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Gateway housing association

Leading Gateway from Good to Greatness

Gateway Housing Association is the largest provider of sheltered housing in Tower Hamlets. Their name came about because of their unique role in supporting people in a borough which has, throughout history, been a ‘gateway’ for migrants coming to live and work in London. It also reflects their core belief that decent affordable housing is the gateway to a good quality of life for people on below average incomes.

The Challenge

By early 2014, Gateway had re-evaluated their vision, and set a new direction. They now aimed to become the best performing housing provider in Tower Hamlets
and, focus on older people’s housing. Underpinning the organisational strategy was a cultural vision , known as “Gateway to Greatness.” This aimed
to support local communities to thrive, by creating a dynamic culture where the organisation had a great reputation for great people consistently delivering
great services.

Sheron Cater, Chief Executive, recognised that to achieve these ambitions the organisation was going to have to change. First they needed to develop the
leadership skills and management competency throughout Gateway, to ensure consistency of leadership practice. All managers – including the top team
– needed to be much better at engaging their staff teams and to play their part in opening up internal communication so that everyone could work together
to be more customer focused.

Managers had traditionally identified very closely with their team or function. They were experts in their function, delivering high quality work at an
operational level. However, this meant they did not work collaboratively across the organisation with other managers or consider the impact their work
may have on other areas of the organisation. In essence, managers did not see themselves as leaders, and there was no clear definition of what it meant
to be a leader at Gateway.

Another major internal challenge was managers’ reluctance to deal with poor performance. Where conversations around performance did take place, they were
inconsistent both in terms of frequency and the standards being applied.

Regardless of seniority, managers needed to see themselves as part of a management team, to find ways to support and empower their staff – to delegate
the ‘doing,’ and to significantly raise the performance of their teams. They couldn’t bring about this shift in management culture by themselves. So
Christine White, Head of Corporate Services was tasked with commissioning a Leadership and Management Development training programme, complemented
by 121 coaching to work with managers in real time to embed the learning.

=mc’s Brief

Inspired by Jim Collins’ Good to Great model, Gateway asked =mc to design and deliver a training programme that would inspire managers and equip them with
the skills and knowledge to develop:

  • Great services: leading change and project management, lean leadership, encouraging innovation and improvement, and borrowing brilliance
  • Great teams: from good to great, coaching skills, dealing with challenging staff
  • Great reputation: seeking recognition for achievement, rewarding excellence, presentation skills, writing service strategies, project management

What we did

In response to this brief =mc designed a 3×2-day modular programme using the specially adapted version of Collins’ Good to Great model we have developed
for not-for-profit agencies. This is based round social value rather than Collins’ purely economic value.

Good To Great Model


Disciplined People Disciplined Thought Disciplined Action
Module 1: key elements Module 2: key elements Module 3: key elements
Day 1:

Level 5 Leadership

Day 2:

First Who then What

Day 1:

Confront the Brutal facts

Day 2:

Define your Hedgehog

Day 1:

Culture of Discipline

Day 2:

Innovation Accelerators

Background on G2G model The role of the manager Review of module one Systems thinking and identifying project purpose Review of module two Creating creativity
Leadership Practices Inventory (Kouzes & Posner) Motivational approaches Setting Strategic Direction Linking outcomes to visions Stakeholder engagement and management Using creative thinking to unlock problems
Using Emotional Intelligence in leadership Intelligent Leadership style assessment Developing Success Metrics Risk management Management effectiveness Innovation barriers
Reflection and self-assessment Reflection and development planning Strategic Planning Reviewing Delegation in practice Tools for innovation
Action Planning Reflection and development planning Performance management & difficult conversations Engaging others
Developing a coaching approach

We ran the training from March to September 2014, with two cohorts of managers. Throughout the training they worked alongside a peer mentor (or buddy)
from another team to help develop co-coaching relationships. And outside the training they had sessions with an external coach. Each action-based learning
module ended with personal development planning using a specially designed learning log. This encouraged the managers to commit to follow up actions
with both their peer mentor and coach.


Structuring the programme around the Good to Great model provided a consistent language and framework for management practice at Gateway. In addition it
helped both to make the training memorable and the key learning instantly accessible. The modular rollout allowed managers to focus on discreet areas
of practice, which they could then try in the weeks between training. They could also use the time to reflect on their individual areas for growth
with their external coach.

In terms of impact, it is clear to Christine that managers are much more aware of what it means to be a leader at Gateway, and what is needed to achieve
Greatness. She has also observed managers providing much clearer direction to their staff. They are now holding both the difficult conversations round
performance which had previously been avoided, and taking a coaching approach to enhance performance.

“I know from staff at recent HR workshops that everyone is now having regular one-to-one meetings with their managers, and those conversations are having
an impact. Managers and teams all talk to each other more, and as an organisation we feel much more connected. This is due to the down to earth, open
and approachable style of training we had from =mc. It made the learning something real, that people could actually use.”

Christine White, Head of Corporate Services

Feedback from participants also shows an increased confidence in managing others, and an understanding that they need to use different leadership styles
for different situations. Participants are introducing the tools from the programme to their teams, and are already seeing results. For example, a
customer challenge explored in Module 3 was around call services. The group came up with a way to enhance customer satisfaction by ensuring the frontline
customer service teams were equipped to resolve all service user queries, rather than pass them on. This, they agreed would require better data and
consistent approaches across different teams – something they were all prepared to do. The idea is being taken forward through the project One call
solves it all.

What next

About 6 weeks after the last module we held a Graduation Event where managers were asked to report back on their successes and challenges since the training.
It was clear from this that the One call solves it all project was well underway, and Managers reported they were feeling much more confident in their
management approach. We also looked at what other external and internal challenges needed to be addressed, and what further personal development each
manager needed to help them address these challenges.

As a result we have since delivered a one-day masterclasses on Emotional Intelligence. Attendance was voluntary – and high. 17 out of 24 managers chose
to take part. Further masterclasses are being planned.

How to find out more

Several of the programmes =mc tailored for Gateway are available in different formats as off-the-shelf in-house training. These include:

Do book. Or if you’d like to speak to us in more detail about your specific needs, email Clare Segal, Director at,
or call +44(0)20 7978 1516.

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Contact us
Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in personal effectiveness, change and innovation, and leadership development. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as...


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Yvette Gyles, Director

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