An interview with Jane King, Chief Executive of AHDB, the statutory levy board funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.

An interview with Jane King, Chief Executive of AHDB, the statutory levy board funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.

An interview with Jane King, Chief Executive of AHDB, the statutory levy board funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain.

I have been chatting to Jane on how she feels she has needed to adapt and enhance her leadership style and approach during COVID-19 as well as what she will take forward into the new world post lockdown.

Do you think that you have changed your style of leadership or management over the last few weeks, how?

I have tried to be more visible to AHDB colleagues and my leadership and senior teams during this national crisis. COVID-19 has changed our lives in so many ways and I have tried to show empathy, confidence and help the team feel well supported and engaged. Right from the beginning, I was keen to ensure compassion, kindness, transparency and flexibility shone through. It was critical that our workforce could see we were demonstrating all these things as they were having to work from home with caring responsibilities etc. Sometimes too much bureaucracy kicks in and when it does, I try to keep it simple – everyone at home, staying safe, doing what they can when they can.

How do you inspire and motivate people right now?

My job as CEO in these challenging times is to motivate the team and our employees to grow and evolve with the changes. I’m pleased to see we are already becoming more resilient as a result of coping with COVID-19. AHDB has been able to show the critical role we play in providing independent, evidence based information on the markets, supply and demand data now and forecasting. Our insight has been fundamental to decision making within the dairy, potatoes, horticulture and beef and lamb sectors. My role has been about bringing different skillsets together, encouraging the teams to really sweat their expertise in a timely way for farmers, growers, stakeholders and governments. We’re seeing good employee led collaboration and new ideas emerge. Our digital first agenda has been fast tracked for levypayers. Keeping positive, giving regular constructive feedback, showing you care about them and their families.

What has been the best change you have made as a result of social distancing?

Not driving so much and spending more time with my family. Previously, I would be at the wheel doing long distance journeys in the car in horrendous traffic jams. I’ve not driven 20 miles in 2 months. Before the crisis, I was also having to live 150 miles away from family all week, which was quite a hardship. For AHDB generally, we have been bowled over by the technology with Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc. Interestingly, it has loosened up relationships, brought teams and individuals closer together in difficult circumstances. There has been a lot of humour and social chat. We have weekly staff briefings via Teams now with several hundred colleagues on the line asking questions, sharing views. It is all very healthy for the culture of AHDB.

What will you never go back to doing and why?

Ridiculously long car journeys for 1-2 hour meetings. Will use Teams more to participate. Saves money, better for my health and the environment.

What will you do more of now life has changed?

I think the flexible approach to working hours is a healthy aspect of COVID-19 and, as we employ so many young people, I can see that being a way forward in the future. The next generation do not want to work 9-5pm schedules. I am hoping everyone at AHDB can see the advantages of people’s roles adapting when needed to fully use all our talents. We should use this period to become more agile.