Navigating workplace challenges and professional development advice, with Christine Tacon, UK Groceries Code Adjudicator

Sometimes it is hard to be brave in your career, but making decisions and taking opportunities is key, says 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 a wealth of advice on how to address challenges that can be presented in the workplace.

Making a change

“I always start with data, get the facts together and build pictures with what they show as that always helps,” Ms Tacon says. “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 and it takes one type of bravery to do something new, she says.

“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.”

Opportunities and career progression

For those who feel stuck in their careers, additional qualifications, such as an MBA or a PhD, could provide an answer, but how important are they to career progression?

“It depends on the role,” Ms Tacon says. “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.”

Mentoring

Mentoring is another great option for those seeking guidance and professional development, but should they be a leader and/or from inside your company or department?

Ms Tacon says: “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.”