5 minutes with… Vivien Simon, CEO of the Pilkington Family Trust

23rd May 2024
In the latest 5 minutes with… Sandra Hamovic, Partner in our Not for Profit Practice, spoke with Vivien Simon who she supported to secure the role of CEO at the Pilkington Family Trust.  Vivien has led organisations in the social housing, urban regeneration and adult social care sectors for over 25 years. Vivien, who is passionate about empowering individuals to achieve their best, spoke to Sandra about her first few months in her new role and the skills which she feels are critical to enable her to lead the organisation forward.
What inspired you to want to work for the Pilkington Family Trust?

What initially struck me was the long history of the organisation, not only seeking to support beneficiaries, but to do good and support those who were disadvantaged. This work has clearly continued, including supporting beneficiaries in disadvantaged communities overseas, where there is real poverty.  The Trust also clearly has an ambition to continue its work and evolve its activities to the wider communities of St Helens. This ambition, and the mission to do good in the community, is what really inspired me to be part of the team.

What was your action plan for your first 100 days at the Trust?

My plan was to be visible, first and foremost, and to get out and meet and talk to all the staff; this included informal get-togethers, meeting individuals on a one-on-one basis and shadowing staff as they went about their activities, so that I could get to know what it was like to work in the Trust, and what were the things they wanted to change or do better at. I also met the people we support, which I was able to do in different settings, and this gave me a different insight into the needs of service users and their families and carers. There was also the practical side – getting behind the operations and understanding how the organisation delivered – which enabled me to start to draw up my thinking and plans on what the priorities would look like over the next few months.

With a clear ambition to ensure your services continue to meet the needs of your beneficiaries and communities, what are the skills which you feel are critical to enable you to lead the organisation forward?

The ability to listen and seek feedback is paramount; from our beneficiaries, staff and key stakeholders. Involving those stakeholders in planning what the future looks like is critical. For me it’s also really important to inspire, be bold and visionary, but at the same time to have a good understanding of the changing environment and external factors that will shape and determine our future direction.

Reflecting upon your career so far, what have been the pivotal successes which have shaped your approach to leadership?

I think where I’ve achieved pivotal successes, I’ve worked to develop strong relationships and partnerships, recognising the importance of creating a sense of team, where individuals can feel inspired and try new ideas. I’ve also recognised over the years the important role of bringing out people’s talents and strengths and giving support. I feel this has shaped my approach to being an inclusive leader, a visionary and ambitious – with a continued focus on the individuals we support.

Finally, what advice would you give to emerging leaders taking their first CEO role?

I would say like any new role, there is a learning curve – you won’t always get it right, despite that feeling that, as a CEO, you have to get it right, and also be visible and engage and communicate with your teams and service users. If you can, try to have a mentor – peer support from another CEO – as part of your support network.

If you are interested in hearing more about the work that Sandra Hamovic and our Not for Profit Practice do, then please do get in touch.

Categories: Not for Profit