A life-changing leadership programme for Longhurst Group

We work differently together, we are more conflict resilient, we share more, and through the process we have become a more cohesive and collaborative unit, capable of achieving the future we envisage.

Mike HardyManaging Director, Longhurst & Havelok Homes

Longhurst Group is a leading regional housing organisation managing more than 16,000 homes in around 40 local authority areas, spanning the Midlands, East of England and Yorkshire and Humberside regions.

The group and its four member companies – Friendship Care and Housing, L&H Homes, Spire Homes and Keystone developments – are committed to maintaining their ‘federal’ structure and values and working together collaboratively to help create communities where people live positively together.

In 2004 Longhurst’s executive team was looking for a training programme to develop leaders and managers for the future.

With an open mind to format, more traditional types of training were rejected in favour of the Oasis peer-based developmental approach.

Mike Hardy is Managing Director of Longhurst & Havelok Homes, a member of the Longhurst Group Executive Team and was involved in the selection process. He said: “It was a very different view of a development programme, much more about the development of people rather than a traditional training approach.”

A life-changing programme

The bespoke programme Leadership, Life and Learning (LLL) was piloted in 2005.

It changed the way managers and leaders across the group worked together and with others, and many considered it a life-changing experience.

Those who had benefited from LLL began to call for the Group Executive Team to take part. The team resisted, feeling that they knew their organisation, worked well together, and knew how to lead.

But two away days with Oasis in 2007 gave them time and space to consider the organisation, its future and how they worked together. Differences in perspective and perception were uncovered. Mike said: “We found discomfort; we were not ready for challenge of ourselves, of each other. It was eye-opening.”

This experience led to a decision. “If we were to achieve the success we desired, we needed to embark on a Leadership Life and Learning Programme together,” said Mike.

Developing the Executive Team

In 2009 the executive completed the programme. “Reaching understanding through collaboration requires skills in contracting in a relationship; clarifying understanding of what is being said and challenging robustly, but appropriately. Challenging each other was uncomfortable but through it we developed a maturity in handling conflict better,” said Mike.

“We had questioned why we needed the programme, but now we are more open to the idea of challenging each other than we might previously have been. We have different strategies to understand each other and we are more conscious of the dynamics.

“We work differently together, we are more conflict resistant, we share more, and through the process we have become a more cohesive and collaborative unit, capable of achieving the future we envisage.”

People-centred development

Since the pilot on average one group a year has gone through LLL, with the  eleventh cohort taking part in 2013.

Mike said: “We send staff on formal training courses for qualifications, but what Oasis offer is not more of the same, it is something different.”

A key difference is that the personal development programmes Oasis offer help people work through their ‘live’ issues, the questions they are working with and challenge deeply-held beliefs and assumptions.

“Rather than job-related training, what Oasis offers helps people stay alive to the dynamics of what is happening within the organisation and how they can influence change. Understanding of ‘self’ is key to this and not something a traditional training programme could come close to addressing. You can learn tools and skills but they are not going to be useful in what is really important in an organisation and that is building – and maintaining – relationships that are robust enough to manage a more uncertain future,” said Mike.

Creating a development strategy for the business

The LLL programme included the creation of a development strategy for the business, which brought about a number of changes and showed the need to look at organisational change and development rather than business planning.

All the directors across the group are working together on using a future picture approach to work together to develop a collaborative approach. Oasis has played a facilitation role with the holding group to steer the process.

Bob Walder, group chief executive for Longhurst Group, said: “In the past as an organisation we were more or less developing people in a traditional way by sending them on management courses of one sort or another.

“The big difference with Oasis is the focus on individual learning processes, and collaborative work through a team based approach. Instead of people going on one-off courses we have had people undergoing a programme of development work together in a team. Fundamentally it is less about management techniques and more about developing individuals.”

He added: “It has had a big impact on the organisation. We have got a lot more challenging and we collaborate a great deal more.”

And he says that the benefits are clear.

“People are much more actively involved in determining the future of their businesses. I have no doubt at all that we will see the benefits of that going into the next few years, where we will be determining our strategies in a very different business and social context with considerable political and regulatory change imposed on us.”

Find out more

Find out more about the current Leadership, Life and Learning open programme.
To have a conversation about in-house leadership programmes in your organisation, contact us or call us on 01937 541700.