This week, two things happened to make me feel particularly proud of my staff.
First, when the president of an international mobility organisation came to see me, he said he had something to report. He had stayed at one of our centres where we are closing our residential accommodation and relocating our district teams into the community, providing a choice for our clients about how they access services.
Though welcomed by many, this change had not been without controversy and our visitor had not known what to expect. So he was "exhilarated" (his word, not mine) to listen to district team leaders explain with huge enthusiasm how much they enjoyed the autonomy of their new roles. He was especially impressed because many of these people had worked for Guide Dogs for more than 20 years. "So you can teach old dogs new tricks," he joked. "But how?"
For us it has been about building leadership capacity. Investing in your staff and volunteers is a huge morale booster, building both commitment and capacity. There is nothing to compare with seeing the outcomes of that investment. Which brings me to the second reason for my pride.
At our managers' conference last week, we saw how leadership training had strengthened both individuals and the organisation as a whole. Managers from all levels talked about what creating and implementing our plans had meant for them and how they and their teams had achieved results over and above what had been asked of them.
We now have a backbone of "leaders", including volunteers, who can really make things happen.
We are already seeing practical results in better productivity, more effective ways of working and better quality services for our clients.
Our staff achieve more, develop their careers and increase their job satisfaction. Everyone's a winner.
The focus of our leadership training is on personal development, coaching, self-managed learning and accountability, rather than formal management issues. We believe that success is about delivering our mission while being true to our values. Only once you have the right mindset can you teach the management techniques that will provide a framework for that dynamism.