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Tru Vue Blog: Icon Leadership Launchpad - the inside view

jbon.jpgJulie Bon, ACR, was a Conservator with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) from 2006 to 2019, having worked in historic houses across Scotland to deliver preventive conservation advice and support. She has a particular interest in emergency planning and response and led a nationwide project to deliver emergency plans and training for NTS properties and staff. As of May 2019, Julie is now Head of Collections Care at the National Library of Scotland. 

Julie was awarded a Tru Vue grant at the start of 2018 to support her participation in the inaugural Icon Leaders Launchpad programme. This 12-month programme, delivered by a professional coach via monthly webinars, covers the six key areas of leadership skills and allows participants to practice and embed these skills alongside the more formal learning. Each monthly training session is followed by a monthly coaching session where the participants feedback on their progress over the past month. The programme started in February 2018 and finished in April 2019.


Session 1. Focus and Direction

The learning in this session looked at how successful teams, organisations and individuals need to understand where they are going and what they are hoping to achieve. We looked at how to set our sat nav for this TRIP:

Target: where/ what?
Route: how?
Inspire: why? Tell people 
Pledge: all about behaviours – you need to show you are doing it and people will follow

Following this training I set to work to look out our newly updated organisational strategy at the National Trust for Scotland so that I could focus on the vision and mission of my organisation. This led me to draft similar for our department to demonstrate how the work that we do ties into the bigger picture. It made me very aware that if you don’t have a clear direction of where you are going, and if you don’t communicate it to others, it can be very hard to lead at any level.

Session 2. Engagement

In this session we learnt how to work with others. We looked at the 4 C’s:

Comprehend: why do others work in the way they do?
Connect: how can we make others more engaged?
Communicate: what is the right way for us and others?
Collaborate: work with a wider audience because they want to 

We undertook personality profiling as part of this session. I found this very useful and I took the approach back to my team so that we could all analyse ourselves more to understand where and why communication wasn’t working in some areas. Understanding our own preferences, and those of the people around us, can make us more effective communicators and collaborators and can help us to bring people with us.

Session 3. Skills

This was a general session looking at ways to develop our own resources and those of our teams.  We talked about how to delegate and how to ensure that we have enabled the person so that they feel capable of delivering. Key to this is communication with your team in order to create confidence so that people will make decisions and take ownership. The GROW coaching model was introduced (Goal; Reality; Options; Way forward) and we talked about how we could use this to help those around us to make good decisions without giving them all the answers.

This was a month that helped crystallise a lot of the course learning for me. I was able to apply the coaching methods and I was also able to use this thinking when approaching job interview preparation. I was able to turn the focus around from me, and what I can deliver, to thinking about a team and what I can help others to achieve. This was transformational for me.

I was also able to begin work with a number of my course colleagues on a presentation for the Icon ACR conference in December 2018. This gave us a group focus and a piece of work to deliver together and I believe this helped to cement a number of our working relationships.

Session 4. Mind-set

Here we talked about think, be, do leadership. We need to get into the mind-set to think of ourselves as leaders. We also looked at coaching models and focussed on how we can enable those around us to succeed by: creating the environment; creating the culture; creating the confidence; giving them the tools; and then stepping back. We discussed how the purpose of a leader is to add value to an organisation by leveraging the value of people in teams in pursuit of the vision and mission. 

I was able to practice my coaching skills while working with a new member of staff and realised that I had the tools and the confidence to help others succeed. I also embarked on designing some 360° degree feedback to find out how my colleagues viewed me and where there were areas for improvement. I became more conscious of my perception of myself as a leader and began ‘noticing’ the behaviours of those around me. However I found this quite a tricky month and was not able to give as much time to implementing the learning as I would have liked.

Session 5. Impact

In this session we talked about how to get things done and how to influence others. We learnt how important it is to gather feedback and to get conscious of our impact now. We discussed how best to interpret this feedback to ensure that we react positively to it. We then looked at how we might realign what we do in light of this feedback and how we might then go out and do something differently in order to build on our own impact.

This was a hard session for me. I designed a 360° feedback survey and sent it out quite widely to my colleagues. It’s interesting how we naturally hone in on the negative feedback no matter how much of it is positive. For me it was the realisation that my colleagues enjoy working with me but do not necessarily view me as a leader. Realising that your own view of your impact does not match up with the view of those around you can be unsettling.  I’ve had to work quite hard on interpreting this feedback positively and doing something different to change my impact through asserting my confidence more.

Session 6. Systems

During this session we learnt that we need to systemise in order to delegate. We have so much going on in our heads and we think that no one else can do what needs to be done so we take it all on ourselves and don’t delegate.  However, leadership is about unpacking what’s in our heads and getting it down on paper into a system so that others can do what we do. Entrusting that to others will then give us the headspace to focus on everything else that we want to achieve. What’s important to remember is that we need to link the work and the system to our vision and mission and then communicate clearly with those around us. By utilising our other leadership skills, such as engagement and mind-set, we will be able to bring others with us when we implement these changes.

When it came to implementing the learning from this session we all focussed on different areas. Some of us realised that part of the vision and mission of their work was to enjoy what we do and to have a laugh. Some of us realised that avoiding multi-tasking led to a more stress-free work environment. Some of us took an analytical approach and mapped out the systems and processes in use at their work in order to entrust work to others. I linked this learning to the new challenges ahead of me in my career.


Looking back over the last year I can see how far I have come. Some of the techniques that we have been taught have become second-nature to me now: I am now able to understand those around me better and am more able to tune into their communication and learning preferences. I also know what gets me ‘in the flow’ and what motivates me and I understand the tasks that I need to work harder on, or delegate to others who are better placed to take them on.

In my application for the Leadership Launchpad I said: ‘I believe participation in this leadership programme would help me to unlock the potential that I know I have and give me the confidence to make the changes that I know I need to make’.  I feel I have been able to do this. Participation in the course has given me the confidence to apply for jobs outside of the Trust and I start my new role as Head of Collections Care at the National Library of Scotland next month. For me this course has helped me change in very positive ways: it really has been the launchpad for the next stage of my career.

I am very grateful for the support received from Tru Vue in the form of a Continuing Professional Development Grant which helped me to participate in this course. I am also grateful to the National Trust for Scotland for their support. I would also like to thank my coach, Julie Hutchison (Think Be Do Leadership), for her wisdom, patience and seemingly endless enthusiasm. Finally I’d like to thank the other participants on the course for their honesty, commitment and unconditional support.

Julie Bon ACR
Head of Collections Care, National Library of Scotland



The views expressed in these comments are the views of the individual and do not reflect the views of The Institute of Conservation. Any comments containing inappropriate language or copyright material will be removed.

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