We received very positive feedback from a range of delegates and facilitators, who all commented that they felt well-supported throughout the set-up and delivery of the conference. We appreciated the level of effort you put in to this work, the expertise – and your coaxing and cajoling! We hope that you are as pleased with the day as we are.
Loraine Martins – Director, Diversity and Inclusion
A dynamic, participatory conference, involving 40 leaders in planning and facilitating the event for 300 delegates, resulted in dramatic improvement in impact. Achieved objectives 100% two years running.
This approach encourages senior team to lead and belong at the same time. Belonging means being part of it. We trained Excom and leaders to facilitate and host the zones themselves.
You really ‘get’ us. You understand us as an organisation, the challenges we face, as well as the pressures on our people and sensitivities for our leaders. You bring the principles, the understanding and the practical application to make this work. You respond to new challenges – and keep providing new solutions. It was a great benefit to involve our senior people in developing the activities and facilitating during the conference.
Kathryn Andrews – Director, Internal Communications
In feedback delegates noted how much clearer they understood the strategic priorities, what they really need to focus on with their teams, and what really makes a difference for customers – and how enjoyable the event was. A by-product of the preparation was to seed a more collaborative and listening leadership style across the group.
By the second year, the expectation was already set for a highly participative event. The willingness of delegates to open up, get stuck in, and take part fully showed the impact of this approach on this influential group of 300 leaders within the organisation.
Wrapping up after the second conference, a senior leader congratulated the team:
Without a doubt this is the best leadership conference we have ever had, it surpassed all our expectations
Active, participatory, focused
When Network Rail asked us to help improve their annual leadership conference for 300 top leaders, we said:
Make it active, participatory, and sharply focused. No stand-and-talk, sit-and-receive information, no powerpoint presentations, no expensive guest speakers. A dynamic event to inform, inspire and involve everybody.
The conference had become tired, attendance was lagging, and enthusiasm was low. The client wanted a radical new format that would motivate delegates to action.
Know, feel, do
Network Rail wanted delegates to;
Know… the key strategic priorities, with a sharp focus on leadership action
Feel… motivated and confident to lead significant change
Do… practical actions in their part of the business, collective commitment to culture shift
Our concept was to create a series of zones, each setting a challenge to explore a strategic priority. Each zone provided a different experience: in-depth Q&A with CEO, workshop activities, reflective discussion, lively debate.
We split the 300 delegates into four smaller groups, to rotate round all four zones. This enables deeper discussion and exploration, while sustaining interest and focus across the activities.
Leading and belonging: Leaders inviting participation
We asked the Executive Committee (Excom) to host the zones and facilitate the activities. This way Excom invited leaders’ participation, reinforcing leadership priorities.
This approach encourages senior team to lead and belong at the same time. Belonging means being part of it. We trained Excom and leaders to facilitate and host the zones themselves. In the second year, Excom members participated as delegates. The hosts were senior team from the Accelerated Leadership Programme. Network Rail’s high calibre leaders and strong team-spirit proved invaluable assets.
Feedback from the client:
We’re a complex organisation in a demanding business. You understand all that and ‘get’ us in a way that helps us get to the right solution.
We liked Belonging Space’s principle of getting people active and participating, from the outset.
There was a good deal of change ongoing and the Belonging Space team was flexible, supportive and quick to find the right solution each time.
The three months’ preparation is as valuable as the two-day conference itself. In a complex operation-critical organisation we had to use leaders’ precious time carefully. The prep process with the top leadership team encouraged focus and collaboration, prompted new cultural practice, and strengthened belonging.
We focused on the key theme for the activity zones, through a series of discussions. We held test sessions to trial activities and pilot runs to fine tune, responsive to new demands and making rapid changes. We prepared materials, script and guidelines.
We coached facilitators in leading the activities, in how to be a good facilitator, in how to deal with difficult challenges and interactions. We pulled it all together into a detailed Handbook for the team. We ran a series of prep sessions so that all delegates were proficient and confident.
Feedback from the client:
You know which activities will work well with our people and our challenges, and which will not. Your guidance is valuable. You can see ahead to how this will work in practice with our people.
Collaboration was critical
Collaboration was critical, especially with so many activities and interdependencies in the development. Through the whole process we worked very closely with the client team, the senior team facilitators, the logistics team and the event production companies (Crown and Quadrant).
As the client said:
Your support right through the process and dedication was very much appreciated. We were one team for the project, closely bonded. It doesn’t feel like client-agency, just one extended team: Very connected and responsive.
That’s why we come back to you – you understand us, you get right in with us.
In the second year we also involved customers (train operating companies). The project team developed an ambitious evening of speed-conversations. It was a great success, customers and colleagues appreciated the opportunity for direct, frank exchange. As a result this activity strengthened partnerships and extended the sense of belonging to Network Rail.
In both years, from delegates’ feedback, we achieved the top 3 objectives 100%
Delegates agreed or agreed strongly that they understood the business priorities, the culture and behaviours needed to deliver them, and able to engage their people with this.