John Bonney joined Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in 2001 as Deputy Chief Officer and took on the role of Chief Officer in July 2004: a role that is best-likened to that of a Chief Executive Officer in the private sector. He focusses on the delivery of an essential service whilst also balancing and maintaining relationships with local politicians and other stakeholders.
John participated in Windsor Leadership’s Experienced Leaders programme after six years in post.
He was transitioning through roles and a high profile, catastrophic incident had occurred within his organisation.
The programme provided John with the time and space required to reflect on his recent experiences whilst also giving him permission to explore the journey he had been on. Ultimately this enabled John to establish his priorities as a leader, when previously he had been overly pre-occupied with the delivery of a vital public service.
Importantly for John, the programme also laid importance on identifying his personal aspirations in terms of his development.
A space to focus
John decided to attend a Windsor Leadership programme following a friend’s recommendation.
He sought a different experience to that of the usual skills-based courses and the intriguing testimonial he received promised a more personalised focus.
Additionally, the setting was a large positive for John.
He found that when he walked through the Castle walls that it was a safe and quiet place away from the world and he describes the 24 hours that he spent with as his most significant 24 hours in the last decade.
John met a variety of people on his programme from all sectors and found working alongside the Clergy the most interesting - this is a sector he wouldn’t usually meet yet has similarities in having the obligation to develop a business whilst also serving a master who has quite a different code.
Windsor Leadership programmes are professionally facilitated and John describes his facilitator as "spectacular".
When he came on the programme, he was at a real turning point in his career with a number of things to consider, and his time in Windsor allowed him the space to take stock. He had the opportunity to discuss his challenges openly and honestly and was given the courage to open up.
18 months passed by and John still thought about the learning from his programme – usually they would get around two days of his time!
John states that leaders can feel lonely as they become more senior: there will be periods of time and challenges faced when only you are involved.
John’s programme helped him realise that there will be tough times ahead, and the associated importance of coming to terms with his own company. For the first time in a long time, John was able to be honest about who he is as a leader and as a result focussed on his early motivations for joining the Fire service. As a result he has tried to return to that way of thinking and to reconnect with that enthusiasm and passion.
Hampshire Fire have subsequently nominated several senior employees for Windsor Leadership programmes and the organisation has benefited from their attendance. These key decision-makers have the confidence to think differently and be open-minded as a result. John has observed the importance of mental agility and ability to think outside of your sector and feels that Windsor Leadership have supported this priority for his organisation. The Emergency Services are increasingly focussing their senior leaders on their professional relationships and the value of working closely across the blue lines.
John says he would be different as a person if he hadn’t attended a Windsor Leadership programme. He would be less self-reflective and doesn’t believe he would carve out the time to think about his role as a leader and his experiences. He recommends that if you are considering participating in a programme that you go with an open mind. What you put in will be reflected in what you get out.