Anna Russell - Assistant Director - Consultancy in the South West region, tells us more about what it’s like to work for the National Trust

Published : Mon 12th Apr

We are currently hiring for an Assistant Director – Consultancy in our London South East region. Find out more and apply below

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How would you describe your role to inspire someone thinking of joining the Trust as an Assistant Director of Consultancy?

The Assistant Director – Consultancy role is an extremely exciting role working across the National Trust to support the delivery and development of National Trust strategy.  Working with national and regional colleagues, you will support a matrix working environment to bring together different professions and disciplines in order to solve problems and help our General Managers deliver local projects and day to day work at pace, with a focus always on high quality delivery.  You will also support the organisation to develop approaches to strategy implementation that then translate into activity on the ground for the full range of strategy areas (Land & Nature, Culture & Environment, Support & Revenue, Communications & Insight, Inclusivity & Access).

The National Trust Consultancy team have the opportunity to work on complex and exciting challenges. What are some of the challenges you solve in your role? 

My day is extremely varied and can range from pulling a team of consultants together to support the project management of a multi-million pound roof project for one of our listed mansions, to planning a research programme which will support the interpretation of collections at our places for our visitors, to working with General Managers and Consultants to plan a tree planting programme in support of our carbon reduction plan. It’s about using soft skills to develop relationships and to coach others to really understand what their clients need and to respond to this in the most effective way possible – whether a day to day task like managing an artefact found on an archaeological dig or planning a landscape scale nature conservation programme.

Tell me about one of the key partnerships you have formed which has helped to contribute to the National Trust strategy and ultimately made a difference on the ground to people’s lives.

One of the key partnerships I have formed is with the Bristol Natural History Consortium where we have worked together to help people access nature and to change behaviours around climate change and the conservation of nature.  The Bristol Natural History Consortium hold a conference every year called ‘Communicate’ which brings together a really wide range of nature conservation organisations to promote change in the way we work with and conserve nature.  The National Trust has been very much involved in this partnership alongside a range of other organisations like the BBC, Avon Wildlife Trust and Bristol Universities. 

The National Trust Consultancy is a national consultancy, where resources are shared across disciplines and boundaries, offering opportunities for collaborative working, leadership and strategic thinking. Can you tell me how you approach this matrix structure and make the most of the wealth of skills and experience in your team? 

Yes in order to make this work you have to be able to forge really strong relationships and partnerships with others in order to bring people together to solve problems. We like to describe the NT as an ‘organism rather than a machine’ so it’s about finding the best way to lead for what you want.  Your intent has to be very open and focussed on delivery as sometimes specialists have varying views and so need to come together to create a way forward for the client.  You need to build a very strong understanding of how the organisation works and who is available to help you.   You will also need to be able to bring in external consultants in order to augment our consultancy resource, so a good network of potential links is really useful as you never know when you might need to bring someone in to support. The National Trust is a very professional and helpful organisation so people are always willing to help and support. 

What are your top three priorities for this year?  

This year it’s about:

  • Recovery following the pandemic - we have had to make significant savings across the board at the NT and have changed our organisational structures so it’s managing the transition around this and supporting teams with new ways of working.
  • Developing new delivery models for grouping and creating programmes of projects to make our delivery more streamlined. In a non-covid year we are supporting the delivery of more than £50m of projects in the South West region so it takes some planning!
  • Implementing plans to make our places and stories more inclusive and accessible. So what do we need to change and support to do this in order to welcome a wider range of visitors to our places. 

How do you feel your strengths are utilised in your role at the National Trust?

I feel that every day I’m encouraged to do things that are new to me or that will stretch my knowledge and experience. So it’s always a rewarding experience.  The flat structure means that I can be working with staff at all levels, always with a wide range of skills and knowledge, so it’s always interesting and rewarding to hear from others what they need in order for me to be able to innovate and support. In order to do the ADC role you have to have a thirst for change and be energised by an ever-moving environment. The National Trust always wants to do more and more in order to deliver our strategy and so you need to be able to thrive on pressure, change and demand for your team’s support and skills.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I really love the people that I work with, especially my fantastic team of consultation managers who do all the work across the region to support. They all have an extremely wide range of expertise, so my job is to remove barriers for them to enable them to thrive and do their jobs.  Their job is being renewed and refreshed right now so it is really exciting to be part of the journey with them to really make the consultancy adapt, renew and thrive in a post-covid world…