Thought Leadership

‘Virtue and Virtuosity’ – a new tech podcast from Stuart McSkimming

Don’t miss the first episode of ‘Virtue and Virtuosity’ – a new podcast series by Stuart McSkimming, in conversation with third sector tech and industry leaders about their experiences of AI adoption. In the series opener, introduced by Tree Hall, CEO of Charity IT Leaders, he talks with Caty Mueller from The National Trust, who shares some fascinating insights about the Trust’s AI journey.

The podcast is available on Spotify and all podcast providers, so do have a listen and subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes. The next episode will be with Jon Fox from Alzheimer’s UK.

Six leadership prescriptions to address poor productivity

By Laura Dawson, Interim Chair of CITL, Fractional CIO and Founder of Leaderly

Leadership… Elusive, tricky, hard work and supposedly imbued in some but not others.  Sadly, without it, teams struggle; they crumble and deteriorate, just like any asset. If you don’t maintain your team, it will erode.   Leadership is not an inbuilt gift that some have and some do not, it can be learnt, practiced and improved. It comes at the cross-over between power skills (how we work with people), business acumen (making the right positive decisions for organisations in the right policies), and technical skills (the specialism(s) you have chosen to follow).


In my mind, there are two key reasons productivity suffers: a lack of good leadership skill and lack of maintenance (people, process, technology, physical assets). Both of those, in deficit, will result in unplanned effort and spend. Both of those will prevent you from delivering what you wanted to deliver, or stop you getting all the benefits you expected.

As the old adage goes, ‘Practice makes Perfect’. But in this instance, what does practice look like?

  • Be clear on the principles you will add to your assets and how you operate on and share those with your teams. That can be how you make decisions on technology or recruit staff.
  • Think about who has decision rights in your organisation. Do the people you expect to make decisions have the right and authority to do so? Will you overrule them if someone else shouts loudly enough or you would prefer they achieved the objective in a different way?
  • Trust your staff and build that trust. If you don’t trust them, you need to understand why. Be clear what the issue is and deal with it. Anything else is putting cost into your organisation, either by working round the issue or people not able to do their jobs.


  • Build the top team. If the top team doesn’t trust each other; if they’re only batting for the the teams they lead and building fiefdoms and silos, if they don’t take an organisational perspective and communicate effectively across the top team then it’s a dysfunctional team. Failing to resolve this will spread that dysfunction through your whole organisation like mycelium. If you are top of the shop then you have to do this.  It will take you about two years to go from dysfunctional to functional in many organisations but not doing so will cause pain for many more years. And don’t think you can fix this by just firing and recruiting. That’s a blunt instrument. Unless you embed the behaviours, attitudes and ethos that enable an effective leadership team you’ll just end up stuck in a loop of firing and hiring.
  • Invest in leadership skills, continuously.  Never stop. That can be all sorts of skill training from business acumen skills like financial or risk management, through power skills including critical thinking, confidence-building and resilience.   The key is to make sure the team are learning together and spending time together. This has to happen continuously, not just once a year at the exec team awayday.


  • Make sure the “shiny new” and the promise of jam tomorrow is not diverting resources from making sure your established assets are keeping pace with the market and staying fit for use. Lack of maintenance will result not only in poor performance and lots of rework, but poor tactical decisions at local levels to try and get round badly maintained assets. That will result in more complexity and duplication than your business can cope with.

So there you have it; six prescriptions to help you and your organisation address poor productivity. Give them a go and let me know how you get on.

By Laura Dawson, Interim Chair of CITL, Fractional CIO and Founder of Leaderly

01 May 2024



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