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Civil Service

60 second leadership interview - Civil Service Award nominee Ian Marson, Home Office

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To continue the discussion around the Leadership Statement, we will be featuring some of our most talented leaders and asking them to reflect on the attributes they feel define great leadership.

headshot of Ian Marson
Ian Marson

What was your first job?

My first job was one in the Civil Service straight out of university, as an Immigration Officer at Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport. It was an EO grade role, and I got it in 1991, almost 24 years ago!

What's the skill you'd most like to have?

I’d like to be better at listening. Although I do my best not to, quite often I find myself jumping straight to the solution when someone comes to me with a problem, rather than helping them to come to the solution themselves by listening to them and prompting them.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned in your career to date?

To talk to people. Although it sounds glib, it is far easier and more effective to talk face-to-face rather than send email communications or put things on the Internet.

Leaders who inspire are those who talk with you, and messages delivered in person are far more effective.

Which point of the leadership statement do you think is most challenging and why?

I think for individuals within senior management, the ‘Inspiring’ section will be the most challenging. If we are to both reward innovation but also learn from failure, implicitly we have to embrace failure as not a bad thing. That mentality has been missing from the Civil Service for a long time. People don’t like failure, full stop; and find it difficult to reflect on and learn from it. Implicit in the Statement is trying things for the first time and taking risks. If we are doing this, we are also embracing the possibility of failure. I consider those who are afraid of risks as “managers”, not leaders. I have always encouraged my teams to try something new. On an organisational level, breaking silos and departmentalism will undoubtedly be the most difficult.

How have you improved your leadership skills in the past year?

I always try and observe senior managers, picking up on the things they do as effective leaders. At Grade 6 or 7 and above, I don’t think we need more managers, we need more leaders. I have also completed the UKVI Leadership Development Programme. It involved a rolling 6mth programme of classroom workshops, which gives you a unique opportunity to look at things in a reflective way, as well as try your hand at some role-playing! However much fun that is, hearing people’s real world experiences is very useful, and the UKVI programme allows that to happen, alongside bringing in outside consultants and experts. Moreover it’s the networking opportunity to collectively share solutions and ideas which is really useful.

What's the question you'd most like to have been asked (and why)?

I think the question every leader should ask themselves, and I ask myself this regularly, is: ‘would you follow you?’

Leadership to me is all about setting direction, giving a clear vision and getting people motivated, and inspired, to proactively do things sometimes they don’t necessarily want to do, but also empowered to get on with their jobs. You can really only truly lead by consent – try dragging staff with you, if they don’t buy into what you are ‘selling’! In order to lead effectively, you have to be able to say ‘Yes’ to that question. If the answer to ‘would you follow you?’ is no, then you are not leading properly and you need to change your ways.

Why was Ian nominated?

Ian Marson has demonstrated outstanding leadership in transforming the Croydon Premium Service Centre into a high-performing, streamlined operation with a clear focus on change of culture, customer service, performance management and workflow management.

Nearly all customers now receive same-day decisions within around two hours of arrival, as opposed to around a three to four hour wait previously and only 60 per cent of customers getting a same-day service. Customer satisfaction has risen from around 50 per cent to more than 95 per cent in ten categories, and 92 per cent in the eleventh.

Ian has achieved this with a near 20 per cent reduction in staff numbers – truly delivering more for less. The Independent Chief Inspector said he expected the office to become a beacon of best practice within the Home Office. The fact that it has done is down to Ian's leadership, motivation and energy.

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  1. Comment by MOHAMMED QURESHI posted on

    Perfectly worded Ian. Unfortunately DWP has a very long way to.

  2. Comment by Charlotte posted on

    I loved this blog.

    Ian was spot on when he said "At Grade 6 or 7 and above, I don’t think we need more managers, we need more leaders". So true and judging by what Ian is saying, he is my kind of leader and certainly someone I would want to emulate.

    Well done and congratulations.

  3. Comment by Jackie Miller posted on

    I don't know Ian but I do like what he says 'would you follow you'; for me I feel every manager and leader should ask this of him/herself on a regular basis, particularly with all the changes that are happening with the department. I wish you much luck Ian.

  4. Comment by Gillian Smith posted on

    I've worked with Ian. This nomination is well deserved. He's a star! Gillian