Earlier this year, we announced our partnership with Connex Leadership Networks, the leading networking organisation for executive leaders in the affordable housing sector. As the official people advisory knowledge partner, we’ve worked with the network to host a number of events and present opportunities around finding, assessing, building, and accelerating leaders in the housing sector.
Here we spoke with Founder and Managing Director, Tunde Hinton to hear her insights and advice for leaders…
Tell us a bit about yourself and career to date
I have worked in the affordable housing sector for nearly 20 years in both operational and strategic roles and still consider myself very much a housing professional. I ’cut my teeth in housing’ as an Executive Support Officer at Pelican Neighbourhood Office in Southwark Council after graduating in 1996. I have worked in the affordable housing sector for nearly 20 years in both operational and strategic roles and still consider myself very much a housing professional – that will never change! As such I am attuned to the services and programmes that inform, inspire and energise individual leaders and their teams.
What has changed however is the focus of my work. For as long as I can remember I have been passionate about EDI and leadership development in the affordable housing sector. Prior to launching Connex I had worked at a small boutique management consultancy that connects CEOs, senior executives, and board members with their peers. I am passionate about making a difference and working with like-minded leaders and organisations who share that same vision.
What was the biggest lesson you’ve learnt in your career?
There are many important lessons that I have learnt throughout my career so I am not sure I can narrow it down to one!
Invest in yourself, I will say that again for the people at the back of the room! The biggest lesson I’ve learnt in my career is to invest in myself. I’ve always been a firm believer in the saying “you are your own best investment” and it’s something that has held true throughout my career. No one is going to believe in you more than you believe in yourself, so it’s important to invest in your own development and growth. Whether that’s taking courses, attending conferences or networking events, or simply reading industry-related articles and books, make sure you’re always doing something to stay ahead of the curve.
Know what you stand for–and what you don’t. What is your personal brand? It gives you clarity. I stand for persistence, hard work, and taking risks. I also stand for always trying to improve and learn new things. These values have served me well in my career and have helped me to achieve success.
Lastly have the confidence to take risks. It can be scary to venture into unknown territory, but often that’s where the most growth and opportunity lies. When I started Connex Leadership Networks, it was during a time of great uncertainty (the middle of a global pandemic). It was definitely a risk, but it’s also been the most rewarding experience of my life
Who do you look up to for inspiration?
This is a difficult question for me to answer. While there are many people in my life who have inspired me in one way or another, I don’t think there is any one person who I can say is my biggest source of inspiration. My parents arrived in the UK from Nigeria in the sixties as immigrants and have always been a big inspiration to me. They have worked hard all their lives and achieved so much; despite the many challenges they have faced. I am inspired by anyone who has overcome adversity to achieve their goals.
Women like Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai fought for what they believed in, even in the face of adversity. Their strength and determination is an inspiration to all women, regardless of race or background who have fought for what they believe in despite the odds, are a constant reminder to me that anything is possible if you are willing to fight for it.
What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?
The most important trait for a leader today without a doubt is emotional intelligence. Those who can master their emotions and understand the emotions of others will be in a much better position to lead effectively. I am a firm believer that leaders set the tone and culture of the organisation that they lead, in a sector and world that is increasingly complex and fast-paced, these skills are essential for success.
Leaders that work to refine this quality are more adaptive, resilient, and accepting of feedback from others. They are also effective listeners and open to change.
Why did you start Connex and what’s your long-term vision for it and the impact you’d’ like it to have?
I wanted to set up an organisation for innovative leaders in the affordable housing sector. I’ve personally always worked in housing, so I’m heavily invested in the sector, and it genuinely is my passion and driving force. Connex is my attempt to create a safe space for housing leaders to come together and talk about what’s important to them. It aims to help us have those uncomfortable and difficult conversations that are so hugely important if we want to see powerful change. It’s about creating a collaborative community for housing leaders to exchange ideas, talk candidly, and come up with real solutions. Also, by bringing diverse voices into the same room, and crucially out-of-sector speakers at every event, we ensure that there is always a diversity of thought!
We’re expanding at a really fast rate (over fifty organisations have joined since we launched in 2020). I’ve been blown away, quite frankly, and it’s been an amazing experience so far. What makes me particularly proud is receiving such positive feedback from sector leaders – however, we are so much more than events. Through our direct work with people, we’ve been so grateful to be a part of meaningful progress. People tell me we have made a real difference to them and their organisations.
In terms of what’s next, I just want to continue the good work. We will keep having these difficult but important conversations and helping the housing sector to make progress. We have early momentum, and we want to keep that going. The vision is to become a force to reckon with in the housing sector, and ultimately inspire the next generation of housing leaders.
What are the biggest challenges facing housing?
The cost-of-living crisis will be disproportionately felt by those residing in our homes. With inflation soaring and energy prices due again soon, it is important that organisations have robust policies in place to support both their residents and employees.
How is the sector perceived by our stakeholders? What can be done to create trust and boost reputation in the eyes of tenants, stakeholders, and politicians? To change the perceptions of mistrust around housing, a culture change is needed where residents are placed at the heart of everything that housing providers do. We will still need to work on communication and engagement strategies with tenants in order to foster trust and make them feel heard. The sector needs to ensure that we do everything we can to get the fundamentals right and deliver what we promise, with standards in place to hold us to account if we fail to do so.
Organisations need to be prepared to commit to DEI for the long haul and I am concerned that other challenges – will cause many organisations to abandon their DEI efforts when they don’t see immediate results. This is not an initiative that can be abandoned after a few years; it’s a journey that requires ongoing effort and investment. Investing in DEI is not a quick fix.
The importance of embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and prioritising it at the leadership level will help unleash the potential of your employees, helping to create a better and more engaged workforce.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for leaders?
If anything I do believe that COVID-19 has shown housing leaders how a crisis can bring about change in the way organisations operate. Organisations have had to be agile and adaptive to keep up with the pace of change and many have had to rapidly shift their focus to new priorities. The pandemic has amplified the importance of organisational agility, digital transformation and employee experience. Leaders need to be able to quickly adapt their organisations in order to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic world.
As we enter the post-pandemic landscape, leaders will need to tap into these new priorities and focus on creating an authentic, transparent, and ethical culture within their organisations. Only then will they be able to build the trust necessary to weather any future storms. Work life balance will become even more important as we move into the post-pandemic landscape. With so many people working from home, it is crucial that organisations provide the support and flexibility necessary to allow employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance. The pandemic has also shown us the importance of physical and mental health.
In the post-pandemic landscape, organisations need to make sure that they are promoting healthy lifestyle choices and providing access to mental health support. The pandemic has changed the world as we know it and the way we work will never be the same again. The organisations that thrive in the post-pandemic landscape will be those that are able to adapt and change with the times.
If you could give one piece of advice to leaders in housing right now what would you say?
There are a few things that I think are important for executive leaders to keep in mind during these times:
- First and foremost, stay focused on your company’s mission and values. This is what will guide you through tough decisions and help keep everyone aligned.
- Be transparent with your team – communication is key during times of uncertainty.
- Keep your team motivated and engaged – remember that everyone is dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety right now, so try to create a positive work environment.
- Be adaptable – things are changing rapidly, so be prepared to pivot when necessary.
- Finally, take care of yourself – you can’t be effective if you’re not taking care of your own physical and mental health.