At Unprecedented, we had the opportunity to speak to Mark Thickbroom, Finance and Commercial Director of Network Rail Certification Body Ltd, who discussed how the pandemic has affected him, both personally and professionally.
I’m a finance professional with over 30 years of varied and challenging experiences across a range of sectors. I currently work as a subsidiary of Network Rail, now in its 10th year, which has established itself as the number 1 in Rail infrastructure conformity and assessment.
Leadership, to me, is all about integrity – leading by example and keeping your word/promise.
I have always been a fan of Richard Branson and I totally admire people like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandella who maintain a calm, yet unswerving, drive to achieve their goals.
I would like to be remembered as a trusted and effective leader, and as someone who made a difference.
I would say that being truthful is one of my non-negotiables. Fairness is also on my list and doing the best job that you can is always important.
Personally – it has stopped me from doing all the things I love to do, like watching and playing sports, going on foreign holidays and meeting up with friends and family for good food and good wine.
Professionally - It’s meant that I had to work from home during the first lockdown, which took some getting used to. It meant that I had to adapt to managing remotely, through TEAMS/ ZOOM, and had to shape the business to be even more agile.
Results-wise very little, we had a great year financially and adapted really well to working from home. The challenge before us now is how do we amend the processes, practices and ways of working to permanently remain a flexible and agile workforce.
I was working from home during the first lockdown when our planned holiday to the Canary Islands was cancelled due to the Virus. It was also when I had to homeschool my son that I realised it was very serious.
My MD was very good at being supportive, pragmatic and calm.
We have a really good Comms manager and, as an Executive, I take messaging the troops very seriously. I think it’s important to not avoid difficult subjects and to be open and fair. This is something that has not changed throughout any of the lockdowns.
Nothing feels as dramatic as “unprecedented”, we evolved quickly into a WFH business but we were lucky in the sense that virtually all our work is desktop-based, so we could adapt quickly.
We’ve introduced a more integrated, progressive approach to engaging with the clients. This is intended to show that we can add value throughout the project cycle and strengthen relationships.
To empower and trust our people to deliver and leaving them to self direct and ask for help when they needed it.
To plough on with investment decisions, trusting in ourselves to continue to run a profitable, healthy business
To pursue a very large opportunity in the Baltics, which we won, adding significantly to our corporate CV.
Sustaining our order book/pipeline against a very fluid backdrop for decision-makers.
Holding onto talent – the industry is in a parlous state, as passengers are reluctant to recommence commuting. This means that some people are looking at other industries.
Motivating staff to continue to outperform when we can’t offer salary increases or bonuses, and promotion opportunities are fewer than before.
We implemented a new IT system for the delivery of our services and significantly upgraded how we work with clients. We’ve also continued to develop our social media presence.
Working from home has been ok for me, mainly because I have a nice home and great family relationships, which has meant that my work/life balance has actually improved. BUT I have missed interacting with friends, wider family and colleagues, so the lifting of restrictions and a return to the things I love to do can’t come soon enough.
In the long term, I worry that the lack of sociability might have, as yet unknown, effects on people – depression, anxiety and an inability to connect for example.
I would say that it’s not great for either. Yes, there might be some pent up demand, but certain sectors (hospitality, leisure, etc) will take a long time to prosper. Manufacturing services are also likely to have to build extra costs in, in order to accommodate distancing and sanitising.
I also think that the rail industry will likely face a period of contraction and cost-cutting, for several years to come.
Keeping people engaged and focused on doing a great job, not worrying unduly about the future and implementing a “we’ll take care of it” culture.
Retaining the top performers and communicating regularly about strategy and opportunities is also at the top of our agenda.
We are communicating with them regularly about strategy and opportunities.
It (the pandemic) coincided with a re-write of our 3-year plan, which was timely, so we re-set our vision, mission, and strategy etc. – this included our people strategy.
Adopt a flexible attitude, don’t allow your thinking to be constrained, the pandemic has taught us that a “new normal” can be created. I would also suggest that you learn as much as you can because you never know when a particular skill might become “hot”.
Honestly, to appreciate what I have and what I’ve achieved, and in terms of personal life, never to take a foreign holiday for granted ever again!!
If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about Mark, then you can connect with him on LinkedIn. Alternatively, you can learn more about Network Rail Certification Body Ltd on their website or LinkedIn page