How I gained Chartered status in the lockdown

01 May 2020 -

How I gained chartered status in the lockdownEarlier this year, Rachel McCulloch decided to pursue Chartered Manager status – then the UK was locked down. Here’s her story...

Mark Rowland

Rachel McCulloch started in her current role as executive support manager at Active Financial Advisers Ltd with no management experience or training whatsoever. With a large team of back office staff as her direct reports, she had to do something about that. She chose the Level 5 CMI Diploma in Management.

Sadly, family ill health then forced her to take a break from personal development. Earlier this year she was ready to get back to her development, when a new illness put the whole world on hold.

Like the best managers, Rachel had to adapt. Not only her own way of working, but those of her entire team, who weren’t used to working at home. But while she helped to guide her team through the hurdles and headaches of adapting to the lockdown, she still had one eye on achieving Chartered Manager status. “[The lockdown] brought into focus just how crucial my role was going to be,” she says. “None of us have ever come across these circumstances. [Being in lockdown] re-focused my mind to really look at how I could achieve Chartered status.”

For the organisation

When Rachel first started to consider Chartered status, it was as much about her organisation as it was about her personal development. Active Financial is a Chartered financial advisory firm, so most of the leadership team has a Chartered qualification, and a lot of the staff are working towards one. The culture is geared around constant learning and progression. Rachel felt it was important to set an example.

“I knew that I had to get myself to the best version of me, and that’s where becoming Chartered came in… I could have just left it at the Level 5 diploma, but I felt Chartered shows the standards and professionalism that we have.

“It’s good for the company as well – it’s not just our advisers who are Chartered; our back office team are striving for that as well.”

Rachel received her assessment for CMgr status just before the lockdown and had completed the section on ethics before having to step up and take control of the seismic shift in working practices for her team. Lockdown also had an impact on her own personal development.

“If I needed any help to look at my assessment or any guidance from the leadership team, I’d usually get that face-to-face, whereas this has been completely different,” she explains. “We’ve had to try to adapt. Instead of telephone calls, we’ve been having regular Zoom meetings with the directors team, especially Paul Gibson, who focuses on people skills and qualifications. We spoke regularly on the phone. We had to change to using more tools, which come with their own challenges. But I still felt that I got the same support.”

Change management on fast-forward

As it became apparent that the UK would be put under lockdown, there were a huge number of practical considerations that needed to be addressed in order for the largely office-based team to be able to work. They had to source laptops for everyone, set up remote email and server access, and encrypt them to ensure they were GDPR-compliant. “It was all about making it practically possible for people to work.”

Then there was helping staff to adjust and keeping lines of communications open. Rachel talked to every single member of staff to find out what their concerns were and what they were unsure about when it came to working at home.

“Everyone has different problems or concerns that are individual to them.“We’ve got a lady who is seven months’ pregnant as well as a variety of ages within the team. It’s important to allow them that time to discuss it free from any other work discussions.”

Rachel learned that remote communication with a diverse team required lots of different channels. Email for example, is read differently by different people, so it’s important not to rely on it. “I text them, or we have one-on-one Zoom conversations. We do email about workloads and things like that, but I try to focus on them as individuals, making sure that we have a chat about how they are, how they’re getting on with their families, how they’re coping.”

Building trust

This is where Rachel was really applying her CMgr learnings. She knew it would be important for the team to be able to trust the decisions being made by the management, and that they knew those decisions were being made for the right reasons. “It would ease some of their worries,” she says. “When all of this is over, they’re going to come back to a job and get back into their work as quickly and easily as possible.”

All of this work went straight into Rachel's Chartered Manager assessment, particularly into the section on managing change.

“It definitely has been a big contributor to reaching Chartered status,” she says. “It made it clear that becoming Chartered is really worthwhile. The things that I’ve learned can only benefit me and the team moving forward.

“I know that over the next 12 months, I’ve got a lot more learning to do. I’m looking to attend director meetings and look to improve standards across the team. That’s what being a Chartered Manager is all about – holding yourself to high standards of professionalism. That’s what I will be taking with me moving forward.”

Is now the time for you to start the journey towards Chartered? Read about the journey to full Chartered status.

For more Covid-19 related support and inspiration, visit our Leading Through Uncertainty hub.