Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council

Senior Leadership Development

Executive Leadership Programme

Context

Merthyr Tydfil is an area of the South Wales Valleys, with a population of approximately 60,000 people.  The area was previously dominated by heavy industry, coal and iron in particular, but has since suffered a steep decline in economic activity.  At the time of our learning partnership, the Council itself had recently experienced significant governance and financial challenges.

Following these challenges, the Chief Executive and their Senior Leadership Teams were united in a commitment to achieve and deliver success.  This leadership team recognised that, in order to address their strategic challenges and engender innovation and accountability amongst their layers of management, they needed two bespoke solutions.  Firstly, as a team, they needed to change their culture, which had become increasingly operational.  Secondly, they needed to support their managers to be comfortable in re-taking a greater amount of responsibility by equipping them with the necessary skills.

Solution

We worked directly with the Deputy Chief Executive and the Head of HR to design and develop the programmes – one for the Directors of services, and one for the Department Managers and Heads of Service.  It was crucial that the programmes would be highly experiential, relevant, delivered at pace and contextualised to the real business of the council.

Working closely over a three-month consultation period, the MTCBC and Eliesha teams identified the required needs and undertook an iterative process of developing high-level programme designs in direct consultation.  In effect, the target ‘learners’ were engaged early and were also the key stakeholders, able to influence and take ownership of their own development.  This approach allowed the programme to be designed and developed in an agile way, informing upon the most relevant and impactful content, but also importantly, the most appropriate blended delivery. 

Given the ‘business as usual’ imperative in response to the continuing strategic and operational activities, it was determined that a flexible delivery method was needed to minimise the disruption to the business.  Eliesha developed a concurrent series of programmes based around the Senior Leadership team, and three Dept Manager/Head of Service cohorts giving flexibility to the individuals to attend all of the interventions.

Delivery

Delivery was a mixture of modular workshops, Action Learning Sets and Eliesha’s award-winning microlearning content – pearls of wisdom®, with all materials accessed via a shared learning platform.

The Action Learning Sets in particular provided a safe working and collaborative space where learning could be embedded and transferred, by applying new knowledge and skills to achieve workable solutions to strategic and operational issues that were shared across the leadership teams.

Throughout the ongoing delivery, regular evaluation and review of the programme enabled it to develop organically and remain highly focused on the leadership teams emerging needs as they explored and applied their learning.  The programme involved development on several key leadership approaches and techniques, and included workshops on:

  • Strategic Leadership in VUCA times
  • Leading Emotionally Intelligent Organisations
  • Resilience an essential leadership skill
  • Benefits of Action Learning to the Organisation
  • Programmes, Governance and Financial Planning
  • Leadership and Coaching
  • The importance of creating and maintaining trust
  • Collaborative Leadership
  • Leading Cultural Change
  • Securing and Maintaining employee engagement

At an early stage of the programme, and still within its development stage, each of the leaders took part in psychometric tests and were provided with an individual feedback session with an occupational coach.

The programme was delivered over an eight-month period, and featured a combined induction event for all the delegates which ensured that all participants and their managers were fully engaged. It culminated with a ‘final challenge’ event, which brought together all of the cohorts (including the Senior Leadership Team) to focus on creating working groups and actions plans to address existing and ongoing challenges. 

Impact

Merthyr Chief Executive:

“The programme has delivered excellent development opportunities and has enabled the whole of the senior executive team to learn together. Eliesha’s flexible and modular approach and understanding of the outcomes of the programme ensured that it met the aims set at the outset. As a candidate myself I enjoyed the sessions and particularly welcomed the opportunity to learn with my team and successfully apply that learning immediately to the strategic challenges we face.”

Programme SRO (Senior Responsible Owner) – Merthyr Deputy Chief Executive:

“Eliesha worked closely with me and my team to develop, co-design and deliver the programme which helped ensure that it met all our objectives and developed in a flexible and supportive way. The opportunity to focus on not only what we do, but why and how, has already led to positive changes in communications and practice that we are looking to cascade across our management team at all levels.”

Head of HR (Human Resources) and Talent Management:

“It has been a pleasure to work with the Eliesha Team in developing and delivering this combined Senior Exec Leadership Team and Corporate Management Team. It has delivered significant benefits in knowledge growth and the opportunity for everyone to be engaged in significant strategic issues and work on these together applying the tools and techniques to highly relevant strategic challenges facing the Council. Bringing all the learning together during the ‘Ultimate Challenge’ allowed the whole group to come together and analyse key issues and develop action centred approaches to delivering real solutions. It has improved the way we communicate and work together as a cohesive team, and we will now look to cascade this to other levels of management. Eliesha were easy to work with, understood the challenges in the local government arena and added significant strategic value.”

We also conducted a Level 3 Evaluation with the Department Managers and Heads of Service 6 months after programme completion, to ascertain the level of transfer of the work. Below is a selection of the responses:

Have you had the opportunity to put into practice what you have learnt?

Yes – 100%

No – 0%

In what way do you feel better equipped to do your job?

“The tools and techniques have been really useful, as has the network of support from other managers on my cohort.”

“Going on this programme has provided me with more confidence in what I am doing as an appropriate way of going about things.  This confidence has been good for my mental wellbeing as well as I feel less stressed about what I’m doing.”

“The programme has given me more confidence and I take that into what I’m doing and how I do it.”

“My communication skills have improved, not just how I communicate but who I communicate with and when.  It’s really helped me understand the value of communication to my team and beyond.”

“The course refreshed some thinking for myself but also highlighted and helped me to reflect on some of the challenges faced on a daily basis working in a culture of competitiveness.”

“The tools available on the programme and the experiences shared by colleagues have been really practically useful.”

As a result of this learning, in what way have others in your team/department benefited?

“My actions and decisions are more considered and should be more consistent with other managers in the Authority.”

“The programme has provided frameworks for effective delivery of outcomes in relation to the activities/projects that I’m responsible for.”

“I’ve been able to introduce some new systems of working that have improved our efficiency.”

“I have tried to become a better listener.”

“I have organised some training for my team during which we’ll be sharing some of the examples and tools from this programme so that we are all working more effectively together.”

“By using the tools from the programme we now have a more effective approach to problem solving.”


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