“One of the most important qualities of a successful leader is being able to helicopter”

We recently sat down with Women’s Leadership Programme 2018 alumni, Bal Moore, who shared her experience of the programme and how it helped her leadership and career development. Previously Head of Business Management at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Bal is now Delivery Director and Chief Operating Officer for Government Business Services at the Cabinet Office.

 
What was it that inspired you to take part in the Women’s Leadership Programme? And what were you hoping to get out of it?

The turning point for me was following a WIG event – I was inspired by the speakers and the other women I met. And it got me asking – what was I about? What were the key skills I had? Where were the gaps? And importantly, how could I fill those gaps?

I was looking for something that could help build my confidence, grow my network of peers and help me understand the key challenges faced by women in the working environment and, the impact this can have on us as individuals.

A number of people recommended WIG to me and the Women’s Leadership Programme was an ideal fit. It gave me the opportunity to meet and talk to like-minded women who were going through similar challenges. In particular, how to deal with setbacks and how to overcome that imposter syndrome, many of us can face.

Ultimately, it was to help me, understand me!

To you, what is it that stands out about WIG’s Leadership Programmes?

Reflecting back on my 12 months of the programme, being able to visit and learn from a variety of organisations, in different sectors, was a massive highlight. Seeing the fantastic work being done in the private sector, as well as the voluntary sector – that gives you quite a different perspective of what’s going on, quite a humbling perspective actually, especially in some of the charities - seeing that real life delivery really brings it home.

Secondly, the opportunity to have a mentor. I had been matched with someone who had undertaken similar type roles to mine in the Civil Service, which was extremely helpful. I had recently changed roles and I was able to use the sessions with her to bounce off ideas and talk through the challenges I was having. She really helped me unpack the situation and come up with some solutions.

How did the cross-sector nature of the programme benefit you?

Hearing from a variety of speakers, about what was happening in their space, opens your eyes to the challenges elsewhere - it definitely gave me a greater perspective. It was also really beneficial getting that cross-government perspective, we had an extremely diverse group – with women from MOD, Department of Energy & Climate Change and even working with nuclear submarines. It was really great to hear how challenging their roles were and support them in their journeys too. We had a really good cohort of women across the sectors and at varying grades, as well as in different locations, so there were plenty of opportunities to learn from the group.

What were some of the main challenges faced in the group?

We covered a wide range of topics, from the more strategic issues to some of those softer, people focussed skills, as well as the challenges of being a woman in the workplace. Things such as; location strategies to dealing with challenges within your teams and even supporting each other when, for example; someone couldn’t make a session because they had to be at their child’s school.

What were your biggest takeaways from the course?

The biggest lesson for me was that I’m not alone in this journey. There are others there to support you and help you. I’m even still in touch with the group I went through the course with! We know that if we want help with something, there’s a core group of people there, happy to offer advice and support.

Was there anything about the course you found really surprising?

The mix of people. I don’t think I realised that the course cut across so many different areas. There wasn’t anyone else from the same department or area of office, which meant we could have really honest and open conversations, without the fear of other people knowing what or who we might be experiencing challenges with and discussing.

How has the programme supported you in your career development?

The leadership course gave me the confidence to apply for a role and with the skills I gained, I was able to step in to a totally new role – a new area of work, new department, which was really positive for my career development. The programme builds your confidence!

What would you say to someone who was interested in one of WIGs Leadership Programmes?

It’s a programme that helps and supports you as an individual! It’s as if the programme is tailored to your needs, but your needs are similar to everyone else’s in the group.

It’s for individuals who are looking to develop themselves and are looking to stretch or broaden what they do and their responsibilities.

It helps build your leadership skills and hone in on what you need as an individual.

To you, what are the qualities of a successful leader?

It’s like a mushroom effect, the higher up you get, the more strategic and less hands on you become. As a senior leader, because you’ve got so many things on the go, you’ve got to helicopter above everyone – when you sense something isn’t quite going how it should, you come down, deal with it and then go back up again. You have to have an understanding of everything going on and enough details to be able to understand what your team are doing and support them where needed.

You’ve also got to be a good listener – it’s a real skill and definitely one you pick up along the way. And it’s also important to acknowledge that you’re listening.

Being able to articulate the bigger strategic picture, but also being able to hone it down to what that means for an individual. If you can’t explain the bigger picture and narrow it down they won’t be able to own to what they’re doing.

And lastly, empowering people – giving them the authority to go away and deliver a project, but also being a support mechanism if things aren’t going to plan.

Finally, what’s next in your leadership journey?

The main thing for me, is to embed myself in my current role. I want to make sure I’m ahead of the game in the leadership space and I continue to develop and learn from others. But at the moment, I’m hoping to find a new coach to support me through where I want to go next.