CEO Support Sessions

Here you will find notes from our online CEO sessions (held since late September) ordered by the most recent first. You will also be able to access any resources and useful documents shared from these sessions:

19 January 2021

Don’t fight yesterdays battle …

We had a good conversation at our regular Tuesday morning CEO session where we spent quite a bit of time talking about the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead. We shared concerns and hopes for what will come next on the covid version of lockdown hokey-cokey. There was discussion around the availability of vaccinations for front line staff, the looming end of furlough and of course the challenges of home schooling. Join us next week on Tuesday 26 January, 2021, 10am to 11am.

5 January 2021

Same storm, different boat

Some of the Visionary fleet are fairly water tight and some are beginning to leak a bit … not an easy time for anyone. But, coming together at our weekly CEO session and sharing how we stop the water coming in was as always, very supportive.

We talked honestly and openly about coping strategies, what can be reasonably expected of leaders during this time and finished with a great long list of what sessions Visionary could deliver to help! Watch this space for further information. In the meantime, join us next week on Tuesday 12 January 2021, 10am to 11am.

15 December 2020

Footballs for chickens

Our last CEO session of the year didn’t disappoint! We had a good discussion about what we thought might lie in store for 2021 and of course, we talked fairly extensively about vaccinations and all things related to that. We shared our thoughts on exercise and how important it was to feel the wind and rain on your face. But how many other CEO groups talk about how to entertain chickens who are subject to their own version of lock down due to bird flu? Mirrors and footballs are the answer to chicken lockdown angst … Join us next year for more random life hacks .. and in the meantime, find some time to look after yourselves – it’s been a tough year to be a CEO.

1 December 2020

Stinky fish, jam boards and reindeer antlers

Our CEO session of 1 December had a festive theme when Mike Jenkins joined dressed as a reindeer. After we all recovered, we discussed the benefits of using Teams ‘Jam Boards’ for anonymously posting about anything really – including ‘stinky fish’. Stinky fish are the issues which people find most annoying and can sometimes be quite easily resolved by inviting other colleagues to help.

We talked about fundraising which led to a debate often had in the CEO sessions – is everyone a fundraiser? Should everyone be a fundraiser? Should we be using the word fundraiser?
Santa has arrived early to Beacon with a sack full of COVID tests which has made Lisa Cowley very happy!

Finally, Carol O’Brien talked about her ‘run for the hills index’ and her ‘Leap of Faith’ index – so all in all, it was a very interesting insight into the minds of sight loss CEO’s – particularly for Laura Walker who joined for the first time!

24 November 2020

Beggars can be choosers …

Our regular CEO session on 24 November covered a wide range of issues and subjects – ranging from personality profiling, lack of clear guidance on COVID vaccinations, implications for staff of not having the vaccination, use of language – and so much more.

We talked about last week’s Visionary Annual Conference, 18-20 November and this blog about “the obsession of mergers ignores the principle of choice” by our keynote speaker Debra Allcock Tyler which led to a discussion and conclusion that beggars absolutely can be choosers.

Two resources were shared:

  • Businessballs – free online learning
  • “How to do Critical Discourse Analysis” book by David Machin and Andrea Mayr which talks about word choices in the media.

Join us next week, Tuesday 1 December 2020, 10am to 11am.

3 November 2020

Here we go again with round two of the national lockdown

Thanks to Stuart Clayton, Trustee of Visionary and CEO of Galloway’s Society for the Blind for hosting today’s session. The group discussed the announced lockdown measures which comes into force this week on Thursday 5 November. The general feeling was that this lockdown will not be the same as others and that numerous organisations have made the decision to remain open under the ‘essential services’ heading. Where possible, most were keen to offer open offices for staff who may be struggling for personal or practical reasons or need to access an office to deliver very limited face to face services. All are using triaging to identify those with the highest need of a face to face service and all is done in the context of COVID safe surroundings.

The conversation then went on to discuss how we can raise the mood of the staff team and remain optimistic about the future. Mike Jenkins at Cam Sight talked us through slides he has used at a recent staff meeting to portray to the importance of having a positive outlook. Graham Findlay at North East Sensory Services and Gary Hyams at Support 4 Sight both spoke about how they keep themselves positive, clearly important and not to be overlooked when trying to raise the morale of the workforce. Carol O’Brien at Sight Concern Bedfordshire explained some of the really interesting techniques she has used with her team through virtual meets including asking team members to think of their favourite childhood sweet or television programme. We finished off by talking about ways to recognise and thank staff for their continuing hard work.

