Mrs Chitra Kovoor talks to us about the very well attended sessions she’s been leading in the Spouses’ Conference on management skills.
Why do bishops’ spouses need training and management skills?
When they become bishops’ spouses they are automatically projected into these roles where they are expected to do all these management tasks, for example, lead meetings, look at balance sheets, accounts and expenditure, plan, organise … and they’re supposed to know it all. That’s a terrifying place to be without any training! They have found these sessions to be valuable, to be with each other and identify with each other and their similar fears.
What preparation is there for a bishop’s spouse in those roles?
There is little or not training. They are thrust into this role and expected to get on with it. We were talking [in one session] about managing people - even the skills required there are so complex, how you manage different behaviours in a meeting, the technicalities of running a meeting, agendas and so forth. Being able to give the spouses a few down to earth practical skills that will work is the objective of this process.
How have you gone about teaching those things?
I thought it would be quite dry to just have management theory, plus there was the challenge of language and different cultures. So we have been using the Old Testament story of Esther. Each session is based on each letter of her name.
The first is looking at life experiences, how leadership and management comes out of our experiences, and how God uses our experiences for us to become effective managers and leaders.
Secondly we were looking at role of the bishops spouse. We tried writing a job description of a bishop’s spouse, and they learned how to write a corporate mission statement.
The third session was teamwork around managing people, behaviours, and meetings. We looked at team roles, management theory, personality types, and hurdles in leadership and the difficulties in power politics. We had a good laugh, but these were deep issues that were very real to their situations.
Later this week we’ll look at executing strategies, and the rewards of leadership.
How does the story of Esther relate to the skills you are teaching?
When we looked at Esther’s early life experiences, and how those experiences had an impact on her, [we saw that] she took that leadership position, and that those early life experiences shaped her for leadership. Women could really identify with that as a lot of them have informal or even traumatic or difficult work experiences. Esther had no clue she was going to step into this role, or what it meant to be stepping into a role where she was just a beauty queen, but then became a queen of significant influence who then saved her people. She only seemed to be an appendage but actually she moved into a significant leadership position.
Does there need to be a program for bishop’s spouses to access if they require this kind of training?
There is a crying need for training, and it is our responsibility as a Communion to provide that for the spouses. I talk to bishops, who say jokingly, “what about us?” And I say, “At least you get training, where often your spouses don’t have the opportunity”.
Chitra Kovoor has worked with the Church of England in management theory and training. She is a member of the Spouses’ Conference Implementation Group.