I Work For ... Hayley Mollaghan works for Tom Dacey, group chief executive, Southern Housing Group

Tom has been in housing all his life. He started in 1971 as a trainee housing manager for Merseyside Improved Houses, and he's worked his way up to where he is now. He came here five years ago, from being group chief executive of West Pennine Housing Association, and his knowledge of the sector staggers me. He's totally committed to the cause of social housing, and it's important to him to feel he's making a difference.

Tom has been in housing all his life. He started in 1971 as a trainee housing manager for Merseyside Improved Houses, and he's worked his way up to where he is now. He came here five years ago, from being group chief executive of West Pennine Housing Association, and his knowledge of the sector staggers me. He's totally committed to the cause of social housing, and it's important to him to feel he's making a difference.

Southern Housing Group is a not-for-profit social housing association, and we build and renovate homes for rent and sale in and around London. We have around 14,000 units, from rented flats to retirement homes, and right-to-buy properties. It's a complicated organisation and has a charitable arm, the Samuel Lewis Housing Trust, a women's housing trust plus various other bodies.

Tom's dedicated to the group and the tenants. He wants to give our tenants the highest-quality services, which I think is great. Some people might assume when you get to Tom's level you don't have time to care any more, but he does.

I've been here for a year, since I joined as his PA. Before that, I'd been in a commercial environment, and I still have trouble adapting to the culture sometimes. It's consultative, and everything runs on focus groups and working parties. In many ways that's really good.

For example, we're just about to move offices, and the steering group set up three different workstations in this building, so staff could try them and say which they preferred. I've never seen anything like that before. You usually just get what you're given. The only downside is that getting a consensus can slow things at times.

I used to work in the motor trade, and you had to make quick, gut-instinct decisions and think on your feet, so sometimes I find the consultation a little frustrating. But having said that, the people here are really friendly, which more than makes up for it and it's a much nicer atmosphere to work in. Monday mornings in the football season are fun, because Tom is fanatical about Everton. After I've given him a coffee in his Everton mug, we have a blow-by-blow of Saturday's game. At present we're discussing new players, and the season ahead. I'm an Evertonian too. Well, I work with one and I'm married to one, so it's a case of having to be.

We do have a laugh - he's got a wicked sense of humour and can always see the funny side. He's a natural storyteller, and could keep me amused for ages, if we had the time. He's a good speaker, as well. I think there's a bit of the performer in him. You need to be able to laugh, though, to beat the pressure. We've just gone through a major restructuring of the senior management team and I must admit that was stressful at times. But we're already beginning to see the benefits, in that Tom has been free to take a more strategic view of where he wants to take the group next.

He's very demanding and expects a high quality of work - he's a triple-checker. But we both like to keep on top of things. We're "list people", and a bit manic about making sure things get done. If I don't chase him for something, he'll chase me for it, so nothing slips through. The good thing is, I know I have his support, and he always backs me up. I'd like to think people see us as a close working unit. He does long days, often followed by evening working dinners, because it's the only way he has time to see people.

He's approachable and has empathy with the staff. We've just got the internet and he's allowed everyone to surf between noon and 2pm, within reason. But he gets frustrated when people don't deliver. I know he'll be angry if people don't do what they're supposed to, so I chase them to try to avoid him getting annoyed. His bark is a lot worse than his bite, and he has a very human side that not everyone sees. He's great if I need time off, or I'm ill, or want to go home early one evening.

I know he trusts me, and relies on me, and I like that. I'd like to get to the stage where he doesn't need to ask me to do things, because he knows I'll have already done them. But I'm quite new to the sector yet, and we've only worked together for a year. I think that rapport will come in time.

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