Steven Platts on ‘Is the Glass “Half Empty”…? Leading change in challenging times’

‘A solution focused culture offers hope that all the hard work that our teams are doing actually means something.’

First published by Homeless Link in August 2019, written by Steven Platts, Chief Executive, Groundswell.

A few weeks ago, I was at a report launch where the opening speaker, a leader I have long admired, offered a note of cautious optimism for the homelessness sector. The rest of the event focused on the audacity of the speaker to offer even a modicum of positivity.  Why is there so much pessimism in a sector whose main aim is to make positive change?

Each day I sigh when am regaled again by negative headlines. “Beleaguered’ charity sector needs to ‘let go of the old”, says outgoing CEO. Beleaguered. Thanks for that.  “Trust in the sector is down”, “people are giving less and less”, “no-one trusts us anymore”. Problems, problems, problems.

Local services are working extremely hard to address local issues, yet the numbers on the streets remain high. If five people are arriving on the streets every day, but numbers are stable, does that not mean good work is being done? That the dedicated front-line staff are successful in overcoming barriers and getting people off the streets? I don’t think that our successes are talked about anywhere near enough – we need to say more and share more about the great work that is going on at the front-line of homelessness services across the country.

For example, Groundswell is growing in London and thanks to the Lottery funded #HealthNow partnership with Crisis and Shelter, we are now beginning to work across the country. Leading change in challenging times is never easy, and sometimes I feel myself getting dragged into the pessimistic mindset of the audience at the event I described earlier. Thankfully though, I am fortunate enough to lead an inspiring team of front-line staff and volunteers, who bring much needed perspective on the difficult days.

Like all sectors, homelessness  has its share of problems to solve, but for leaders to focus solely on the problems negates the great work that our teams deliver day and night, 365 days a year. To try and bring some optimism and to lead by example, I encourage my colleagues to come to meetings and events armed with solutions and ideas, with more positive conversations about the difficult situations. A solution focused culture offers hope that all the hard work that our teams are doing actually means something. By taking a “glass half full” approach, and seeing what is possible if the sector works together, we can move towards a leadership style that ensures that we keep our teams motivated and determined, with eyes on the ultimate goal of ending homelessness once and for all.