When Sara met David
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing
When Sara met David
As part of her prize for winning the 2012 Young Leaders award, Sara Parkin was given the opportunity to spend a day shadowing National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr. Here is her diary of a hectic 24 hours.
The idea of spending a day with one of the most influential men in housing is one that could be considered quite daunting. However, after a day shadowing David Orr there really was nothing to feel apprehensive about.
“Who is Sara Parkin?” was one of the first questions he asked. I am by my own admission not a housing anorak, my passion is about people and from witnessing him interacting with his teams I think this is something we have in common.
As I was introduced to Federation employees it was clear that David has instilled his personality in the culture of the organisation and has made it his job to get to know every member of staff. When there was an employee he didn’t recognise he went straight up and introduced himself and made them feel welcome. When asked about what he thinks the culture of his organisation is, he said “friendly and approachable.” He doesn’t believe in email culture and would much rather discuss things in person.
There was something to be learned from how their meetings are conducted. I attended a political intelligence meeting which emphasised the open culture that they have. Each individual made a contribution, there wasn’t one voice that was heard over any other and people listened. When David speaks it is thoughtful, calm and considered and he asks thought provoking questions. This reinforced my confidence that you don’t always have to be the loudest person in the room to be a good leader.
This approach was replicated in the meeting with Housemark that took place in Coventry. Not only did the trip help me learn a lot about Housemark, I also learnt a lot about the railways. With all the travelling on trains he does, David knows the times, platforms and stations and even which carriage to get into!
The travelling time gave us an opportunity to discuss topics such as the under representation of women in senior management and why this might be, from confidence issues to child care, the importance of decision making, delegation and trusting employees to do a good job. I was also interested in the role of the Federation and how they make the members voices heard. This was all interspersed with a chat about my upcoming nuptials and his son’s recent wedding. We finished by having a drink at The Gilbert Scott bar at St Pancras station.
From here it was straight on to the House of Commons via a quick journey through central London. I tried so hard not to be a tourist, but it was difficult when you are surrounded by famous sights. The dinner was attended by representatives from procurement group Advantage South West and their local MPs. During dinner David asked me to tell the table about a scheme in our area for single homeless people. I felt so privileged that I was able to contribute. After dinner we were invited for drinks on the terrace with views of the London Eye and Big Ben, a special end to an insightful day in the life of David Orr.
Nominations are now open for the 2013 Young Leaders award. Click here for more information.