From education to employment

Leadership Comes First: Essential Lessons from Unprecedented Times

‘Leadership Comes First’ was the clear focus of the recent @CUBO_Comms (College and University Business Officers) Summer Conference, a two-day event providing insights, knowledge and professional development to commercial services directors, their teams and commercial partners, drawing on lessons learned during the pandemic.

Over 350 attendees took part in the virtual conference and exhibition, which covered accommodation, catering and hospitality, sport and conferencing on campus, as well as staff wellbeing and techniques for leading in times of uncertainty.

The conference provided plenty of food for thought for delegates. CUBO chair, Jo Hardman, and CEO, Jan Capper, updated delegates on CUBO’s recent activity and future plans, before political journalist Nick Watt set the wider context with a session on the current political landscape and its impact on higher education, from the challenge of transitioning out of the pandemic towards a more normal economy, to politicians’ views on the 50% target for higher education set by the Blair government.

Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UK Hospitality, who has lobbied tirelessly on the impact of Covid on the industry, shared important insights on how the sector can return to full strength. “High quality and vibrant hospitality offers will be a key differentiator in the post-pandemic world”, she said.

Delegates also found out what makes Generation Alpha tick and which digital innovations might be part of the future of sports on campus. They discovered ways to identify and exploit new commercial opportunities, and learned about a new approach blending hotels and student living.
Concluding the first day of conference, Nick Watt chaired a panel debate on the future of student accommodation, with sector experts discussing approaches to rent rebates and the longer-term impact of the pandemic and online learning on future development.

On day two of conference, renowned leadership speaker David Meade gave an interactive and engaging presentation on the psychology of leadership. David took delegates on a lively tour of insights about growth mind set via Torvill & Dean, a light bulb factory and personalised chocolate rewards.

Leadership strategies formed one of the key strands of the second day, and the importance of building relationships was stressed again and again. Strategy coach Terez Rijkenberg provided tips for leading through periods of ambiguity; NTU HR director Louise Edwards-Holland outlined how to build resilient teams and entrepreneur Rody Vonk shared the principles of effective stakeholder management.
Commenting on the Conference, CUBO Conference Chair, Phil Scott, says:

“We’re delighted with the success of this year’s Summer Conference, our third virtual conference. It’s important to appreciate the pressures on staff – some roles have been furloughed while others, such as security, accommodation services and housekeeping, have been truly at the frontline. As we emerge from the pandemic, good leadership will be essential.

Covid-19 has certainly changed the way we work, live and study, and the impact on universities is yet to be fully understood. Our 2021 Summer Conference has provided a valuable blend of knowledge, insights and leadership skills to support the planning and management of campus and commercial services in this new era.

“The conference featured expert perspectives on higher education commercial services, while giving us some fascinating insights into the political environment and changing student demographics.

“We are already looking forward to the Winter Conference when, fingers crossed, we might be able to meet in person….”

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