What challenges do leaders face in our sector?

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 10:03

By Dr Sean Tompkins

On Friday 4 September, I was delighted to host a roundtable discussion with Cegos leadership expert Sarah Smith. It brought together senior figures in the built environment at RICS headquarters to discuss leadership in the sector. We asked for their input on two key questions:

What challenges are leaders facing in the sector?

A key talking point for this question was communication. The focus was primarily on the challenge leaders have in communicating the value of a built environment or property function. To businesses, these functions can often be seen as a cost rather than an opportunity.

Also discussed, and raised by Clare Johnson, Deputy Head of Valuation Profession at VOA, was the transition of technical specialists to management roles. Being a good surveyor doesn’t necessarily mean someone will be a good leader. But as Tim Richardson, Head of Property at British Airways, pointed out, this shouldn’t stop people progressing.

Sarah Smith highlighted that many of these challenges are not specific to the built environment sector: the skills people need as a facilitating manager can be very different to the specialisms they build up as part of their chosen career path.

If you could wave a magic wand and make any changes to your management and leadership population, what would they be?

Everyone agreed that the sector needs to keep embracing diversity, and that organisations can only benefit from the value that comes from broad experience. Neal Argent, Executive Director at EY, highlighted that people at EY change roles in order to give them a range of experience. Tim Richardson agreed, drawing on experience at BA that found the most successful people in Head of Procurement roles were those who had spent time working outside procurement as well as in it.

One of the things I hear very often, especially from big diverse organisations, is that people from different technical specialities aren’t valuing each other’s expertise. If you talked to the CEOs of the five most diverse built environment companies, they will tell you that their main challenge is getting this diverse workforce to collaborate more.


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