Global Professional Development

Transcription of Employer video case study – Ashiana Sheffield – Chief Executive – Nicola Lambe

Interviewer – Dr Daisy Nwaozuzu – Lecturer – Coventry University – Post Graduate Strategy Unit


Daisy  –  “Hello and a very warm welcome to you to Coventry University, and I want to thank you especially for taking out your time in supporting our Post Graduate students in this initiative between the Chartered Management Institute and Coventry University.”

Nicola – “Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.”

Daisy – “My name is Daisy, and I am one of the lecturers on the Global Professional Development, which is a module that the case study will be supporting.  Firstly, may I ask you to tell me a bit about yourself, the organisation that your represent, and what it does?”

Nicola – “So lovely, so my name’s Nicola Lambe, I am the CEO of an organisation called Ashiana Sheffield.  I’ve been there 5 years as CEO.  Ashiana Sheffield, although we are called Sheffield and we are based in Sheffield, we work across the whole of the north of the UK and we support men and women from black Asian minority, ethnic and refugee communities, who have experienced violence and abuse. Our specialism is gender-based violence abuse, so we work within communities who… which is quite prevalent with violence abuse of domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based violence, FGM, also human trafficking and modern slavery.

Daisy – “Ok, what is FGM?”

Nicola – “Oh erm, Female Genital Mutilation.”

Daisy – “Ok that’s just for clarification.”  “Right that’s good.  Can you provide a brief outline on the organisational structure of Ashiana? I know you are the CEO you might have other managers on other levels, also, can you give us a brief description?”

Nicola – “Yes we do yes, it’s quite a tiered approach to the structure,  so we have a Board of Trustees who work alongside advisory boards as well, so that could be service users, staff, external specialist consultants that work alongside the Board.  I work closely with the Board then to feed information to and from the Board, help them make decisions and help them feedback down the staff structure.  So under me I have a senior management team of 2 managers at the moment and then under them there is an area lead kind of middle management structure as well and then the front line staff report directly to the area leads.”

Daisy – “OK that’s good.  So that means you have a direct relationship with some partners outside.  Do you have some partners that work with you as well?”

Nicola – “Yes absolutely yes, so we have lots of different stakeholders that work with us, we work with different organisations, different networks, locally, so each area that we are working in we have different local levels, also form and lead a lot of the networks we work within, so for example there’s a modern slavery network, the human trafficking network, there’s also our forced marriage, domestic abuse.  So we work quite locally with local stakeholders to ensure that the needs and the voices of the people we are working with is raised at the local level and we are developing services at that level, but we also work externally as well, sorry nationally, with lots of different national organisations, to make sure that women’s and men’s voices are raised at that level.  Also we do a lot of work around influencing policy and making policy changes.  We work with Government and Government departments, we work with the Home Office, specialist unit, Human Trafficking Foundation, so we work across quite a broad area locally and nationally.”

Daisy – “That’s a broad variety.”

Nicola – “Very broad.”

Daisy – “That’s good, that’s interesting to know”. “One of the things that our students are interested in are leadership and management.  I know you’ve talked a little bit about it, but I would like to specifically to ask you to tell us little more about leadership strategies that apply to the organisation and how they impact on the organisational direction.”

Nicola – “Yes absolutely, so the leadership strategies within the organisation, we adopt quite a few different leadership strategies, situational leadership is quite important for us and my leadership approach generally as CEO is kind of a bureaucratic approach.  I also work in a transactional way because it’s important that the staff at every level are able to have their say, because if I don’t hear what’s happening at the ground level, how can we go forward in the right way?  We also, because we have grown quite a lot as an organisation over the last few years, it’s important that we adopt a transformational leadership style as well, so we are always looking at way of taking things on board and making changes and leading in kind of the most flexible and situational way that we can.”

Daisy – “That’s good. Interesting.  Very good.  How would you describe the culture of the business?  By that I mean in what circumstance might the culture need to adapt?”

Nicola – “So the culture of the organisation is very much set on our vision, mission and values.  So as I said earlier, we are working with people who have experienced extreme trauma and it’s important that our staff feel supported enough to be resilient in that role and to be able to support people themselves.  So the organisation itself is very supportive, we have a real supportive environment and we really encourage people to talk to each other to access different types of support.  We encourage flexible working, home work life balance etc, work life balance, sorry. What could affect that culture and what has affected that culture is growth of the organisation, so as I mentioned earlier we started off with 9 staff, 5 years ago when I was working and a few casual workers and now we have a staff team of 70 so over the last 5 years the organisation has grown hugely, and the changes that we’ve had to put into place have affected the culture. It’s very difficult to go from a small supportive environment and to keep that going when you got a teams across the whole of the north of the UK, so we are not just all in one office anymore and how we keep that culture across all of the teams”.

Daisy – “That’s good to know.”  From thereon would you think there are issues that the organisation is facing currently or are there potential issues that you think the organisation will be facing?”

