I am the bald guy on one knee in the front of this picture and the CEO of disability charity, Enham Trust, which is based in rural Hampshire, just outside Andover. We support around 6000 disabled people a year in all aspects of their lives, across the South-West of England, between Hampshire and Plymouth. Our core delivery centres around Housing, Care and Employment services, we are also fortunate in that we own most of the village of Enham Alamein, where our head office is.

The village and charity were founded after the First World War to support war wounded soldiers returning from battle, by a gift from the King and has evolved over the last 100 years.

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s useful to have an understanding of the breadth of services delivery and setting at Enham in order that what I intend to share in this blog makes sense. 

Why am I telling you this? Because it’s useful to have an understanding of the breadth of services delivery and setting at Enham in order that what I intend to share in this blog makes sense. 

The photo above was taken at the second, of two identical days in January this year, when we held our staff conference at Thruxton Race Circuit. The purpose of the conference was to launch our new five years strategy and values to the whole Trust, after three very tough years of organisational turnaround. It was a runaway success with staff feedback from all area of the business being overwhelmingly positive.

Ned the Soldier outside the Cottage on the Green, Enham AlameinAs I sit here writing this blog at the end of March, that conference seems like a long-long time ago.

At the start of this month the news of coronavirus spreading to the UK began to take hold and by the start of the second week, the numbers had risen from a handful, with no deaths, to over a thousand and people were starting to die.

Our tracking of the virus started early on at Enham, given the complexity and vulnerability, of some of the people we are responsible for providing services to.

It quickly became apparent, from the way the virus was spreading and the messaging from the UK Government that our priorities needed to be keeping our staff and the 6000 people who the charity serves as safe as possible. My teams have done an amazing job in completely unpredictable and rapidly changing conditions, over the last few weeks and the experience for all has been intense and pressurised to say the least.

As the daily updates from government started and the increasingly frenetic media activity ramped up, so too did the volume of spiralling conversations in the office, that were being swept along by the spread of the virus and how we should react.

After a few days of seeing and hearing people around me becoming increasingly weighed down by the size of the problem we were facing, I decided to pull all of the conversations together into one daily meeting, involving a team specifically tasked with tracking our response to government and NHS advice. A group that could take dynamic decisions and ensure the safety of all. This was done for a couple of reasons, one was to put a process around an unpredictable situation, making it easier to track and manage that our decisions were timely and proportionate. The other reason was to safeguard the mental health of my senior management team, who, even without symptoms of their own, were starting to feel battered by coronavirus. Ensuring the well-being of our people in times of crisis is essential, as often, people 

will struggle in silence when the pressure is really on, assuming roles way beyond that which is normally, or reasonably expected and without some controls being put in place, the vital early signs of struggle go unnoticed.

The priority needed to be keeping our staff and 6000 people as safe as possible

As dull as it may sound, a risk assessment and action plan accompanied this meeting and our full range of business continuity plans were reviewed against the pandemic threat.

This action plan has been reviewed daily, since the first meeting and by the 23rd of March it consisted of 94 actions, 87 of which had been completed, and is growing daily.

Over the coming blogs, I will share my thoughts and feelings as this crisis has unfolded, but to summarise to date there have been days when I’ve really felt the weight of the decision making involved, in both volume and potential severity of outcome. There have been days when I’ve got home from work, unable to decide what I want eat for dinner, such has been the volume decision taken in the day. There have also been days when I have literally been all talked-out, which is a very unusual feeling for someone who is generally a chatty, positive leader who definitely sits on the extroverted side of things.

I hope you find my reflections useful, if you’d like to get in touch, drop me a line on LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m easy to find.

Until next time, Stay safe and well.