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Meet & Greet: Garry Ratcliffe, CEO of The Galaxy Trust

In this week’s Meet & Greet interview, The Galaxy Trust’s CEO and myGwork member Garry Ratcliffe shares how being an 'out' leader with a collaborative and inclusive leadership style helps to promote equality, belonging and a blame-free culture. He also provides some insights into his work and family life.


myGwork: Why did you start your company? 


Garry: I'm the CEO of The Galaxy Trust, which is a multi-academy trust of four primary schools in Kent, UK.  I started the trust in 2016, with just two schools, in response to a growing move to groups of schools taking greater control, making a more bespoke offer for the children and families we serve. I have been involved with one of the schools in the Trust since 2008, so I really wanted to be CEO, in order to continue to influence its future direction and growth. 


myGwork: Have you always wanted to lead a company and why?


Garry: I have always wanted to be a leader, and in the last few years since the Academy agenda hit England, I have wanted to head up my own Trust, as CEO.  Each leadership position I have held over the last twenty years has built on the skills and knowledge I rely on every day, in order to successfully lead Galaxy. For me, being the leader is someone I have always wanted to be...  to have overall influence, direct accountability, and being able to share my ethos and vision is a significant driver in leading this Trust.


myGwork: How would you describe your leadership style?


Garry: I would describe my leadership style as multi-faceted, but certainly includes some key principles: 

  • I feel I am collaborative, in order to gain the best ideas from the best people.  My organization thrives on collaborative working – both inside and outside of our own organization. But everyone is aware, and I take it really seriously, that once collaboration has happened, and I have gained ideas and opinions from a range of people, the final decision, and the final accountability lies with me.

  • In our organization, we share responsibility when things go well, but it is my role as CEO to take responsibility when things don't go so well. Reducing a blame culture, and making it okay to get things wrong is vital if an organization is to thrive and grow.

  • I hope I am seen and known for being a values-based leader. The Galaxy Trust's values of Respect, Responsibility and Equality act as a driver for everything I do in leadership.


myGwork: What attributes do you look for when promoting/hiring employees leaders in your company?


Garry: A good attitude is everything to me. A positive outlook, politeness, humility and a sense of humour, coupled with a genuine interest in continuing on a learning journey is vital. When I am looking to employ a new leader, I observe them very closely from the moment they walk through the front door – seeing whether they treat the cleaner, the receptionist, the children and the CEO, all with the same high level of engagement and respect. No one should be above civility and holding the door open for another colleague. 


myGwork: How do you successfully motivate your employees?


Garry: Colleagues are motivated in different ways, but in essence, I motivate all employees by ensuring recognition is given for a job well done.  Personal, face to face "thank yous", cakes in the staffroom, and a mention in the staff newsletter go a long way to saying thank you. I also find that by making links and referring one colleague to another, such as: "Why don't you go and see Miss Smith, as she has handled this exact situation before and did really well."


I ensure that where appropriate and possible, any promotion or career advancement is offered internally, before we go outside the organisation. This is a huge motivator for those colleagues who love the environment they work in, and perhaps don't want to move on quite yet.


myGwork: How important is LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace to you?


Garry: LGBTQ+ inclusion is a passion of mine. Equality is one of our three core values - and it is the one I strive to live by, through every action I take in my work.  Working within an educational organization, being LGBTQ+ inclusive, not only affects the employees that work within the organization but also sends a very clear message to the pupils, families and wider community. I am proud that we have members of the LGBTQ+ community at every level of seniority within our Trust, and this will continue to be the case – and will only grow.


myGwork: How are you personally promoting inclusion in the workplace?


Garry: I'm in a civil partnership with Kyle, who I have been with for fifteen years. We have four awesome children who we adopted, so bringing a little bit of my family in to important conversations about inclusion, helps me to be credible when talking about how we need to be even more inclusive. Our Board challenges me and I challenge them right back, ensuring that each policy we create has inclusion at its heart, and is always backed up by an equality impact assessment. Most importantly though, is through my actions as CEO, I am able to demonstrate my total commitment to inclusion and equality by the language I use, the way I speak with people, and the equality of opportunity I offer to each and every colleague.


myGwork: What was the last book you read? Any interesting take-aways and would you recommend it to fellow leaders? 


Garry: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell is an insightful read for any leader, particaurly those who want to affect change.  A memorable early part of the book describes messaging, and how getting the message "out there," amid numerous methods of exposure was less important than the "stickiness" of the message - ensuring it didn't go in one ear and out the other. This book is a fascinating and easy read, but each reader will take from it so much that is different and common, according to their own style and their own interests.


myGwork: What's your all-time favorite movie/show and how many times have you watched it?


Garry: This is a tough one. I watch more TV than I do movies. Those who know me would laugh at the idea of me being able to completely concentrate and focus on a two hour movie. Political dramas such as The West Wing, I could watch over and over again, as well as some great comedies such as Schitt's Creak. And who doesn't love a bit of Ru Paul's Drag Race at the end of a tough week?


myGwork: What's your most favorite holiday destination to date? 


Garry: I love the sun. I love good food. I love the sea and I am interested in culture and history, so if I could return to one place I have been before, it would be Jordan in the Middle East; friendly people, a rich and long history, coupled with the best food in the world.  A close second though, for a quick getaway would be Barcelona or Malaga. You can't beat the Spanish to help you relax, to eat, drink and be merry.


myGwork: What do you do to unwind? Which drink/cocktail/tipple helps you unwind most?


Garry: It's vital to have unwind time, but with four children at home, time to relax is limited. I do put time aside for a massage every couple of weeks, to relieve the stress, and I am a big fan of live music and theatre.  Nothing better than popping in to London for a West End show and a few drinks on a Friday night. I'm not a massive drinker, but I do appreciate a refreshing mojito or gin and tonic, and I love Jack Daniels on the rocks, as well as the odd cold beer. Mmm, perhaps I'd better review my opinion of how much I drink!

You can find out more about Garry and connect with him here.

Check out some of myGwork's other recent Meet & Greet interviews, including:

  • Swapi CEO Pete Howroyd who talks about workplace equality and LGBTQ+ inclusion, and the importance of ensuring that every voice is heard. 


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