See details of our Learning to Lead programme. Do get in touch if you'd like to know more and how you might benefit too.
Mike Tooby is Development Director at the National Museum Wales/Amgueddfa Cymru.
Richard Bowmer works in the public sector as a finance manager for a Health Board.
Dafydd Thomas is chief executive of Wellbeing Wales, working in the voluntary sector.
Marilyn Chamberlain is Development Director, Finance for a Health Board.
MIKE TOOBY, Director, Learning Programmes and Development, AMGUEDDFA CYMRU NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WALES
How did you come to work with Maine-Stream?
I started my involvement with Colin of Maine-Stream via Public Service Management Wales (PSMW)'s action learning set programme in 2004. This involved a group of four individuals working in an action learning set environment. Through this work, I quickly developed a respect for Colin's work and style of delivery and engagement. So successful was the initiative that we decided to continue to retain Colin after the official programme had ended. The group had a natural lifespan of quite a number of years. During our conversations, I learned that Colin undertook work on equality, diversity and diversity champions, and having been impressed with his work on the action learning sets, asked Colin to propose work to assist a group of diversity champions in the Museum.
What kind of work has the Museum undertaken with Maine-Stream?
At the Museum, we had a longstanding group that looked at access issues, including (but not limited to) meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act. With the new Equality Act on its way, we decided that the time was right to reconstitute the group and, at the same time, to put in place a wider group of diversity champions. We selected Colin to run two workshops for us, for a whole range of our people who had volunteered for diversity champion roles. By definition, these people came from all over the organisation – different job roles, varying levels of responsibility, different types of experience, engagement and confidence. Colin took them with skill through both the challenges and opportunities of being a diversity champion for the organisation. He managed to elicit any concerns that people were worried about, and to address them. This was a new situation for us, and Colin's challenge was to bring together a team of people who had probably never worked together in this way before, from right across the organisation. He looked at how the group would work, how skills could be shared, and how targets would be set. All in all, I felt that it was highly effective training, made possible by Colin's skilled facilitation and through setting the tone perfectly and demonstrating how the group might go about its work.
What do you like about Maine-Stream's style?
Colin comes over as a very relaxed and even-tempered person. He has a tremendously honed professional demeanour which balances his natural human kindness. He is diligent, and fully respectful of different needs and different points of view. Within our action learning set, Colin had to deal with some pretty high achievers who had undertaken quite a lot of personal development and were very intellectually aware of training and personal development issues. Colin was able to hold his own on the theory side, but kept it "in reserve", used it only where and when appropriate and never flaunted his very obvious knowledge.
How has this learning helped the Museum?
I don't think it's too much to claim that in the areas Colin has worked in, he has helped the Museum as it becomes ever more democratic. One of the most significant advantages of Colin's approach to training is the unexpected "bonus" that the learner gains: whilst learning about the specific issue in question, individuals also gain a tremendous insight into themselves, the way that they like to learn and how they best respond to learning. This has had the additional effect of allowing them to understand their own personal learning styles and to be able to integrate this into their day-to-day roles and activities.
This is a theme running through all of the different contexts in which I have worked with Colin: the ability to enable people to become more self-aware, to merge the personal and the professional, to learn new ways of doing things. This learning was then transferred from the programme to the workplace to enable people to fulfil their potential and become more effective in their roles.
RICHARD BOWMER, FINANCE RESOURCE MANAGER, CLINICAL SUPPORT SERVICES, PATHOLOGY & SITE MANAGEMENT, ABERTAWE BRO MORGANNWG UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD
Richard has been employed by the NHS since 1988, when he undertook a graduate entry programme for accountants. He started his career in West Wales where, by his own admission, he didn't undertake a great deal of proactive personal development. Yes, there was a small amount of management training in his graduate programme, but most of his management learning since then has been on the job, learning as he went along, developing skills as and when they were required. The move to Bro Morgannwg meant that Richard was now part of a large health trust which placed enormous importance on personal development, understanding that accountants also need to be good managers and leaders. Within months of joining Bro Morgannwg, Richard and his line manager had identified a need for some leadership development. But which to choose … ?
