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Chief Operating Officer Wells Cathedral

Join the team leading the iconic Wells Cathedral as its next COO, developing its life as a place of worship, a heritage site of remarkable beauty and awe-inspiring historic significance, and a globally recognised destination for pilgrims, audiences and tourists alike.

  • Location: Wells Cathedral, onsite. Cathedral Offices, Wells, BA5 2UE
  • Salary: £85,000
  • Closing date: 9 a.m. Tuesday 30th April

Who we are.

The City of Wells

Situated on the edge of the Mendip Hills in the County of Somerset, Wells is one of England’s most beautiful and compact cities. Built around the beautiful Cathedral of St Andrew, its picturesque surroundings include a charming market square and high street, the Bishop’s Palace, and the magnificent Vicars’ Close, Europe’s oldest continuously inhabited street.

The Cathedral

Wells Cathedral deservedly has gained an enviable reputation for its lovingly maintained gothic architecture, world-class music, and its ministry. Underpinning the life, worship, and ministry of the Cathedral is a diverse organisation where a lot is achieved with modest resources. It oversees a diverse tapestry of activity:

  • A world-class music foundation
  • A works and estates department
  • A team of virgers
  • The Cathedral library and archives
  • An education, learning, and outreach programme
  • Finance, HR, and administrative functions
  • Volunteer management
  • Trading companies

About the role.

As a member of the Cathedral Leadership Team and as the senior operational manager of Wells Cathedral, the COO is responsible for the delivery of the Chapter’s strategy and plans and for the day-to-day coordination of operations in the context of the ministry and mission of the Cathedral. Reporting to the Dean of Wells and accountable to the Chapter of Wells Cathedral, this is a full-time role which requires a presence onsite to carry out the duties effectively. Read more about the organisational structure here.

The Chapter is the Board of Trustees for the Cathedral. It is the administrative body of the cathedral with the ultimate responsibility for directing and overseeing its affairs. They, alongside the COO, set the strategic direction for the Cathedral.

The principal responsibilities of the COO are to:

  • Provide leadership to the operational departments that align with the Chapter’s overall strategic vision and objectives.
  • Oversee and coordinate the activities of the Cathedral’s operational departments and associated staff.
  • Lead, manage and motivate the Cathedral’s staff and its volunteers.
  • Maintain and strengthen the Cathedral’s financial position in conjunction with the Chief Financial Officer.
  • Represent the Cathedral on external bodies and occasions as required.
  • Be aware of and actively participate in the life of the Cathedral and its worship.

Who we are looking for.

As a natural leader, the next COO should be authentic in their leadership and team-management skills, building trust quickly to lead the organisation in the context of some demanding priorities. Motivationally inspiring, wise in kindness, and with a values-led approach, the next COO should be experienced in people management and able to forge strong connections. They must be mindful of creating a healthy culture as well as delivering against the strategy. Open and transparent, the next COO needs to be a relationship builder engaging with the community beyond the Cathedral and building on existing partnerships.

A person of integrity and agility, the next COO should be skilled in managing several projects at once, balancing the need for involvement at both high and detailed levels. Wells Cathedral’s next COO should be comfortable managing the day-to-day operations of the Cathedral, a complex estate with multiple services, events and activities in a weekly busy programme. With an empathetic servant leader approach, they will work in sympathy with the values and Christian foundation, able to influence staff and volunteers in a collegiate and timely manner.

With extensive experience working with a variety of stakeholders across organisations, they should have the vision to lead as well as the ability to work as a member of the wider team. Similarly, they must have the capacity to support areas of work outside of their specialism, facilitating and supporting their team in key decisions. The next COO needs to be agile in their approach and adapt to developing, changing, and sometimes conflicting priorities, bringing their team with them. They should have a good track record of managing a healthy organisation and setting and maintaining clear and achievable standards and goals.

Displaying analytical skills, including financial literacy and commercial acuity, they will demonstrate thorough financial planning, budgeting, and reporting and have a proven track record in driving financial sustainability.


