Amey is a leading civil engineering company, whose 17,000-strong workforce manages infrastucture and public services across the UK. They partner with Corndel for design and delivery of their Leaders Creating Better Places apprenticeship programme.
Amey employees who started the 13-month programme last year are reaping the rewards of one-to-one coaching and a high quality, flexible leadership programme. We caught up with a couple of the participants to hear how they are putting their learning into practice and what advice they have for other mid-career colleagues who are considering applying for a place.
Learner case study: Edward Brotherton
Edward Brotherton has been with Amey for 11 years, spending the last 18 months in the role of Principal Operations Manager for Waste Treatment. He has a busy role, looking after seven team members across three sites as well as being responsible for his area’s commercial strategy and portfolio.
Edward says that a large part of building a successful team is proactively seeking out talent and recruiting from within wherever possible. As someone who has himself benefitted from Amey’s ‘Talent Tracker’ scheme, Edward is keen to offer those same opportunities to those around him. Edward believes that underpinning his desire to build and nurture a successful team is a growth mindset and a determination to continually develop his own leadership capability.
Using new leadership skills to empower direct reports
Soon after joining the 13-month Leaders Creating Better Places programme Edward began to see its value. He realised that since taking on the role he had gradually taken on more and more work and was spreading himself too thinly. With his own working days getting longer and longer, the only person to suffer was himself. Deadlines would still be met and standards were high, but without that refresher of critical time management techniques, delegation strategies and coaching tools, he would have missed the opportunity to empower his capable and experienced team to have the confidence to make decisions and become more self-sufficient.
Now halfway through the course and about to embark on a critical part of the programme, the work-based project, Edward is embedding what he has so far learnt. From making more compelling presentations to prioritising the right projects, he says he is continuously re-adjusting bad habits and adopting the latest leadership approaches. The communication theory module has particular resonance for him, and he tries to live and breathe best practice communications with his team. ‘It’s about making small changes’, he says, ‘building on existing skills and acquiring new, fresh approaches to everyday challenges.’
Edward is cascading his learning to his own team by sharing what he has covered on the course in mini training sessions and team workshops. Some of the modules help exponentially with everyday leadership – such as emotional intelligence, impactful communication, negotiation and building trust. Other elements will have a direct impact on Edward’s current role and the tasks he is responsible for. Budgeting, project management and building business cases are all key components of his day-to-day work and each one is covered in the programme.
One-to-one coaching to support the leadership journey
Edward, like all learners on Corndel programmes, benefits from fortnightly one-to-one coaching sessions throughout the course. His coach, or Professional Development Expert (PDE), Lynne Springet, is great at helping to think differently and at reminding him when he is over-complicating things. ‘Without giving me the answers to my challenges, she uses her extensive experience and knowledge to coach me through different approaches and helps me to apply what I have learnt.’
Testament to Edward’s own positive experience and motivation to develop his team, four of his direct reports have just joined the next cohort of Creating Better Leaders. His advice to them and other colleagues considering the programme? ‘You will definitely benefit from it,’ he says, ‘whether you are already an Operations Manager, or aspire to become one. The course is highly flexible and enables you to get ahead when you can, and you are supported and guided when your workload is more challenging. With an open mind and the right attitude, you will emerge as a stronger leader, with a better understanding of yourself and your team.’
Learner case study: Danny Lane
Danny Lane is Head of Track & Electrification, working as part of the Transpire Alliance upgrading the railway between Manchester and Leeds. With the £3 billion project due to last at least another six years, empowering a high-performing team to execute the plan is critical to the overall project’s success.
In what he describes as a challenging but fulfilling senior role, Danny’s eight direct reports comprise both project management staff and operations staff. His wider team is growing exponentially, and he anticipates that within the next couple of years he will be responsible for around 300 people.
Formal development that supplements extensive leadership experience
With a strong managerial track record already behind him, when the opportunity arose to join the CMI-accredited Leaders Creating Better Places programme, Danny was delighted to be nominated by his Account Director and subsequently to be accepted onto the course. Empowering his team to make decisions in line with the Alliance governance is paramount for Danny. He says that the course has given him some great tips on remote management, which were particularly relevant for him as even before Covid-19 struck, he would often go four weeks without seeing his direct reports face-to-face.
‘A pretty impressive set up that makes me want to learn.’
Reflecting on the course structure, Danny is delighted with the set up and support available. Corndel runs the course using a system called Aptem, through which learners consume the course content and answer questions to demonstrate their understanding. Danny describes the system as ‘absolutely brilliant’. He says, ‘It’s so intuitive that it’s almost addictive, making it really easy to answer questions and build up my portfolio. The videos are great, the way the questions are constructed is great. If I’m travelling or have a couple of spare hours, it’s so easy to dip into it and quickly start building my answers. I can watch the videos on my mobile and have been known to walk around Manchester listening to the audio content as I go.’
The second feature of the programme that sets it apart for Danny, is the one-to-one coaching which is the linchpin of helping learners work through the course content, apply what they learn, evidence it through Aptem and prepare them for assessment. Danny explains the added value of that level of personalised one-to-one support from a highly experienced coach. He and his Professional Development Expert (PDE) coach often have more general discussions, beyond the course content. She gives him valuable information, tips and shares documents and resources that enable him to work through challenges that he is facing. He describes it as a hugely valuable resource that enhances what you would usually get from an internal line manager.
Putting learning into practice through the work-based project
Danny has just completed his work-based project, a key part of the programme that is aligned with the Level 5 apprenticeship standard. He selected contingent labour as his project. The aim of the project was to introduce a united approach across all Alliance participants – Amey Rail, Amey Consulting, ARUP, BAM Nutall, Network Rail and Siemens. Given that each of these is a separate company in its own right, each had its own way of procuring and deploying contingent labour. The project required sophisticated leadership skills to build a collaborative, unified approach that included using the same contractors to reduce zero-hour contracts and getting uniform rates across suppliers. Danny and the team worked closely with the suppliers to get their input on the proposals. He drew on his enhanced knowledge about building a business case, working to a project charter, and mapping out the stakeholder matrix. The result is a robust contingent labour strategy that is ready for the Alliance to adopt.
Cascading new ideas throughout the team
Danny is a great believer in the power of sharing with his team what he is learning on the course. The personal development planning module not only benefited him as an individual but has positively impacted the whole team. New approaches have now been embedded in the personal development processes for the team, including using the GROW coaching model to nurture ‘rising stars’. ‘There is now a very healthy morale in the team that I attribute in no small part to my participation on the course,’ he explains.
Passing on this knowledge means that more junior members of the team are starting to think about how to plan and manage mini projects. Additionally, as a result of this transparency, there is a real desire from Danny’s direct reports to join the course themselves. As a line manager, he will strongly be encouraging them to do so.
Danny concludes, ‘This programme has given me a better vision as a leader. I have had feedback that my approach to strategic thinking has been greatly enhanced and I’m enjoying the challenge of balancing self-development with the demands of my job. The support that Corndel provides is sensationally good – from the systems they use, the group workshops they deliver and the quality of the coaching. Everything Corndel does is in a different league and I would highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to join the programme.’