Richard's manager knew Jenny Cook from Maine-Stream and had been impressed by her work on action learning sets within the Health Service. He was confident that she, together with her business partner, Colin Heyman, would deliver a first-class leadership development programme well suited to Richard's requirements. But what about Richard? What did he think about this suggestion? One of Richard's main criteria for any leadership development programme was that the learning had to be delivered and assimilated in a way that would work for him. He wasn't interested in a fast-track course which, once completed, would be instantly forgotten. He wanted something which could be embedded within his day job, to include project work and good use of experiental learning. And above all, he didn't want to be lectured at. His decision to go with Maine-Stream was founded on his belief that they offered a new and refreshing approach to leadership development through the provision of a longer term programme capable of sustaining and embedding learning in a way that others did not.
And how was it for you?
And so on to the programme itself. On the course that Richard attended, there were delegates from a wide variety of sectors. This worried Richard at first. Surely he would learn best if he was surrounded by a group of people similar to himself. In other words – accountants! He now concedes that he couldn't have been more wrong. In Richard's view, much of the richness and value of the programme transpires from the very diversity of all the delegates – public, voluntary and private sector. The wide-ranging skillsets and approaches to management and leadership dilemmas were remarkable and a real eye-opener. Many members of the group were generous in their praise for others, which led Richard to think carefully about his own style, and of his methods of praising his own team, and of the importance of taking time out to understand their development needs as well as his own. “It's not just about managing their work, it's about developing them as people too”.
Richard valued the fact that, having learned about various leadership models and techniques, there was ample opportunity to put them into practice back in the workplace. And the group discussion highlighted that what worked for some didn't work for others. The important learning outcome was to give it a go. Jenny and Colin were excellent, knowing just how much to challenge each delegate, never attempting a “one size fits all” approach to their interventions. Richard certainly felt that he had been challenged and this, coupled with timely peer and self reviews, practical projects and learning contracts, combined to make the whole programme a hugely worthwhile experience.
How has this programme helped you?
About half-way through the programme, Richard started to notice some real and tangible improvements in his leadership style. By practicing the techniques learned, he has been able to assimilate the ones that work for him into his day-to-day role, without having to stop and think about how he should best deal with an issue. Now it just comes naturally, and he firmly believes that this is as a result of practicing techniques over and over again, both within the programme and outside of it. In particular, the model based around influencing skills has had a tremendous effect on how Richard deals with situations where he has to put across his own viewpoint and win a colleague over. His role as a management accountant calls for well-honed listening skills and the ability to relay sometimes difficult information about tight budgetary control and financial pressures on the organisation. Through the skilful use of techniques such as experiental learning by Colin and Jenny, Richard has mastered the art of delivering difficult news in trying circumstances. He feels that he has become more aware of his team's existing skills and qualities, whilst at the same time becoming more self aware in relation to his own qualities. He is far more mindful about the development needs of his team, as well as his own, and puts quality time aside for staff development.
Dafydd Thomas, Co-ordinator, Wellbeing Wales
Having worked for most of his career in the voluntary sector, particularly on environmental issues, Dafydd felt confident in his technical and project management skills. Trained as a PRINCE2 practitioner, there wasn't much Dafydd didn't know about planning and executing a project to time and to budget. But his leadership and management skills were a different matter. Whilst working as a Deputy Director at Sustrans Wales, Dafydd decided that the time was right to address this development area. He was determined to address this gap in his knowledge, and decided to investigate leadership programmes. Having selected the Maine-Stream programme, Dafydd changed jobs, becoming Co-ordinator of Wellbeing Wales. Finding himself in a role which demanded skilful and pragmatic negotiating skills, and the necessity to persuade stakeholders to work in partnership with the new organisation, Dafydd begun to truly understand the power and value of a first-class leadership programme.
Dafydd had developed a working relationship with Colin Heyman of Maine-Stream. He confided in Colin that he was at a point in his career where he felt that he needed to develop and grow, particularly in relation to his leadership skills. In discussion, both Dafydd and Colin felt that Dafydd could gain much from the Maine-Stream programme. Such was the trust that Dafydd placed in Colin that he didn't feel it necessary to look elsewhere – a real endorsement of Maine-Stream, as this was the programme for him. “It was the confidence and trust that I developed with Colin that sold the programme to me”.
And how was it for you?
