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Plan to groom ‘talent’ for high office in C of E

12 December 2014


Chairing the group: Prebendary the Lord Green, who is the former Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and former Group Chairman of HSBC Holdings plc

Chairing the group: Prebendary the Lord Green, who is the former Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and former Group Chairman of HSBC Holdi...

A RADICAL overhaul of the Church of England's leadership is under way.

A key report, still unpublished, sets out a programme of "talent management" in the Church. The report has been signed off by the two Archbishops, and a £2-million budget has been allocated. It was discussed by all the bishops in September, and the House of Bishops on Monday. A spokesman said on Wednesday that the Bishops "welcomed the implementation plan prepared in the light of those discussions. Details will be published next month."

The Church Times has seen the report, Talent Management for Future Leaders and Leadership Development for Bishops and Deans: A new approach, prepared by a steering group chaired by Prebendary the Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, the former HSBC chairman. It speaks of a "culture change for the leadership of the Church", and outlines a two-stage process.

In stage one, which is in the process of being implemented, all diocesan bishops and deans are expected to attend a residential modular development programme run by a secular university or business school. The modules are entitled: "Building healthy organisations", "Leading growth", and "Reinventing the ministry".

In between modules, the bishops and deans will be expected to review their actions within the framework of theological reflection and prayer, which includes a spiritual retreat. The programme is to be mandatory.

The more radical move comes at stage two. The Green report proposes that training for senior leadership in the Church - bishops and deans, but also archdeacons, incumbents of large churches, and heads of mission societies - takes place before appointment.

For this to happen, a "talent pool" of up to 150 "high-potential individuals" will be identified and enrolled in an intensive training course, lasting up to five years, by which time they can be expected to have obtained senior appointment. The pool will be overseen by the Development and Appointments Group (DAG), and managed by an enlarged staff under Caroline Boddington, the Archbishops' Secretary for Appointments, based at the Wash House in the grounds of Lambeth Palace.

After two years of intensive, modular training, talent-pool members will be invited to join their bishop's senior staff team to learn how to run a diocese. During that time, they will also be expected to undertake projects "with relevance for the National Church", and be available for secondment.

Individuals will be rated "early promise", "exceptional potential", or "ready now". The names of those deemed ready will be proposed to committees appointing the next generation of bishops and deans.

Those who have been in the pool will form an "alumni network", tracked continually by the "talent database" and available for mentoring and coaching future leaders. Anyone failing to fulfil his or her potential will be asked to leave.

The Green report identifies three key elements of church leadership:

- contributing to the Common Good, in essence involvement in local and national politics;

- reshaping ministry, i.e. developing the gifts of lay and ordained people;

- leading the Church for growth, implementing best practice for spiritual and numerical growth.

The report is virtually silent about the shortcomings of the present system of preferment in the C of E. Its stated intention, though, is to see leaders emerge from "a wider variety of backgrounds and range of skills than is currently predicted".

And it speaks of the urgency of the task: "So often in the face of real opportunity, many organisations, including the Church, do too little too late. We 'get there late,' as it were. Our commitment is to 'get there early,' while there is still time for imaginative response, agility, and a range of possibilities."

Lord Green's steering group expects there to be some resistance among existing bishops and deans, particularly over the need to find time in 2015-16 diaries that are already full. It says that support for the programme from the Archbishops is vital.

It also acknowledges the problem of language. "Currently, corporate labels such as 'talent management', 'leadership development programme', 'talent pool' and 'alumni network' have been used. These should perhaps be replaced by terms meaningful to the Church."

The Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Professor Martyn Percy, is critical of the theological basis behind the programme. Writing in today's Church Times, he says that the Green report "has no point of origination in theological or spiritual wisdom. Instead, on offer is a dish of basic contemporary approaches to executive management, with a little theological garnish."

The plan is to publish the report in January, before the General Synod's February meeting. Similar review groups are looking at a simplification of the Church's structures and the allocation of resources.Comment, page 14

Question of the week: Do you approve of the plan to create a talent pool of people to be trained for high office? 

Members of the review group:

Prebendary the Lord Green, Chair  Andrew Brown, Secretary to the Church Commissioners

The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely

David Jennings, Senior Strategy  Officer

The Rt Revd James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester

John Spence, Archbishops' Council  member

The Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth

The Rt Revd Timothy Thornton, Bishop of Truro


Caroline Boddington, Archbishops'  Secretary for Appointments

Brad Cook, Appointments and  Development Adviser

Christopher McLaverty, Consultant  Design Manager

Karen West, Archbishops' Adviser  on Bishops' Ministry


What the report says

THE Green report recommends "a new and dynamic curriculum to support the leadership development needs of current bishops and deans". The report also recommends radical change in the way "exceptional individuals are identified and developed for future strategic leadership roles in the Church".

