A guest post by Kirsty Styles, a freelance journalist with experience in local and national newspapers, radio, TV and the third sector. Areas of interest include British and international politics, social affairs and development.
Rule-breaker? Optimist? Trusting? You may be a trailblazer, someone working in a public or third sector organisation, who is needed to drive transformation in services.
This was the focus of the last of Manchester: Knowledge Capital’s Inspiring Innovation events Innovation Manchester: Leadership for Innovation.
The event opened with a presentation by Wickland Westcott recruitment consultants. Steven Bennett and Laurence Jackson conducted groundbreaking research into individuals making a difference in the public sector across: local government, regional and central government, education, health, the emergency services and the voluntary sector
The pair found 30 individuals with ‘trailblazing’ characteristics and performed behaviour tests to find out what qualities the candidates shared.
They identified nine traits, including ‘low-rule following’, ‘local place shaping’ and ‘imposter syndrome’ which leaves the trailblazer feeling that they aren’t making a great deal of impact, and certainly not a highflier.
Asked by a member of the audience about the gender balance of their subjects, there was almost an even split, with 16 men and 14 women in the Trailblazer research, an unintentional balance.
The findings have been used by government bodies around the country, including housing associations and Primary Care Trusts who are facing mergers.
After this, a panel at the Manchester Business School discussed the findings.
Joining the team was Dr Cathy Garner, an innovation expert, Dr Su Maddock, Senior Fellow at the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research and Steven Pleasant, Chief Executive of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council.
Steven Pleasant, who leads the East Manchester council, said that it is important for senior staff to protect trailblazers, often from tough media criticism.
Tameside Council cut average staff sickness from two weeks to just six days by addressing workers’ well being. They also piloted an iPhone app for local businesses, which saw productivity increase 10-fold.
While pointing out that it is important that not everyone within an organisation is a Trailblazer to avoid conflict, it is important to embrace those who have a sense of risk to help deliver the savings required by government organisations.
Cathy Garner said: “In times like these, there can be a tendency in government to revert to safety. As a leader, you have to give people the sense that their ideas are important.”