Leadership Development Programme

Delivering a strategically aligned leadership development programme for Birmingham City University

Over the last three years we have supported Birmingham City University with a high profile and strategically aligned leadership development programme. The purpose of this programme was to support leaders from across the University to develop their leadership skills to foster a high performance, student centred culture which supports the University deliver its strategic plan. This programme has included 350 leaders, from Heads of Department level through to the Vice Chancellor across academic and professional services leaders. We have delivered a one-day programme for operational leaders (250 leaders) and a two-day programme for strategic leaders (100 senior leaders across the University, including executive group).  

These programmes were aligned to Birmingham City University’s 2020 strategy and reflected key feedback from the University’s employee engagement survey. Ensuring that the student was at the heart of the programme was critical, and so a representative group of students from across the University (including the Student President) were involved in the design and delivery of the programme. For instance, a student feedback video was developed which included feedback from students from across the University’s three campuses. This video then formed the basis of the first exercise completed at the centre, where delegates watched the video and then explored what action they would seek to take from this data. Students then attended the delegate presentation and provided feedback on their recommendations. Furthermore, ‘student champions’ were nominated from each cohort to lead on the implementation of the actions identified, liaising directly with the students who had attended the programme. This was extremely well received by students. 

All delegates completed a carefully selected range of pre-work ahead of attending the programme. This included the personality questionnaire Credo which was focused on identifying leadership traits and enhancing self-awareness. A self-reflection form and pre-reading around such topics as ‘leading through change’, ‘building high performing teams’ and ‘managing difficult conversations’ was also included. Additionally, strategic leaders completed a 360-degree feedback process aligned to Birmingham City University’s values and competency framework. At the centre, candidates completed a range of highly interactive exercises aligned to their pre-work. They had the opportunity to gain immediate feedback both from their dedicated Wickland Westcott coach and from colleagues to support the learning process. This approach therefore encouraged delegates to apply their learning in action and practice giving and receiving feedback.  

Cohorts were mixed across both academic and professional services departments to support the opportunity for networking and the sharing of transferrable skills. The use of a guest speaker (from a different sector) provided insights regarding leading in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment. Finally, following the event, strategic leaders received a detailed feedback report tailored to Birmingham City University’s values, written by their Wickland Westcott coach and received additional coaching support.   

Return on investment has been measured through the completion of a ‘pulse survey’ and focus groups with delegates and line managers. Here we have explored what delegates have done differently since attending the programme and how this has helped the University achieve its strategic objectives. This review has identified that since the programme there has been a greater emphasis on the student experience, more communication and engagement across the institution, an increased focus on activities aligned to strategic priorities and an increased effort and courage from delegates to ‘step up’ and get involved in more senior level activities and drive for results. Additionally, delegates’ self-awareness and confidence has significantly increased, along with people having a greater awareness of what ‘good’ leadership looks like. Further tangible outputs from the programme have included local increases in NSS and league table results and the securing of additional funding to support strategic projects. 

Beyond this programme, our longstanding relationship with the University continues. For instance, supporting them in delivering their annual Leadership Conference, working with the University Executive Group and various divisional departments in delivering specific, strategically aligned objectives. 

Michelle Usher, Organisational Development and Learning Manager at Birmingham City University commented:

"Working with Wickland Westcott enabled us to deliver a strategically aligned programme that focused on enhancing key leadership skills for our strategic and operational leaders, up to and including executive level. A key focus of this programme was to ‘hold the mirror up’ both organisationally and individually – listening to our students’ experience of Birmingham City University, raising awareness of personal leadership style and impact and instilling cultural values. Wickland Westcott’s professional delivery approach enabled our leaders to immerse themselves in dealing with ‘real time’ leadership challenges, whilst getting in the moment coaching and reflection time to enhance confidence and competence. Follow up coaching aligned to individual development plans created from centre observations and diagnostics has enabled our leaders to really focus in on the areas they and their managers have identified as priorities. Follow up pulse surveys 6-12 months post attendance has enabled us to track progression and impact of the programme, triangulated both by the participant, line manager and peers. This has revealed significant shifts in leadership confidence in handling change and people management issues. A number of student improvement and engagement initiatives have been instigated directly attributable to ideas formed during the programme and continued alliance to learning sets post programme to help solve local and University wide service improvements. Nearly a quarter of those who have attended the programme have progressed to taking on more senior level roles since attending, enhancing career development and supporting succession planning."

Please email us at education@wickland-westcott.email for any general enquiries. If you would like to discuss further our Leadership Development Programmes, please contact Laura Phelps-Naqvi on 01625 508100 or email laura@wickland-westcott.email.