing to contribute to this unique programme, designed by the city for the city, and look forward to meeting this year’s cohort.

Dr Tracey Stead was co-facilitator and then Programme Director for the Bath Future Talent Programme from 2015 - 2019, and continues to contribute in her role as Consultant and Coach.

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