The intention, it says, "is to develop clergy of exceptional leadership potential to make a significant impact in every area of the Church's endeavour, and to be more open to the emergence of leaders from a wider variety of backgrounds and range of skills than is currently predictable. The Church must be more intentional about drawing in those with high potential who do not appear to 'fit in'." It identifies women and people from Black, Asian, and minority-ethnic communities as under-represented in senior church leadership.

It hopes to encourage "joy and resilience" in current and future leaders, people with a "realistic confidence in their ability to manage well, to handle complexity, and to nurture the maturity of the organisation. . . We intend to form clergy who integrate and demonstrate strategic and spiritual gifts."

"There is emerging an opportunity for senior leaders in the Church to be innovative and to initiate new forms of social and political capital. This will involve being daring enough to open conversations which politicians fear to start on their own."

Leadership development for bishops and deans

THE new programme will be capable of delivering "sustainable organisational change", and will include 360-degree feedback, action-learning sets, and modules on building a healthy organisation and leading the team, equipping the Church for growth, and reshaping ministry. The target is for 36 diocesan bishops to complete the modular programme in 2015-2016.

"The business school provider will also run a Mini-MBA programme targeted primarily at deans. We will aim for 60 individuals to complete this programme in 2015-2016."

There will also be a new programme on Contributing to the Common Good (including digital-communications skills training and a deeper insight into cultural change). The target is for 54 individuals (bishops or deans) to complete this programme in 2015-2016.

"There is a key role for both Archbishops in the programme. All leadership development interventions need the most senior leaders to set the correct 'tone from the top'. . . Archbishops need to signal to the Church and to individuals invited to participate that attendance is a vital priority and that space must be created in the diary to enable this."

"The programme should not be run primarily by internal trainers or theological colleges. The evaluation found that these providers failed to provide sufficient challenge for a senior Church cohort."

Module One: building healthy organisations
Participants will be invited to assess the effect-

iveness of the teams they currently lead. There will be training in change management and the challenges facing the Church, as well as refresher courses in legal and safeguarding issues.

Module Two: leading growth
Participants will be invited to review their diocese's plans, and taught to devise one where none exists. There will be a field trip to a growing part of the Church.

Module Three: re-inventing the ministry
Participants will be invited to review their diocese's current ministerial development review process. Training will be given in identifying and nurturing talented individuals.

In addition, there will be two residential courses: a mini-MBA targeted at deans and focusing on financial management and how to run a heritage site; and a programme on the Common Good, looking at social change and modern communications skills.

Talent management

"THE key issues for identifying leaders of the future will be around transformation impact, radical and imaginative message, and a clear potential to make an impact in different contexts and across the wider agenda."

Key criteria for joining the talent pool:

early evidence of the leadership characteristics required for senior clergy (building healthy organisations, leading for growth, contributing to the common good, reshaping ministry).

acknowledged as the strongest performer in their peer group, recognised for their outstanding credibility, authenticity and effectiveness.

displays conviction, commitment and tenacity in their vocational journey and openness to whatever God may have in store for the future.

demonstrates potential for growth (thinking beyond boundaries, curiosity and eagerness to learn, social understanding and empathy, emotional stability and maturity).


e.g. "a priest where personal charisma dominates rather than living out the gospel message, boundary-stretching to an extent that a community is left stressed and floundering, theological interpretation/exploration and little action, over attuned to empathy and a failure to confront issues, unable to work collaboratively"; too little support in the home parish so that the individual is too busy to learn; family issues that inhibit commitment to the intensive development programme.

"Individuals will be required to hit an 'absolute' standard (very high objective standard which means the talent pool will always be small, up to a maximum membership of 150) rather than a 'relative' standard (assuming that everyone's got talent, creating a misleadingly large talent pool)."

Membership of the talent pool will be for five years on average. It is expect that about 30 individuals a year will "deploy their talent-pool experience to a wide variety of senior leadership roles. The quality of leadership across the Church should increase rapidly as a result."

Each individual will have a tailored development programme, including mentoring and work experience. After two years involving residential modules, action learning sets, and theological reflection, he or she will be expected to join the bishop's senior staff team in order to gain first-hand experience of strategic leadership.

"If there is decline in measurable performance or potential, an individual will be asked to leave."

Once appointed to a post or deemed "ready now" for an episcopal post, members of the pool will join the alumni network, supported and supportive of new talent.

Nominations to the talent pool will come from bishops. These will be monitored by the Development and Appointments Group (DAG) to ensure consistency between dioceses, which will filter out nominations "where the documentation provided does not demonstrate sustained evidence of exceptional potential". It will also challenge the bishops if the pool does not representatives of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, or church traditions.

Nominees will attend a day-long assessment exercise in front of a panel. Those rejected for the pool will be given feedback by their diocesan bishop.

"Vacancies for deans, archdeacons and other senior appointments will continue to be advertised. The expectation is that many of these vacancies will also be filled by alumni of the talent pool. However, the recruitment process will be open to all relevant applicants. It will always be possible to apply for and obtain senior positions without being a member of the talent pool."



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