Crystal Hicks, Chair of Women in Social Housing North East, Assistant Director at Your Homes Newcastle and Non-Exec Director for Tyne and Wear Museums and Society Matters CiC, has recently shared her life lessons on the Northern Power Women podcast. Crystal is a passionate advocate for minority and under-represented groups and a campaigner for a more equal and inclusive world. In her life lessons, Crystal urges listeners to be brave as we step into the future, and talks about the importance of bringing our whole selves to work as a passionate advocate for minority and under-represented groups. We caught up with Crystal to hear more about the advice she shared in her life lessons, tackling topics such as discovering your passions, what the last year of challenges has taught her and her team, and how she is using these lessons to take brave steps into the future.
In her life lessons, Crystal encouraged listeners to include their passions and interests outside of work on their CV, as we should be able to bring “our whole selves to work and this starts with being upfront about your values and motivations”. But for those who can’t quite pinpoint what these passions are, Crystal reassures that these passions and values do reside in everyone. She sees this demonstrated in her 5-year-old twin daughters, who “have very deep passions now which are actually quite superficial (mermaids, glitter, puzzles) and already have values – it is good to be kind, being mean is bad”. While our passions and values inevitably evolve as we do, this can at times make it harder to define what they are. Crystal recommends analysing the things that drive you through everyday life: “reflect on what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning, what brings you joy, what makes you sad and you’ll quickly realise there is a ‘passion’ seed there ready to be nurtured”. By being upfront and proud of our passions and values on an individual basis, Crystal believes that this will go on to impact the inclusivity of wider society. “Don’t be afraid of nailing your colours to the mast and say you believe in something. If we are going to create a fairer, more equal and inclusive world we are going to have to first discover our values, and then be empowered to express them”.
Despite the challenging year we have all experienced, Crystal has used the lessons she’s learned recently to confirm the ideas she previously held about her team and their working style. She now knows what she always thought to be the case: “everyone comes to work because they want to do a good job”. She spoke of the historic workplace tendency to closely manage those with more flexible working styles, and how scepticism is often expressed to flexible workers and their ability to find the motivation to work effectively. Now that this scepticism has been all but eradicated after a year of working from home, Crystal now knows that despite their various working styles, her team are driven by one common goal: “My teams all want to make the world a better place for the people we serve, and it is my job to give them the tools, policies, knowledge and support to be able to do that. So, no matter what their working style I now know that if I equip them to do a good job and set clear expectations they’ll do it well”.
With this two-way trusting relationship that goes between Crystal and her team, Women in Social Housing (WISH) North East feels stronger than ever in taking the next steps into a post-pandemic world. Crystal spoke of a brave project that her team has initiated this year, the What Women Want WISH List, that they’re encouraging housing sector employees across the North East to get behind and support. Crystal describes this list as “brave, honest and challenging”, and reflects on how it is such a shame that anyone in 2021 should still be wishing for the contents of this list. Its contents includes: “being trusted, flexibility and choice, being empowered, being heard and understanding of each individual’s circumstances and needs, being present and included where decisions are made, seeing diverse people in positions of influence, opportunities to grow, support, authenticity, to be inspired and to take ACTION”. In the face of the bravery it has taken to articulate and champion the 12 wishes, Crystal expressed how “incredibly proud” she is of the WISH board for committing to it.