27 October 2020

How leadership has changed in the last 6 months of a COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely from the teams

Today’s CEO session on ‘How leadership has changed in the last 6 months of a COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely from the teams’ was hosted by Philippa Crowther, CEO of Wilberforce Trust. The following question were discussed following some recent publications that pose questions:

  • Will the confident, dynamic, extrovert office leader need to be more of an organised, risk manager who is a dependable doer and who gets stuff done?
  • How are leaders looking after their own mental space?
  • Whilst sharing more of a personal space, through Zoom of our homes, our pets, and partners, are we sharing more of our true selves?

The CEOs talked openly about the changing need to be closely involved with everything all the time because guidance changed so much that BCPs were constantly with ever changing risk assessments needed. Organised diaries needed to be much more in use. There was a feeling of sadness not to be able to bounce ideas around a table and see close up people’s real reactions. It was also felt that they needed to be ‘on hand’ all the time to give the support to all staff and be the decision makers because of the high risk on Health and Safety for staff and customers. The very changing guidance making opening up and then re-locking down all the time is difficult and could be ’morale crushing’. It is difficult to during these exceptional times to make space for you and find mechanisms to stand back to take time from the day to day issues.

But some great solutions were talked about:

  • Making sure teams celebrate positives rather than the negatives, champion the success for all and to help boost energy and morale.
  • Engaging differently with Trustees – managing expectations – persuasive rather than traditional methods.
  • Using mobile unit to deliver services safely outside of the centre, mitigating some risks.
  • Having sofa chats – getting the strategy and objectives over to staff in a different way.
  • Making a conscious effort to put out all the positive stories.
  • Having a mentor who can help ‘tidy the mind’ up with you.

Overall we need to look after ourselves in order to look after others, but finding headspace and time seemed to be a theme for all.

Some interesting articles:

20 October 2020

Everyone has a back story…

Our CEO session of October 20 was as always, an interesting and supportive conversation.  We talked about staff wellbeing and shared some ideas and suggestions for ensuring staff teams were as ok as they can be in the COVID-19 circumstances. We also shared some hints and tips for self-care, including writing down daily positive affirmative statements, setting an intention for the day, running, yoga, looking for and finding the positives …

We talked about how, in addition to dealing with working in a pandemic, everyone was coping with their own personal back story and it can be a challenge for leaders to ‘always be a non-anxious presence’.

13 October 2020

‘If you want to change the world start off by making your bed’

Today we learned about the value of making your bed.

We had a fascinating conversation – not only did we cover the sleeping patterns of Navy SEALs, we also talked about the power of social media, value of exercise, trying to work out the COVID guidelines and of course, no session is complete unless we talk about the CamSight van(s) …

Developing the military theme further – Lisa Cowley and Mike Jenkins recommended a couple of books:

Take some time out for yourself and join us in next week’s CEO Support session on Tuesday 20 October, 10am to 11am for a supportive and interesting hour.


6 October 2020

The Relentlessness of Everything

We held our usual CEO session on Tuesday 6 October – no agenda – just an opportunity to share whatever we wanted to share. We had an impromptu demo of the wonders of Slack from Mike Jenkins of Camsight and then somehow our conversation evolved into this – beautifully written by Lisa Cowley of Beacon:

I cried at work today. On a zoom call with a bunch of other CEOs. I cried because things felt hopeless and I didn’t have my shit together and someone asked if I was ok. Do you know what happened?

It resulted in us all talking about how none of us were ok. We talked about how we have spent the last 6 months fighting to keep our organisations, our staff, volunteers and the people we support alive. We talked about how we had hit the point where it felt too difficult. The relentlessness of everything was the phrase.

Did we give up? No we shared our worries and our sorrow and we supported each other and we will keep going.

Covid 19 is a nightmare and we are all impacted in different ways. We have all had different experiences and we have all reacted differently, but nobody hasn’t been impacted.

If you are not ok, it’s ok to cry. It is ok to ask for help and it’s ok to want to hide under the duvet. Just don’t hide forever and when you come out talk to someone, they will surprise you and if you need someone to talk to I am here.

Join the CEO Support Session next week and know that we are here for each other.


29 September 2020

Social media and the impact of using paid for posts by David Anderson, Development Officer at Accrington & District Blind Society

The CEO session was hosted by David Anderson from Accrington & District Blind Society talking about using social media. The session was really well attended and everyone found it so helpful and useful. A link to David’s notes can be found here Visionary – Social Media, David Anderson. This is a session we might repeat or develop into a theme – let us know if that is of interest. One suggestion from the session was a number of organisations could come together to appoint a shared communications post. If you would like to be part of that discussion, please email Fiona.


