“The Pinnacle of my Career” was how Shaun Tymon, CEO of Yorkshire Coast Homes, described how his beloved organisation managed to scoop a massive four awards at the National Centre for Diversity Grand Awards last year.
He said, “Fairness is just so important. I regard it as central to everything that Yorkshire Coast Homes does so getting the CEO of the Year award from the National Centre for Diversity is worth more to me than a clutch of industry type awards. The awards night was one of the best nights of my life – not just for me but for our people as well because it meant so much to them”
Yorkshire Coast Homes was the highest performing organisation in the UK last Year – reaching number 1 in the NCFD Top 100 Index.
The competition was fierce last year (as it is again this year), Cestria Homes, the second highest performing UK organisation of 2016, missed out by a tiny 0.2%.
Shaun won the Chief Executive of the Year award last year and he told me that he felt honoured. But when Yorkshire Coast Homes also won Housing Association of the Year and then his colleague, Debbie Gordon won EDI Lead of the Year he was overcome with emotion.
When I spoke to him on the night of the awards he looked dazed and stunned by disbelief. He had described it as one of those amazing “did that really happen?” moments. He was clearly trying to make sense of it all.
One year on from their success, I went to see Shaun and Debbie recently with a number of questions buzzing through my mind:
- How did they get to the top of the greasy pole?
- How different was it going to be compared to Huddersfield New College who won UK College of the Year in November 2016?
- How do they feel now?
- Has the shine of winning a year ago gone?
I must confess I have never won any individual work awards, so I wanted to see and know how it felt to become the best of the best. I also wanted grab a bit of the feel good factor from listening to them talk about their glorious night.
I walked into reception and the first thing that struck me were the plaques on the wall. There were commemorative plaques to recognise YCH as the first ever organisation to receive Leaders in Diversity back in 2013, as well as the plaque for their current Leaders in Diversity accreditation.
Taking pride of place was the plaque for achieving first place in the 2016 Top 100 Index. It was a lovely splash of burgundy and gold.
Actually, as it turns out the two colours perfectly sum up Yorkshire Coast Homes. The gold evokes a sense of gravitas but the red tinge, inherent in burgundy, shows up the vibrancy. Gold obviously also signifies winners.
Just as I did when I went to Huddersfield New College, I was met by a helpful and courteous person on reception. Everything was orderly, calm and in its place. I was met by Debbie with a warm smile on her face. She had a lovely glow about her. I spoke to Debbie a few weeks earlier and she had told me that she still feels that sense of intense pride with humility at winning EDI Lead of the Year in 2016, and a year later I could still see it in her smile.
I was led to the open plan office, which housed the Senior Leadership Team, where I was to have my meeting with Shaun and Debbie. I found the open plan structure particularly interesting.
Having worked with about 800 organisations, we have seen lots of leadership styles. Some good – some not as good. The good ones are where there is good and effective communication between the leaders. Where people see a greater level of collaboration and fluidity between their directorates. Where people don’t work in silos. I have seen that a disconnected leadership team is often a dysfunctional leadership team.
I asked Shaun about it and he said “I wanted the team that I work with most closely, to be near to me. It has massively improved communications. I can find out what’s going on much quicker. I feel a greater sense of involvement and engagement. It has made discussions and decision making so much better and far less time consuming. We talk about all sorts of issues including issues relating to FREDIE (Fairness, Respect, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement)”.
It’s interesting to note that Shaun Tymon is a very successful CEO in other ways too. His workforce has almost trebled since 2013 and still YCH has ended up as the UK’s Number 1, and he continues to want to be amongst his team and in the thick of the action. I have seen some organisations with Executive Directors that work in the same floor or even in the same corridor but this was unusual, because all of the top managers sat just feet away from each other.
I was then taken on a guided tour of the building. I was asking question after question, just trying to soak up what it was that they did that made them more successful. Shaun and Debbie both talked about the organisation’s values and how driving home messages about the values was just so important. As I listened to their words and observed the non-verbal communications (body language); I could see that there was an inherent humility and decency that ran through them both, like a stick of rock.
Walking around the building you can’t help but notice how relaxed and comfortable people were. They were busy but not too busy to say hello or to smile. You could see the mutual respect between Leaders and staff. It was clear that everyone was in it together and they all had each other’s back – as they Americans might put it.
To be honest it’s what I imagined to be, but it was still great to actually experience it.
It struck me that if I worked at Yorkshire Coast Homes, I would feel very much valued, included and like I belonged.
Shaun talked about how important it was for the senior figures to live the values, to act as role models and to be champions for FREDIE. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that both and Debbie have been nominated for CEO of the Year and EDI Lead of the Year respectively again this year. I wish them luck as the competition is even more fierce than last year. I’m so relieved I don’t have the difficult task of short listing and then picking winners this time around.
Debbie is also speaking at the NCFD 2017 Conference on the 16th March 2017 at Queens Hotel; where she is going to be revealing all their secrets of success. I know that I shall be listening avidly for the answers to my questions.