CEO Chris Luck reflects on the Shaw Trust's approach to Covid-19

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Chris Luck joined Shaw Trust last year as their new Chief Executive. He joined the Trust after a distinguished career in the armed forces, bringing his lived experience, expertise and clear sense of purpose, along with a deep understanding of the human condition. Here he talks to Partner, Joanna Thornton, on the charities immediate priorities and their people first approach.


What were your immediate priorities in tackling Covid-19?

Our very first priority as the Covid-19 crisis began to unfold was to quickly enter a contingency planning phase, examining the potential risks to the organisation and to our business. We established a contingency planning group, which closely examined all of the financials, our contracts, operational and people issues and worked through a range of scenarios to make assumptions about the operational and performance impact of a lockdown scenario. How to look after our beneficiaries and the health and wellbeing of our people during this time has been key. By making key decisions early, we have been on the front foot. We have taken a people first approach and our staff feedback tells me that staff feel cared for during this time.


Has your response accelerated any change plans you had already discussed but not actioned?

Shaw Trust had already embarked on a transformation and turnaround plan, where structures, technology, infrastructure and our property estate were being closely examined. Covid-19 has undoubtedly acted as an accelerator for some of our planned changes. An example of this is the divestment of our central London offices, which has happened more quickly than planned. Using technology such as Microsoft teams is also changing the way we communicate as an organisation and has accelerated plans to encourage more digitally enabled and remote working.


What have you learned about yourself or your leadership team during this period?

There are many different types of leadership and sometimes particular scenarios call for collaboration, transformation or sometimes more directional styles of leadership. Being able to flex your natural leadership style is key. Crisis situations really test people’s ability and in my experience over the years I have realised that you can sometimes be surprised at who comes into their own in these situations. Coping with the shock of a very challenging scenario and being able to make good decisions quickly based on the information you have, rather than waiting for 100% completeness is important.


Are there any positives that have emerged from dealing with this unprecedented situation?

Adapting to change and being comfortable taking risks is vital to the sustainability of any organisation. The depth of the levels of competency within the team at Shaw Trust, which has emerged as people have really stepped up during this exceptionally challenging time, is a real positive. I think there will be some other positives continuing to emerge in terms of our culture and appetite for managed risk which will allow us to continue to further develop Shaw Trust once we eventually come out of the crisis.