Mari Roberts-Wood Head of People and Communities, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council
Member since 2014
"Having been on a succession plan within my Council, I’d been looking around for development opportunities and joined the first cohort of Total Leadership. Following completion of the programme, I decided to join Solace.
To be frank, I’d assumed it would be a bit rigid and inflexible – and I certainly wasn’t assuming that I’d be so involved in things so soon! But local colleagues meet regularly, so there’s a strong local / regional peer group. The Summit’s a highlight too: we get the chance to get together in a very large group, which is really valuable. Being able to contribute to the co-creation of the Summit was fantastic, and the syndicate sessions allow you to build your own programme. One highlight from the last Summit was the session on emergency planning: because it was delivered by members to members, it was frank, emotional and private – you’d never have been able to experience anything comparable at a normal conference.
Being part of such a supportive body encourages you to really grow as an individual. Networking is also great, as you have access to senior leaders from across the country. The conversations quickly move beyond the humdrum, and you get to talk about things you couldn’t discuss in any other setting; it’s completely unique.
As members we need to talk to colleagues and promote the opportunities available. Before I joined, I hadn’t realised that there was this huge resource, a reservoir of ideas, contacts and events, just waiting to be tapped. I think members should think about extending the message to the whole organisation – it’s a crucial part of the career-path, and people are always thinking about their career development. We need to ensure that people know that this is available!
There’s probably a perception that, unless you’ve been on a programme, there’s a seniority bar. But, actually, there’s loads of opportunities to develop your career readiness through Solace. A significant number from my cohort of Total Leadership have gone on to become Chief Executives, and I think that speaks volumes."