For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

Rebekah Abbott | rebekah@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07538 270749

Philippa Fabry | philippa@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07772 902071

Alison Maxwell | alison@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07498 071852

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Rebekah Abbott

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Welcome from the Acting Dean

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your interest in the post of Chief Operating Officer at Wells Cathedral. On this microsite, you will find many details about the specifics of the role and an introduction to our context here at Wells.

The life of any cathedral is a fascinating mixture of heritage, history, music and arts, community events, concerts and exhibitions, all undergirded and sustained by the life of Christian worship, prayer and service, which is at its heart. Wells Cathedral is no exception, attracting many thousands of visitors each year who come for a whole host of different reasons, and to each of whom we aim to offer a warm welcome and an inspiring experience.

Cathedrals have an important place in the life of the Church of England in the contemporary context. The daily round of worship is central, offered to the glory of God, inspired by first-class music, and shared with those who come regularly, occasionally or as one-off visitors.

At Wells, we are moving through a time of transition. I have been Acting Dean for the past year, and we are looking forward to our new substantive Dean, Revd Canon Toby Wright, taking up his ministry in June. We have made various other strategic appointments since departures in 2022-3; we are enjoying new postholders coming on board and continuing our recruitment work. It is a time of new possibility and opportunity as we seek to respond to the needs around us and offer something of the life of this place as widely as we possibly can. You will be joining a team that is excited by that possibility and seeking to build on the opportunity. There are inevitably challenges too – we are the custodians of a magnificent Grade 1 listed building and precincts, and we want to ensure its conservation and financial sustainability so that future generations will continue to benefit.

Our new COO will work closely with the Dean and other Chapter colleagues, leading the staff team, enabling volunteers and being key to ensuring that we can successfully negotiate the challenges and embrace the opportunities of this complex and very exciting place.

I hope you will find what follows both interesting and helpful as you consider whether you might explore the possibility of becoming our next COO.

With my prayers for your discernment,
Anne

The Venerable Anne Gell
Acting Dean of Wells, Archdeacon of Wells and Residentiary Canon

About Wells Cathedral

With an average of three services per day and over 300,00 visitors per year, Wells Cathedral is a purposeful, busy and thriving hub of activity. Focused on the needs of its congregation and visitors, Wells Cathedral’s primary purpose is worship, acting as a focal point for worship across the county of Somerset and the Diocese of Bath and Wells. The Cathedral welcomes many from across the diocese for large diocesan services such as ordinations and celebrations or for the transition days for local schools at the end of the summer term. It is also a focus for county services, and for services of national significance, for example surrounding the coronation of King Charles. Wells Cathedral hosts many visitors for a multitude of other reasons, including the wealth of concerts, events, festivals, shows and displays which take place in the Cathedral and its estate every year.

Underpinning the life, worship and ministry of the Cathedral is a multi-faceted organisation where a lot is achieved with modest resources. The work of the Cathedral is sustained by around 75 staff, many of whom are part-time, and some 370 volunteers. They oversee and deliver a broad and diverse tapestry of activities, which includes a world-class choir, a works and estates department, a team of virgers, a library and archives, a programme of education, learning and outreach, finance, HR, governance and administration functions, volunteer management and trading companies.

Heritage and capital projects

Wells Cathedral’s buildings themselves are awe-inspiring and beautiful, drawing many visitors annually to its wealth of buildings and grounds. Key to the life of the Cathedral is the continuous task of maintenance, preservation, and restoration projects of the fabric of the building and estates. The recently-restored Clock is one such example of this. Costing £142,000 to fully restore, it now has fully working mechanical actions to be enjoyed both inside and outside the North Transept, symbolising the multi-faceted vision required of the leadership at Wells.

The Vicars’ Close project is also likely to be significant in the coming years, both to our responsibilities for fabric and outreach.  This fascinating project, over which the incoming COO will have oversight, will include a richly immersive retelling of the street from historic times alongside significant restoration works.  Planned within this, are a working life museum, an accessible visitor centre and information hub.

