Representatives of over 200 business, public and voluntary sector organisations were treated to the ‘inside track’ on successful leadership on Thursday 17 September at an event held at Middlesex’s flagship Hendon campus.Representatives of over 200 business, public and voluntary sector organisations were treated to the ‘inside track’ on successful leadership on Thursday 17 September at an event held at Middlesex’s flagship Hendon campus.
The keynote speaker was Lord Sebastian Coe, Olympic sportsman, entrepreneur, politician and now a leading figure in international and public sports events.
Lord Coe was speaking at the launch of MODNet, the Middlesex Organisational Development Network. The event was held to highlight the range of ways in which the University and its MODNet partners can enable workforce development. MODNet’s 13 partner organisations provide specialist learning and training programmes which complement employees’ existing skills and knowledge, helping employers develop expertise within their workforce.
Before introducing Lord Coe, Professor Michael Driscoll, Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, briefly outlined the role of MODNet, speaking about its aims and aspirations to be recognised as the UK’s leading provider of workforce and organisational development, and its strategic significance to the University. Lord Coe began by speaking about career change: “You cling to the experiences you have had in the workplace when you change career,” he said, pointing out that he had changed careers twice - from athletics to politics and then from politics to his current role. Blending previous experience and new learning disciplines can result in huge strides in employees’ career development.
Lord Coe’s experiences on the running track have contributed greatly to his approach to challenge. His father was his running coach and, recognising that he was not an expert in certain areas of training, built a partnership of specialists around his athlete son, such as physiologists and nutritionists. This strategy is very much reflected in the spirit of the MODNet partnership. Lord Coe has taken this holistic approach forward himself in his athletics career, and in other roles, blending differing disciplines and blending the 'stars' (sprinters) with other less high profile roles such as the hammer throwers, creating an all-round team.
He said: "As Chairman of the Olympic bid I surrounded myself with talented people…I wanted to be brave enough to do the bid differently from previous British bids…The vision is about using the Games to inspire lasting change, it had to be clear and unambiguous, getting more young people involved in sport on a daily basis. We wanted to bring sport higher and deeper into the political agenda”.
In an interesting twist of history, Lord Coe’s own involvement with athletics dates back to the Olympic Games of 1968. At that time Lord Coe was a 12 year old, living in Sheffield. Local athletes John and Sheila Sherwood returned from the Mexico Olympic Games to Sheffield having gained bronze and silver medals respectively. He said “It changed my life…I just knew I had to be a part of this”. Within a couple of days he had joined his local running club and started on a course to success. He feels that exposing young people to extraordinary achievements is one of the most important things we can do.
Lord Coe spoke about his competition with great rival and friend Steve Ovett, and how, at an early competition in Prague, both runners were in the lead at different times. The eventual winner, however, was a German athlete who overtook both Coe and Ovett. The lesson Lord Coe took from this was: “There are always people around you who are working as hard as you to achieve their goals, if not harder”.
After a brief question and answer session, Lord Coe concluded by thanking Middlesex and its MODNet partners for inviting him to be part of their celebrations. Bruce Dickinson, Director of the Brighton Institute of Modern Music then spoke briefly about his experiences following a Work Based Learning programme at Middlesex. Bruce said: “I achieved my goal in gaining the qualification, but more importantly I gained the knowledge and confidence to take charge of the direction of my career and start my own college”.
Professor Margaret House, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic at Middlesex University said: “We’re delighted to welcome Lord Coe to tonight’s event, and to see representatives from so many different business sectors. We see Work Based Learning going from strength to strength through MODNet, providing opportunities for businesses to capitalise on employee knowledge and expertise which may so far have been untapped. Many organisations have been badly affected by the current recession, but as Lord Coe has said, having a vision is crucial in helping organisations to survive such difficult times. Investing in employees’ learning and training is a long-term strategy that can bring far-reaching results. We see this ourselves through our students and alumni and we are always particularly pleased when we see Work Based Learning alumni returning to us for more study and self-development”.
For more details about Work Based Learning and the MODNet partnership, go to www.mdx.ac.uk/wbl.