Over the last couple of months, i've been battling it out with nine other contestants in a bid to win a career enhancing scholarship worth up to £10,000 from the Bruce Lockhart Leadership Programme.
In what has been called ‘The Apprentice for local government’, the Local Government Challenge is designed to give employees the opportunity to demonstrate their creative, team-working and leadership skills. Contestants are split into two teams and participate in five real life challenges set by council’s from across the country.
Four of these challenges have already been held and here is a short sumary of my experience to date:
“The most difficult test was probably the first challenge, held at Birmingham City Council, where we were tasked to develop a strategy to attract and recruit more foster carers for the Council.
It was a really tough and mentally draining task, mainly because we did not know each other and had no idea of what to expect over the two days. Everyone was keen to make a good impression in front of the judges and showcase their talent. It was therefore no surprise that we spent very little time getting to know each other and planning how we were going to work as a team. We had lots of meetings with different people, there was a phenomenal amount of information to process and as a result, we ended up spending most of the night working on our proposals for the next morning. However the hard work really paid off as our team won. We gave an excellent presentation offering a range of practical options for the council to take forward.
All the challenges that I have participated in so far have been extremely tough and stressful. However each task has been well worth it, particularly when you are told by the host authority that some of our ideas will be implemented for the benefit of residents living in the area.
For the most recent challenge at South Cambridgeshire District Council we were tasked with developing a channel shift strategy to encourage more residents to make contact with the council through lower cost channels such as text message or social media.
I volunteered to be team leader, which is the most difficult aspect of the competition – as viewers of ‘The Apprentice’ will know - since all the contestants are competitive, passionate and extremely vocal. The learning that I was able to apply from the previous challenges proved effective when leading the team. I set ground-rules from the start and ensured we were clear on our objectives. I allocated roles based on individual strengths. I ensured that we focused on only a few key messages for the presentation to the judges so that we get our points across clearly. My team won in the end.
I have learnt that regardless of how well your presentation skills are, if you show passion in what you say, your message comes across well. Also regardless of your area of expertise, if you have a strong set of transferable skills, you can apply these successfully across all council services.
Building relationships and trust is crucial to the success of any team. Winning the hearts and minds of your team members requires strong influencing and interpersonal skills. Combine this with a desire for innovation and a sincere passion for what you’re doing and you’ve got your self a strong formula for success.
Through out my career I’ve been on various management and leadership courses, but the Local Government Challenge tops the lot! It’s the best training course you can go on.
In such a short space of time, I have learnt a lot about myself, my strengths and areas I can further improve. My manager and executive director also supported me through the competition. I still have one final challenge left, after which the judging panel will select four contestants who will go onto the live finals at the Local Government Annual Conference in July 2012.
I would encourage anyone with drive and determination and a passion for helping others, to apply for next years Local Government Challenge’’.