Such major projects and the great richness and diversity of Cathedral life here rely on the support of our active Chapter, and Cathedral Leadership Team. With the new COO amongst them, they are looking to an exciting new season for Wells and the people the Cathedral serves.

Other forthcoming projects include the restoration of the organ, and the next natural phases of conservation of the great West Front and the beautiful stained-glass windows in the Lady Chapel.

Musical life

Music is an essential part of the Cathedral community and is something for which the Cathedral is internationally recognised.

Overseen by the Precentor, the Cathedral Music Department works closely with Wells Cathedral School (one of four Government-funded specialist music schools in the UK), which educates all the Cathedral choristers.

Central to the aim of the Cathedral is to provide a musical education for talented children – irrespective of parental means – and an opportunity for the broader community to engage with music for both physical and mental well-being. The benefits to the community and potential Choristers are innumerable. Through this vision, the Cathedral will enable the next generation of high-calibre singers needed to secure the future of Cathedral music.

Wells Cathedral Choir is renowned for the breadth and depth of its musical repertoire, the quality of its choral music as a key part of the liturgy, and its wider contribution to the commissioning of new music. With the financial assistance of the Cathedral Commissions Scheme (established in 2006), the Choir has premiered works by some of today’s finest composers. Other Choirs associated with Wells Cathedral include the Chamber Choir, the Oratorio Society, the Youth Choir, and Song Squad.

A new Assistant Director of Music starts in April 2024, and a new Director of Music starts in September 2024, building on already excellent work the current team has been doing over the last couple of years.

Events and outreach

While music has a crucial role to play in our outreach, from the immensely popular Carols by Candlelight concert series in December to the primary and secondary school outreach days packed with music tuition, the Cathedral also provides a focal point for the region more generally. This service to the community is offered through popular installations such as Peace Doves, the exhibition of artworks in conjunction with local charities such as Charis Refugees, the Wells Community Day, or large-scale commercial venue hire, for instance. Central to our outreach is also our educational work with schools and families, as well as the various tours, both general and specialist, that are available for booking as events thanks to the immense expertise and generosity of our volunteering community.

Finances

Funds to support the Cathedral as a place of worship and mission (involving maintaining our buildings, supporting those in liturgical roles, clergy, musicians and lay staff, and enabling the Cathedral buildings to be open to all every day of the year) come from a variety of sources. These include congregational giving, legacies, income from visitors, sums generated by trading activities, income from investments and property, donations from fundraising appeals by individuals, trusts and foundations, as well as through the generous support of the Friends of Wells Cathedral, the Wells Cathedral Preservation Trust, The Cathedral Trust and the Wells Cathedral Chorister Trust.

  • It costs £4,500 a day to keep the Cathedral open and our ongoing financial health is dependent upon the continued diversification and growth of all our income streams as well as careful control of costs and sensible investment in our infrastructure.
  • The Cathedral’s latest Annual Report and Accounts may be seen here.
  • Further details of the Cathedral’s life may be found on their website.

Values and strategy

As with all charities, Wells Cathedral has faced many challenges over the last few years, and we are still doing so. With the new governance measures in place and a refreshed Chapter body, it was time to review our strategy and the values: to discern, with the Cathedral community and the Diocese, what we are called to do and, crucially, how we choose to do it.

After a lengthy period of listening to staff, volunteers, congregation, Diocese and other key stakeholders, the Chapter’s values have been launched, and there is an invitation for all in the Cathedral to keep reflecting on our values and how they may be lived out.

The Chapter has also adopted its key themes for 2024. A fully formed strategy will await input from the incoming Dean and will shape 2025 and beyond. It is such an exciting time to be part of Wells Cathedral, and working together as a community offers a huge opportunity to make a positive difference.

The Cathedral values are to be: 

  • A faith-filled community – inspired by our Christian faith, learning and growing in faith and discipleship.
  • A welcoming community – offering an inclusive and hospitable welcome for all.
  • A caring community – serving our own community and the wider communities across the Diocese and County with compassion and love
  • A respectful community – treating others with respect and openness, acting with integrity and inspiring trust in all we do.

