Podcast Episode 2: Thoughtful “Leader as Team Coach” – Dame Alison Nimmo DBE, CEO The Crown Estate

Dame Alison Nimmo DBE is a Scottish Chartered Surveyor who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Crown Estate. For the last 8 years Alison has been inspiring and leading a very strong team to take a £14.3 Bn business to record levels of employee engagement and resulting financial performance. The Crown Estate returned over £343 million in profits to HM Treasury in 2019. Together they have grown the property portfolio from £10 Bn over 6 years ago which is a phenomenal achievement.

Alison’s first job was as a planning officer with Westminster City Council from 1986, after which she worked for the surveyors Drivers Jonas followed by KPMG and Manchester City Council (1996) where she was involved in the regeneration of the city after the IRA bombing of 1996. She worked on the redevelopment of Sheffield town centre for Sheffield One (2000) and was design and regeneration director at the Olympic Delivery Authority from 2006 (interim from 2003). She became chief executive of the Crown Estate on 1 January 2012, taking over from Roger Bright.

Alison is a non-executive director of house-builders Berkeley Group Holdings, trustee of the UK Green building Council and a visiting professor at Sheffield Hallam University. She is a fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. In 2019 Alison became a published author in a team effort creating a book called “Regenerating Cities – leadership, vision and partnerships” and wrote the chapter on “the value of partnership working”.

Dame Alison has a CBE for services to urban regeneration in 2004 and a DBE for public service and services to the Exchequer in 2019.

Alison’s philosophy – “Success is a team effort”.

Tips – Work out what works for yourself. “Leave your ego at home”.

Alison says – I’m not your archetypal leader; more of a team coach leading in a thoughtful way.

I’m definitely not loud & directive – not “the big I am!”

She has found that what works best for her is- “Set the strategy, then work to empower your team to deliver”.

“Hire really good people and let them have their wings and fly.”

As a recovering perfectionist it’s quite scary to let go. However, when you do then that’s when the magic happens.

She learnt that style from others and passed it on.

“You get the greatest sense of achievement when you see others succeed”.

In particular she found it very important “Getting from the engine room to steering the ship from the bridge. There you can be looking out for icebergs”.

“Hire and develop the very best and surround yourself with an army of giants”.

Trust is a really important – both ways.

Consistency. Learning from mistakes.

Fear of failure & trusting your own judgement. Her main regrets – is making bad hires.

Crucial to tackle White Collar Psychopaths & stop any culture of bullying.

Top Tip – inspired in the rebuilding of Manchester by Sir Howard Bernstein. He created “the Power of Purpose” – So inspiring working for him and coming to work “on purpose”