Dafydd now concedes that he found elements of the programme hard work at first, a real challenge. But he is now able to look back with the benefit of hindsight and understands that you get out what you put in. You work hard and you will reap the benefits in terms of increased knowledge and understanding. He liked the variety that the programme offered – yes, there was desk work, but there were also a number of guest speakers, giving variety of style and a real learning insight. And the learning gained from the other members of the group was always enlightening. Colin and Jenny encouraged everyone to get to know each other well and – just as importantly – gave them the skills to get to know each other. Was it challenging enough? Certainly – “my confidence soared and plummeted – but with a great deal of learning coming out of both extremes. I ultimately ended on a high, which is the best you can hope for”.
How has this programme helped you?
Looking back, Dafydd firmly believes that the success of much of his work whilst at the Wellbeing Wales Network has been due largely to the learning acquired whilst undertaking the Maine-Stream leadership programme. It helped him hugely with developing his self-awareness, confidence, in honing his influencing skills in a role with influencing others at its core, and in finding time for reflection and analysis. “This programme has helped me to sharpen and improve the skills that I already had, but didn't realise”. Areas such as how you are perceived, the use of different communication styles in different situations. “Self awareness is the foundation of confidence for me, and the toolkit of models, techniques and tools has provided me with a reserve to draw on in my daily leadership interactions.” The programme has also awakened an interest in leadership issues in Dafydd, helping him to define his own understanding of the term and to confidently lead others.
MARILYN CHAMBERLAIN, ABERTAWE BRO MORGANNWG UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD
What circumstances led to the procurement of a leadership programme for the Trust?
The Trust had been going through a period of major organisational change and, as a result of this, we had already used Maine-Stream to support staff via coaching and action learning sets, achieving impressive results. So the Trust was quite open to the concept of helping its people through change, believing that, in doing so, they would in turn help the Trust. Maine-Stream was sourced through being a Preferred Supplier to Public Service Management Wales (PSMW) to run an Action Learning Set between the Trust, the Health Board and Social Services. We immediately found Jenny Cook of Maine-Stream's style of working to be engaging, stimulating and challenging for her team, "a great personal style". So Maine-Stream's Learning to Lead programme seems a logical step when considering leadership development for the Finance Department.
What were the key factors you were looking for in a supplier?
We needed someone that could quickly understand the leadership challenges of the Department. Although we are the Finance Department, we have no direct authority over the budget. How do we balance the budget when we don't write the cheques? So our managers are placed in a role which demands acutely honed influencing skills. You need to be able to persuade your team to act in a particular way, often in difficult circumstances. With this in mind, I attended Maine-Stream's information seminar, and what I heard sounded different to anything offered by other suppliers, in terms of their programme content and method of delivery. I liked the idea of incorporating a work-based project into the course, coupled with techniques such as coaching and reflected learning. We also wanted to be certain of mixing with delegates from lots of different sectors to our own.
Why did you select Maine-Stream?
We were happy that Maine-Stream were already on PSMW's Preferred Suppliers list, as this gave us a level of confidence in their ability to perform and deliver. They were untried as deliverers of leadership programmes for the Trust, but does this make it wrong to use them? We didn't think so. We had built a strong relationship with Jenny and we liked her delivery methods. Maine-Stream appeared to tick all the right boxes in terms of relationship building skills, personal awareness and handling challenges. We were particularly taken with the importance placed within the course on relationship building. This is where you can make the most effective inroads in terms of real, measurable progress.
How has the programme enhanced performance?
Our Director of Strategy and Performance received a full verbal report on the programme and its content, together with the Clinical Director. The Clinical Director commented on the improvement in leadership style of one participant since his attendance on the programme. He is now far more persuasive and influential in putting his point across and is becoming increasingly supportive of his team colleagues. He was faced with some tough decisions but, as a result of techniques learnt on the programme, he was able to improve the financial performance within his area of influence – all due to his ability to transfer some of his new-found skills directly to real workplace situations. The programme provides delegates with more armoury in their leadership toolbox – they get challenged to such an extent that they come out a different person at the other end, whilst being supported comprehensively throughout the whole process. Overall, we were delighted with our choice of supplier – a thoroughly different, enjoyable and challenging approach to leadership development.