Tuesday, 9 March 2021
East Midlands enterprising women: Lindsey Williams
From legal and finance to logistics and housing, a wide range of sectors in the East Midlands are blessed with an even more diverse set of female talent in senior positions. To celebrate International Women's Day 2021 on 8 March, East Midlands Chamber profiles the inspiring stories behind 10 of the region's top enterprising women throughout the week.
Lindsey Williams still remembers the “oh my goodness, I can’t do this” feeling that preoccupied her mind following her appointment as a housing association director aged 29.
The doubts crept back just under a decade later when she became chief of Amber Valley Housing in 2003, lasting many months into the role.
Little did she realise her responsibilities would only grow as the organisation doubled headcount to a current 375 people as its evolved into Futures Housing Group, which now owns and manages more than 10,000 homes across the East Midlands, but she soon realised confidence was the key to success.
“The biggest challenges I’ve faced have been around belief in myself,” says Lindsey, who is also a strategic leader on boards in her industry and region, including a role as vice-president of the Chamber this year.
“When I first got the job at Amber Valley Housing, I was absolutely petrified and thought I needed to stay one step ahead by reading absolutely everything.
“But of course that’s exhausting, so over time I realised there were skills around listening, questioning and moving things forward that didn’t require me to be the expert. Once I relaxed, I became a much better leader.”
Lindsey Williams’ journey from college to chief executive
Lindsey admits there was no grand plan to reaching her current position, having “fell into” the housing sector after leaving college.
During a management traineeship at Birmingham City Council, she realised there was little understanding of the social issues behind homelessness and a passion was born for putting a roof over the heads of those in need.
Her appointment as director of operations at Droitwich Spa and Rural Housing before she was 30 made her one of the youngest directors in a UK housing association, while another role as HomeZone Housing’s director of housing services preceded her move to Amber Valley Housing.
“I’ve moved jobs when I’ve felt like I’ve finished what I was there to do or when it was no longer challenging and inspiring,” says Lindsey.
“That’s been my driver for moving jobs rather than following any set career path, but the variety of things I’ve done has given me a really good grounding in housing.
“It’s important to me as a chief executive – I’ve been out with repair teams, I’ve done a housing officer’s job and development work, and I’ve been involved with joint ventures – so it gives me an appreciation of the roles within our organisation.”
It’s now coming up towards two decades in the same job, despite the different guises of Futures Housing Group – the name it adopted in 2007 after buying Daventry and District Housing from the council – and its evolution has undoubtedly kept her motivated.
There have been other ventures too, including buying a stake in Access Training and launching a grounds maintenance social enterprise Futures Greenscape, which last year merged into the wider group.
“For me, the organisation has always evolved and moved forward,” says Lindsey, who believes her persistence in tackling issues and grabbing opportunities has enabled her to develop an authentic management style. “We’re very progressive and that’s kept my passion going.”
She’s been one of the biggest drivers of progression, working to increase female representation on boards and developing an internal leadership programme that’s open to every member of staff.
“It’s important to support women, and all emerging leaders, to recognise the influence, skills and experience they’ve got is valuable,” she adds.
“Then we’ll see some progress because what businesses need isn’t just a mantra of diversity for the sake of it, but they need a diversity of thinking around the table.”
This story features in the March edition of Business Network, which has a special enterprising women theme. To read the magazine, click here.