The key themes for 2024 are: 

  • Be a community of worship, witness and service for the people of Wells and the wider Diocese.
  • Cherish and invest in our assets – people and buildings.
  • Develop our outreach by enhancing the visitor experience, providing opportunities for learning and contributing to the common good.
  • Ensure we have the financial sustainability to underpin these aspirations.

Accessibility information

We understand that different members of the community have different access needs and have made some modifications to the way we do business to accommodate people from diverse communities and abilities. We offer the following amenities:

  • Step-free access to the building, all key meeting rooms and bathrooms, and an accessible workstation.
  • Accessibility dogs are welcome.
  • Interviews can be held in meeting rooms that support hearing loops.
  • Papers and materials can be presented in different formats.
  • A sign language interpreter can be accessed for interviews.

Further information:

The offices are currently within a medieval building but there is step free access to the current workspace, meeting room and WC.

This is an operationally focused role within a Cathedral and a range of old buildings, it would be necessary to arrange for assistance and planning to allow full access to the estate.

As an executive position the time required is what is reasonably required to discharge the role and not limited to a certain number of hours in each week. This will mean the individual will be the need to be available outside traditional working hours and days to represent the Cathedral. Whilst it might be possible (or desirable) to occasionally work remotely the role does require consistent and regular attendance on site.

The relatively small number of employees means that there are no current EDI statistics or workplace initiatives.

Wells Cathedral and Transatlantic slavery

As part of its commitment to EDI, the Chapter of Wells has led the way into the investigation of the Cathedral’s historic links to the transatlantic slave trade and British slavery in the Caribbean. The Chapter want to understand this part of the Cathedral’s history, which is always in danger of being hidden or denied, and any legacies (financial, social, spiritual or otherwise) that still endure into its present as a consequence of this history.

In 2023, speakers from Britain and the Caribbean came together in Wells for a fantastic conference day attracting 135 adults and sixth formers from across the country and abroad. Talks shared the findings of research focused on Wells and its links to transatlantic slavery. The Wells and Transatlantic Slavery network continues to work closely with the Somerset African Caribbean Network in ongoing schools’ work and study events.

More about this can be found here.


Applicants with a disability are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the role, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.

For further information or to organise a conversation, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

Rebekah Abbott | rebekah@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07538 270749

Philippa Fabry | philippa@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07772 902071

Alison Maxwell | alison@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07498 071852

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    Thank you for your interest in this role. Please download the Job Description and Person Specification.

    Wells Cathedral offers the following Benefits.

    To formally apply, please submit a CV and supporting statement (ideally maximum 2 sides of A4 each) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification, including your interest and motivation in applying for this position.

    Please ensure that your application is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “Wells Cathedral – Chief Operating Officer” into the subject field.

    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

    Rebekah Abbott | rebekah@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07538 270749

    Philippa Fabry | philippa@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07772 902071

    Alison Maxwell | alison@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07498 071852

    As a sector-leading executive search consultancy, we know the importance of creating recruitment processes which are fair, inclusive and free from bias. We are committed to promoting equality and diversity and developing a process that values differences.

    If you have a disability that meets the definition set out in the Equality Act 2010, and you can show that you meet the ‘essential’ criteria described in the person specification, please let us know.

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    Recruitment selection processes are based on evidence of competence stated in the person specification and in relation to our values.

    Timetable

    Closing date: 9 a.m. Tuesday 30th April 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Wednesday 8th May 2024
    First stage interviews: Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th May 2024
    Psychometric testing: Thursday 16th May 2024
    Second stage interviews:
     Wednesday 22nd May 2024


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    Peridot and Wells Cathedral, we need to appreciate the profile of candidates who apply for positions. We will send you an equality monitoring survey at the point of receiving your application, in the interview phase and at the time of placement. This ensures that our processes remain inclusive and equitable throughout, and provides us with important data to help us showcase our impact. The information will be treated confidentially and anonymously and will help us to support our commitment to fair recruitment practices. All information provided will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone, in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. The information provided does not form part of the decision-making process and will not affect your application.


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