After 13 years as CEO of ACOSVO, Pat Armstrong gained agreement from ACOSVO's Board for a two month period of extended leave. Pat and her husband David had planned their adventure together, and set off to travel far and wide, while Pat kept friends and colleagues posted on her blog 'The World is my Office....Not'.
The Board and staff made initial plans for Pat's leave, setting out clear roles and boundaries. Systems and processes were put in place for cover, and while Pat would leave a gap for a short time, the whole team felt confident and capable to cover the period.
As many readers will know, Pat and David's plans didn't work out well. Early into the adventure, David took seriously ill and had to be rushed to hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand where he underwent major surgery. Once he was well enough to travel, David flew home to Scotland where, after a relatively short battle with cancer, he died in August last year. Pat returned to work at the beginning of October 2016.
At various times throughout 2016, Pat needed to take time off work, firstly to care for David throughout his illness, then as a result of bereavement.
Almost six months on from Pat's return to work, a 'lessons learned' blog has been co-created by various members of 'team ACOSVO', capturing their reflections on working together throughout a difficult time, and offering suggestions to other organisations facing the challenge of leader absence.
In the blog, you can read how 'team ACOSVO' dealt with a number of challenges and how they planned, agreed and implemented support for the organisation through a difficult time.
The team reflect on the benefits of working collaboratively and how they maintained their focus on strategy, direction, vision, mission and values. They identify how they dealt with communications, and managed to keep calm and confident throughout. Team ACOSVO share what they did to add capacity and make best use of time and resources, as well as how they enabled, enhanced and empowered the team. Through reflecting on the lessons learned, the team also identify where new approaches were developed and embedded leading to unexpected benefits. You can also read about how the team prepared for the returning CEO, and the benefits of shifting perspectives more to seeing the leader as human.
In summing up, Pat offers her final thoughts as a returning CEO, and the benefit of the insights and learning she underwent following a most difficult and life changing time.