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Leadership Development – bringing the team together

Rebecca Cooper, Head of People and Development at ACT Training

In this interview, Rebecca Cooper, Head of People and Development at ACT Training shares her experience of what effective leadership development looks like in action.

ACT Training provides a wide range of fully-funded training programmes for individuals and employers in Wales. Their mission to improve lives through learning stands side by side with our own at =mc, so of course we were thrilled when they got in touch about working together.

=mc: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Rebecca, and for sharing your feedback. Tell us about what prompted you to commission training for your senior leadership team? What did you want to see change?

Rebecca: ACT had gone through a period of change in terms of ownership and leadership and there had also been some new additions to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT). This resulted in a team with very mixed experience of leadership causing some friction and frustrations. We were looking for a programme to develop the leadership skills and philosophy of the team. It also needed to enable them to work more effectively as a team to achieve our business goals.

=mc: What was the learning experience like once you were in the room?

Rebecca: Engaging, lively with lots of discussion and well thought out activities. It also felt like a safe space for members of the team to be honest about frustrations and barriers.

ACT Training’s SLT on an away day – photo courtesy of ACT Training


=mc: Yes, and it’s so important that these minor issues are aired, and don’t end up causing rifts. Working through them in a facilitated space is a powerful way of bringing groups together. We see this a lot in the training room! Now thinking about your experience as a participant in the training, what were your lightbulb moments and key takeaways? Can you share an example of how you have been putting these ideas into practice since then? 

Rebecca: For me this was designing and agreeing our purpose as an SLT and how we work with the Board of Directors. This was a key outcome we needed from the programme. We were all guilty of prioritising the needs of our own departmental teams. At times, this went against the needs of the SLT and the business as a whole.

Defining our purpose has enabled us to see ourselves as a team. We understand how we can support each other whilst meeting the needs of our teams. There is agreement on how we need to work to achieve this and our overall business goals.

Another benefit from the experience was developing our personal and professional relationships with one another. This has noticeably reduced friction between us. As part of this process, we agreed areas of autonomy and delegation with board members. We are clear on where we can make decisions and where we need board sign off. This has directly improved efficiency in decision making.

=mc: That’s really interesting. Defining boundaries and setting expectations also removes the risk of disappointment or misconceptions. It helps avoid the ‘too many cooks’ challenge when everyone in the room has senior level authority. What have you seen from other members of the SLT since the programme?

Rebecca: I’ve seen increased confidence in colleagues and greatly improved relationships amongst the team as a whole.


=mc: You should be really proud of this result! Great example of the impact that a development programme can have when you’re clear what results are important to you. Now you’ve done the training, and it’s back to business as usual, what one piece of advice would you give to other leaders?

Rebecca: Taking a step back and some time to look at an SLT’s purpose, behaviours and ways of working is important. We all find it difficult to find the time to consider these things and focus on our own development as leaders. It’s not surprising when we consider the hectic nature of running a business day to day. But by taking time out and investing in this thinking, the team can grow in confidence and greatly improve efficiency of decision making.


=mc: Tell us about the process of working with The Management Centre – how did that partnership start? How did it develop? 

Rebecca: I came across The Management Centre (=mc) online by chance when I was looking at development options for our SLT. I originally enquired about a programme no longer offered but was guided onto a call with Director Charlie Scott.

She listened to our needs and helped to unpick some of our challenges. We discussed which elements of =mc’s training would best meet these needs and how they might be delivered.

Charlie proposed a bespoke leadership programme for our SLT. Over the next few months we went back and forth on content, making sure we had buy-in from all members of the SLT. During this time I also met with another =mc Director, Laura Slater. Laura developed the programme further with us, refining and shaping the sessions according to our needs.

After the programme was delivered, we worked together again, designing a facilitated session with the Board.

=mc: Was there anything that surprised you about the process of working with us?

Rebecca: The knowledge of the trainer in terms of leadership in various organisations and sectors. This was something the team really appreciated in order to get a more rounded view of leadership theory and how it works in practice.

Laura Slater, =mc Director standing in front of a flip chart while delivering training.

Laura Slater, =mc Director delivering training © The Management Centre Learning


=mc: Would you do anything differently if you worked with us again?

Rebecca: Not really, we had nothing but good feedback.


=mc: How are things developing since the training?

Rebecca: We are utilising our purpose and ways of working as well as levels of autonomy and delegation with the board of directors. Relationships are going from strength to strength and we are in the process of developing a system we can use to measure and provide feedback to each other on agreed SLT behaviours.


=mc: What advice would you give to someone else in your position looking to address a similar training need?

Rebecca: Speak to The Management Centre and discuss your needs. They listened to our situation carefully, asking deliberate questions to help define our specific needs. I appreciated the curiosity they showed in finding the right solution for our situation without making it a hard sell. They have been very flexible with us and have tailored the training to meet our needs.


=mc: Thanks again Rebecca for sharing your experience. There are no doubt plenty of other leaders going through similar challenges with their own SLT who will find this useful.

What’s next?

If you’d like to talk to us about leadership development, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to one of our consultants.

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Laura Slater

About Laura Slater

Laura specialises in project governance and management, as well as leadership and management development. Laura has 8 years’ experience in the charity sector, in particular developing and delivering regional...