One of the greatest challenges in business is inheriting the leadership baton from a successful predecessor. Here I explore what is it like to follow in the footsteps of a well-known and charismatic leader, to make the role your own and be true to yourself.
Previously, I shared the story of the change of leadership at the top of The Wiggly Worm describing Rob Rees’ perspective, as the employer, on succession and the appointment of his successor. This month, I am exploring succession from Abby Guilding’s viewpoint as she takes up the baton of being the new Managing Director from her predecessor and mentor.
The Wiggly Worm charity was founded and run by Rob until September, 2015 when he emigrated to Australia after appointing Abby as his successor.
From the years of working together with Abby and strategic planning that Rob had recently completed with her had given him the confidence to recommend to the Trustees that she should be his natural successor – Abby knew the business, the employees, the Trustees, key clients and had boundless energy, enthusiasm and new ideas. There was a clear fit. Abby had something else; the self-confidence to stamp her identity on Wiggly Worm.
It was this self-confidence to stamp her identity that directly led to a Game Changer for Wiggly Worm.
Previously, Rob had collaborated with National Star creating the Star Bistro. This was then replicated at the Star Bistro Royal Crescent.
Whilst a success, Abby recognised that “Wiggly Worm had done its time, we had made our impact, and we had reached the juncture to find the next project where we can use our expertise to have a similar, if not more, impact elsewhere.”
With the support of her Board of Trustees, Abby was convinced that the charity’s new future was very much vested in what worked in the past.
Using the same strategic planning skills she developed while working with Rob, Abby created a new plan for Wiggly Worm going back to its roots - to improve health, well-being and self-esteem amongst the vulnerable, disadvantaged or seldom heard.
A handover to the National College of former Wiggly Worm staff and practises who worked in The Star Bistro has been initiated and completed freeing Abby to concentrate on Wiggly Worm’s new future.
This month, Wiggly Worm moves into new premises in Hesters Way, Cheltenham close to its client base. The offices will be in in a hub with other charities. This is an important strategic move as with less funding around, the Government is looking for charities to work more closely together. Abby has built this social and economic change into the strategic plan.
In the new Wiggly Worm, Abby has no direct reports but she will be using her leadership skills, honed on the ten-month LEAD programme, to positively influence and reinvigorate the vast number of volunteers that support the charity’s work. Abby’s persuasion skills will also be key as Wiggly Worm works with other charities.
There is new leadership at Wiggly Worm but the communities that the charity serves can be assured that its long term values and services are retained by its highly motivated new MD.
This article was first featured in my Game Changer column in Gloucestershire Echo and Gloucester Citizen and on www.southwestbusiness.co.uk