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Campaign for learning secretarycampaign chief executive;FE Focus;Adult Learners' Week

"THERE ARE very few pure job swaps because you can't have power without responsibility," said Bill Lucas, chief executive of the Campaign for Learning, who mixed and matched a swapping and shadowing process with the campaign's secretary, Gloria Phyall earlier this year.

Mr Lucas was well aware of the theory behind job swaps: it provides staff with fresh insights: helps people understand why others work in a certain way and gives an opportunity to improve communication. But when it came to practice, he was still nervous. "What would happen if someone important rang when I was in Gloria's role?" The idea behind job swaps is to have a meaningful insight rather than to feel terrified, so pre-planning is essential. Ms Phyall and her boss exchanged doubts and fears in advance and met up on the train on the way to work on the day, to exchange notes.

Mr Lucas "became" Ms Phyall first thing in the morning and returned to the secretarial role in the afternoon, while Ms Phyall spent the early part of the day and a working lunch trying out the job of chief executive.

After the day, Gloria Phyall jotted down her observations. She found it useful to experience the public persona of her boss in meetings.

She also learned more about his workload: she now understands more about how his day is planned: "He's in top gear most of the time," she said, "but I now know when to talk to him and went not to."

Mr Lucas made sure that she didn't feel out of her depth. Interestingly, she expected him to feel more vulnerable in the swap because "as a chief executive you're expected to know everything".

Both noticed that in a more senior role Ms Phyall mentally swapped identity. "When I talked to him when he was being me, I was very decisive. I enjoyed being in control."

One of their regional directors was "stunned" to see how Gloria was operating. "Having a different title has a big effect on your persona," Mr Lucas said. Meanwhile, he got to grips with the franking machine, diaries and arranging travel.

"My overwhelming insight into her job was how she manages to respond to lots of people's priorities, especially mine. She doesn't get much time to work without interruptions."

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