Six lessons we learned from the CMI 2020 President’s Awards

Tuesday 13 October 2020
The critical role of leadership in uncertain times. The power of experimentation. The impact of humanity in management. Some top takeaways from the 2020 CMI’s President’s Awards 
Hundreds of virtual attendees at an event

If there’s ever been a year where managers have had to step up, it’s 2020. Faced with an unprecedented global crisis, leaders have needed quick thinking, strong and empathetic leadership, and an ability to make change happen.

CMI’s 2020 President’s Awards recognised and celebrated some of that work, by members who went above and beyond to implement change, help others, or push themselves in the pursuit of better leadership.

“We’re celebrating the generosity of time and spirit that managers and leaders in all sectors have shown,” CMI chief executive Ann Franke said in her speech at the event. “Whether in the public sector, like the NHS and police, delivering essential services to keep our countries running; in our education institutions, ensuring the next generation doesn’t lose its footing; or in the third sector, acting as lifelines in local communities where otherwise there would be none. And the many business leaders who have stepped up to help their staff, their customers and communities to cope in these trying times.”

In addition to recognising the achievements of the award winners, the event also offered a snapshot of what it means to be a manager in 2020.

Lesson 1: human skills have never been more important

In his final CMI event as president, Bruce Carnegie-Brown spoke about the importance of human skills in managing through change and uncertainty. With the sudden prevalence of remote working – an element of which is here to stay – managers must make a conscious effort to connect with their teams.

“For those in workplaces where demand has reduced due to Covid-19, managers will need strong communication skills to manage well. We’re also discovering that managers working virtually or in a mixed environment of virtual and physical, are likely to miss their work-based networks and the workplace setting more than non-managers.”

Lesson 2: good management has a positive societal impact

Incoming CMI president Lord Mark Price built on Bruce’s point about human skills, drawing on his experience working for the John Lewis Partnership. Crucially, he pointed out how far-reaching good management can be.

“I believe, and academic research supports the view, that increased employee happiness improves engagement and commercial results,” he said. “It is an approach that’s better for employees, organisations and society. As research from my Engaging Business and WorkL digital platforms show, employees mainly leave organisations because of the poor relationship they have with their line manager. Good management skills have a disproportionate bearing on people’s workplace happiness.”

Lesson 3: a great reskilling will be needed for a long-lasting recovery

Back to Bruce Carnegie-Brown, who highlighted how long and difficult the road to recovery will be as businesses grapple with the impacts of the pandemic. Many people will not be able to keep their jobs, he said. “They will need to seek new opportunities and will need access to training and reskilling in order to compete successfully for those new opportunities.”

If it hadn't been for learning new skills, CMI Lifetime Achievement winner Sherry Coutu CBE wouldn't have  been able to forge her career. From a family where no members had gone to university, Coutu didn’t think this was an option until teachers and neighbours encouraged her to work on her skills and apply. Inspired by Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley, she went on to forge a career in business - and says these people inspired her to change her mindset for good: “Curiosity rules, every single day - and is rewarding every single day.”

Lesson 4: diversity of thought is necessary if you want your teams to work smarter

Matthew Syed, author of CMI’s Management Book of the Year Rebel Ideas, wrote about the importance of diversity of thought in building the collective intelligence of an organisation. This results in more innovation and better outputs, he argues. Syed says that we must be open to different perspectives and surround ourselves with a diverse group of people – this means people with different beliefs, backgrounds and ways of thinking. This helps teams to avoid blind spots.

This is necessary as the problems businesses are facing are becoming more complex – homogenous thought won’t work, Syed believes.

David Roberts CBE, chairman of the Nationwide Building Society and winner of CMI’s Gold Medal, says that over the course of his 37-year career, he’s noticed one consistent thing about great leaders: “They surround themselves with great teams. They bring people together, encourage them, play to their strengths – and the team is more important than the individual.”

Lesson 5: the next generation is bringing that new thinking into the workplace

Judging from this year’s award-winners, the next generation of managers is already demonstrating the power of fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking. CMgr of the Year Manisha Mistry, who led a digital change programme at Rolls-Royce, found there that the people best equipped to deliver change were those most curious about the technology and the most willing to learn: “They don’t necessarily have to be experts, but they have to want to go out and learn, play and experiment. We witnessed a similar willingness to learn and apply new ideas from CMI Student of the Year Oniba Khalid (Leicester University Business School) and CMI Apprentice of the Year Anthony Collins. He constantly goes above and beyond for his employer, Veolia, pushing himself to make a real difference for his personal development and the good of the organisation.

Lesson 6: innovation is the order of the day

With so much disruption across work and society, it’s never been more important to embrace new ideas. Several of this year’s winners pushed through innovation in their organisations – and even at CMI, giving their projects vision and winning the hearts and minds of their colleagues.

Travis Parkins, winner of the Outstanding Innovation and Delivery of the Year award, went through remarkable innovation in the design and delivery of its management and leadership programmes. And Denise Skinner, leader of CMI’s East Midlands Regional Board and CMI’s Volunteer of the Year, has been instrumental in redefining the shape, structure and purpose of CMI’s regional boards.

Congratulations to all CMI President’s Award winners

Denise Skinner: Volunteer of the Year

Oniba Khalid: Student of the Year

Anthony Collins: Apprentice of the Year

Corndel: Learning Provider of the Year

The Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University: HE Provider of the Year

Travis Perkins: Outstanding Innovation and Delivery of the Year

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed: Management Book of the Year

Manisha Mistry: Chartered Manager of the Year

David Roberts CBE: Gold Medal Winner

Sherry Coutu CBE: Lifetime Achievement Award

You can watch the event in full and even get nominating for 2021!

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