22 September 2020

Staff wellbeing, facilitated by Stuart Clayton, CEO of Galloway’s Society for the Blind

Thank you to Stuart who gave an interesting and important talk about staff wellbeing (see Stuart’s presentation Visionary CEO session – Wellbeing in the workplace, Stuart Clayton 220920). Stuart also shared what Galloway’s have done to increase their staff’s wellbeing. This was followed by a good discussion where everyone shared their successes and challenges for increasing staff wellbeing:


  • Important to encourage staff to be physically active.
  • It is important to go outdoors and get sunshine.
  • App to get staff and volunteers walking – improve physical and mental health.
  • Stridekick Activity Challenges app.
  • Important at this difficult time to celebrate both personal and work across the team.
  • Birthday celebrations.
  • Regular daily contact with colleagues covering both social and work.
  • Regular team meetings – ensuring all staff included.
  • Small team who have been working together for a number of years.
  • Had the same challenges but knowing each other really well definitely helped.
  • Recognising that for some it is difficult to work from home.
  • Conducted a staff survey for the first time last year – staff pretty happy actually. Acted on outcomes.
  • COVID – Honesty is so important as is everyone mucking in.
  • CEO update circulated to all staff every fortnight.
  • Committed to calling furloughed workers once a month.
  • Inspirational stories are important to circulate to remind people what they are doing makes a real difference.
  • Introduced anonymous email address so that staff could ask any questions during COVID outbreak .
Flexible working
  • Flexible working – being very flexible about work undertaken and hours worked.
  • Task orientated rather than hours – emphasising to people that if they have completed their tasks for the day they don’t need to sit staring at a lap top or waiting for the phone to ring.
  • Recognising that time out is important – encourage more regular breaks.
  • Opened office – prioritised workers.
  • Being flexible with compassionate leave.
Support and guidance
  • Consider financial support/guidance – sign posting where required.
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place but for those who didn’t want to opt in the fund has been ring fenced.
  • Mental health first aiders are in place.
  • Links to PTSD Counsellor – recognising that impact of the pandemic is not unlike the impact of trauma.
  • Link to Mind for support.
  • Recognition that staff may experience personal loss and work loss.
  • Domestic abuse – link to other organisation.
  • Zoom training session on mental health.


  • Bringing people back from furlough has meant changes in work patterns so there is not the same cross over of staff as when all staff worked from home. This has made things like inclusive team meetings difficult to co-ordinate.
  • Take for granted IT and homeworking kit.
  • Management of leave – extra week for staff not furloughed.
  • Now is the time we may see access to counselling services difficult.
  • Horizons – musical – selection of talks and music from visually impaired musician.
  • Peoples worlds have become a lot smaller.
  • Future challenges – challenging times ahead but trying to keep people going!

15 September 2020

Thanks to Owen Williams, Chair of Visionary for chairing this session whilst Fiona is on holiday! The group discussed the following:

  • Local lockdowns – Challenges include trust amongst service users with some keen to get back whilst others are nervous and have lost confidence. There’s a need for consistent messages without raising expectations. Organisations are looking to deliver services that they can maintain.
  • Accrington and District Blind Society booking system – The society was praised for its Microsoft Outlook booking system. People can book a visit online or by ringing the charity.
  • Pressures on local authority budgets – COVID-19 has put a huge pressure on local authority budgets which has affected ROVI and third sector. There is a huge number of ROVI vacancies. Apprenticeship levy is not supportive for the third sector.
  • People with sight loss verbally abused – Group discussed concerns raised by people with sight loss and how they are coping in COVID-19 times with a loss of confidence and being unsafe to socially distance. It was felt that we must do more as a sector and that it is a national issue. Nationals could work together to take to equality boards and raise awareness amongst general public. The group discussed the need for a TV advert.
  • Transport – Members working with transport providers to address issues such as difficulty around seating on buses. It was highlighted there is no consistent model.
  • Education – With vision impaired children going back to school, the group discussed the need for advocates. Members felt that template letters would be a fantastic resource and is something Visionary could lead on, e.g. complaint letter where the school are not supporting the child’s needs.
  • Move away from office-base – Move toward meeting people within their community and not bringing them to an office / premise. Members looking to get rid of all offices or downsize.
    Need for more effective administration / IT systems.
  • Charitylog implementation – Charitylog is a comprehensive charity CRM solution for managing client and service users in the cloud. Members have used this system with success, and it is accessible to screen readers. Discussed recording service user details and the need to harvest records. Group members also use Devon Insight’s Sight Loss MOT which is an assessment, action planning and outcome framework that ensures people who are blind or partially sighted can access the information and support they need in order to maximise their independence, wellbeing and choices.
  • Community Services – New mobile van to deliver services locally – also raise awareness of sight loss and the society. Group shared examples where providing services and support within the community has proved beneficial and has enabled them to reach new members.
  • National Eye Health Week – Group discussed what they are doing during NEHW which includes changing email signatures, promoting of key message, social media and e-bulletins.


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