WFA catches up with… Christine Tacon

The question of how to work effectively and efficiently is brought up a lot as we navigate through our careers. Sometimes when challenges present themselves, it can be difficult to know how to address these.

Christine Tacon, who became the UK’s first Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) in 2013 and has achieved significant cultural change in the sector, has talked with us about the challenges that can be presented in the workplace and has provided advice on how best to address these.

When you feel stuck in a role or business, how do you go about making a change? What if you don’t know what the next step should be?

I always start with data, get the facts together and build pictures with what they show as that always helps. Then talk about what you have found with others. That’s what the team is for and together you will have better ideas. I have once turned to external consultants when I joined a business and the top team was stuck…but that would never be my first step.

Sometimes it is hard to be brave in your career. What advice would you offer?

It takes one type of bravery to do something new. This is exciting and generally you will have a team to ride the rollercoaster with you. It takes another type of bravery to cease doing something. In this case remember it is more important to protect most of the jobs than all of the jobs. Be decisive, treat people kindly and always deliver bad news face to face. It makes it much easier to live with afterwards.

How important do you think additional qualifications, like an MBA or a PhD, are in career progression?

It depends on the role. Sometimes people get stuck in their careers in which case external study, such as an MBA, gives you time to reflect, a lot more theory and a great platform to relaunch your career. I notice that many people do short stints at Management Schools now, from a week to a few months: if your business offers you that, then grab it with both hands. But for a lot of people doing an MBA on your own is costly and time consuming so I would always encourage people to push for training in their own Personal Development Plans and find out what the business can offer. Sadly, I don’t see agricultural businesses being at the forefront in this area.

When you are looking for a mentor, what advice would you offer? Should they be a leader and/or from inside the company or department?

Mentors should really be outside your business, as they are helping you, without any conflict. Seek someone you respect and who realistically has time for you, the gender is irrelevant but it must be someone you can relate to and whose advice you will value.