Nicola – “Yes absolutely, so we’ve issues internally and externally, the forces drive each other.  We have issues around our growth, again as I mentioned we’ve gone from 9 to 70 and the issues that came with that were that our structures were based on quite small organisation structures and we haven’t been able, well we weren’t at the time able to keep up with that growth so we’ve spent a lot of time looking at how we can keep the culture, keep the organisation at the ‘top of its game’ and making sure we are developing the services the best for the clients and that was quite a difficult thing to do, but the structure is now being put into place and that’s been in place for about 2 years now, and that introduced another layer of middle management and that was around again back to  the culture and making sure that all the staff felt that they were supported. We were getting feedback from the staff at the time saying they didn’t think they were getting enough management support and that was just because of the growth and the speed of the growth of the organisation. So we’ve spent a lot of time ‘future proofing’ ourselves to ensure that doesn’t happen again and to make sure that the staff are supported.  Externally we’ve got so many different challenges coming our way, Brexit being one of them.  The clients that we’ve worked with many are from other countries, a lot of international clients and especially those that have been trafficked into the country, things for example, like just communication with other countries, where people are from, looking at the routes where people are moving through.  We are not sure how it’s going to affect that and if that communication closes down, what impact is that going to have on everybody that’s within that environment.  So that’s something, same as any other charity, we have funding issues and we don’t know how that’s going to look going forward.  It’s very difficult for us to make sure that our clients’ needs and the voices of our clients and the issues that we are working within, stay at the highest levels that they can, in Parliament, in Government because they are having other conversations at the moment. So that’s a huge challenge for us and will continue to be over the next few years, I’m sure. So yes…”

Daisy “That’s quite a challenge. That takes us to another important area which is communication.  I want to find out how communication is being addressed at a strategic level and that means both internal communication as well as external communication.   So how are decisions made and communicated.”

Nicola – “So again the decisions are made at the Board level, at strategic level, and those decisions are made based on information that’s given to them either through me, through the staff teams, from the Advisory Boards, through the external horizon, we are always scoping and mapping the external horizon as well, so we use a lot of information and a lot of people to be able to help us to develop our decision making.  The decisions that are made at the Board, it’s my job to feed that back into the staff team, to make sure that it’s fed back properly and that everybody understands it, that people if they’ve got any questions that could give us feedback, you know it’s important that our staff understand the changes that we are making, understand why we’ve made decisions, because sometimes, we’ve been there, we’ve made a decision and we’ve not communicated that decision very well and people don’t understand why we’ve made that decision and it can have a real ‘knock on’ effect and that affects the culture again, so it’s important to us that our communication strategy is clear, it covers the whole organisation, people have an opportunity to feed back to let us know what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and it goes both ways all the time.  So it’s important that we get that right. Externally, the same again, we communicate in lots of different ways, we are involved in lots of different meetings, different networks.  If there has been or we recognise a gap in networks, for example, in South Yorkshire, we’ve just developed a South Yorkshire modern slavery partnership because there was nothing there at that time and there was no central place where we were bringing information together, so we’ve done that.  We’ve developed in other areas we’ve developed BME women’s forums, specialism networks based around forced marriage, honour based violence, FGM, but also we communicate quite a lot, as I mentioned earlier, on that kind of strategic level and national level as well. So it’s quite a lot of different communication going on and it’s really important that we get it right.”

Daisy – “That’s interesting to know.  I know that with all that kind of communication there might be some risk associated at some point.  So that takes me to the next question.  Your perspective of how risk is managed and what potentially inhibits growth within the organisation and what inhibits change as well.

Nicola – “Yes absolutely, so the risks, again, they come internally and externally.  It’s important that we keep mapping our horizon, see what’s coming, making sure we are in the right places, but also, what effect that’s going to have on the organisation as well, whether that is, for example, the growth that we’ve had because of the massive amount of awareness that’s been raised around human trafficking, nationally and globally, means that more and more people were being referred into the national referral mechanism and that meant we were taking on more many many more clients which meant that our organisation had to grow really fast, and if we are not keeping ahead of that or mapping that and not looking what could be coming , you know, it’s a very quick failure and we don’t want that to affect our clients or our staff.  So also, internally, there’s a lot of risk around again, growth and change, that follows, they come together, because the growth is the change, and if we are not communicating properly and the culture is being affected, that really inhibits the way that we can grow and we can change.  If our staff are not coming along with us and they are not on board with us and they are not taking ownership of what is happening in the organisation and where the organisation is going then we can’t grow in the way we want to grow and that affects reputation, it affects morale, it affects the service users, you know the type of support, the quality that they are getting, that will also affect our contracts, our organisation and how we look going forward.”

Daisy – “That’s interesting, that’s good.  I have one last question, for you. What would you want our students to particularly look into for you, because they are going to use this as a case study, and I expect you want something out of it, from the base of the issues you are facing or have faced, or the direction that you are going, you probably want our students to do some work for you.  What would that be?”

Nicola – “I think for me a big question that I keep thinking about and would like to see some analysis on are what the thoughts are around what we can do or how we can continue to be that ‘lead voice’ raise the voices of our clients, at every level, locally and nationally, thinking about the impact, thinking about the challenges that we’ve got at the moment, thinking about the quick growth of the organisation, making sure that we continue to maintain our service standards but also, how do we keep the voice raised within all of what’s going on?”

Daisy – “That’s good.  Thank you very much and thank you for your time.”