Making a difference to leadership training and organisational development by being different: Roffey Park explains itself


April 25th, 2019

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“At Roffey Park we are passionate about developing management, people and performance, and we’re going to talk this morning about how we might do that in the face of Brexit,” says Andy Firth with a big grin on his face. It’s a promise which attracted HR professionals from some of the UK’s best-known organisations for a breakfast session in London, a taster of what we offer.

Roffey Park’s approach to leadership development and organisational change is different, he said, explaining that our early history included rehabilitating people after the second world war before moving into executive education. “Ever since we’ve been about a human experience of work, enhancing the performance and happiness of people in the workplace and I believe that’s the real lever. You can change the process or the system but when you work with people you have to get the leadership and the management right.”

Approaches to Brexit in leadership at the moment included trying to forget about it or deciding not to do anything because it’s just too difficult.

“What can we do to make a difference?” he asked. “On the human side of the organisation, leadership and management do work. Make yourself more flexible, ready and agile for what comes.”

What do HR professionals want from the Roffey Park leadership training approach?

That kind of thinking was precisely what delegates had come for. Donna Wardell of GLL said our involvement in their leadership institute made it “different and challenging.” With more change coming, she hoped to hear more about resilience. Tim Waterhouse of Cepheid valued the self-analysis as part of the leadership training, adding: “It’s something different, very powerful and not necessarily what you expect… it’s a place to sit and think.”

Robert Coles, our CEO, wanted to talk about leadership and management training and organisational development in the context of the challenge of operating in a data-rich world at a time when UK businesses have a productivity problem, especially around connectivity, compared to OECD partners.

Don’t leave human values out of organisational development

He sees plenty of research on the digital value of work but little on the human value: the assumption was this would be determined by machine. There was much talk about humans winning big in collaborative work, and less about their ability to do things which machines can’t.

He argues that these elements – creativity, the ability to create relational networks and cultural knowledge – are generally not seen as competencies because they are hard to measure, and 19th century methods have persisted into the 21st. “People used to be selected at the factory gates each day: we now call this the gig economy,” he said. His view of the future includes data serving the human ability to think – but not in control of it – and teaching organisations how to use dialogue. “We simply don’t know how to dialogue – we argue, debate compete, discuss but rarely dialogue. We have to learn to teach people how to think that way and not atomise, itemise and control.”

There was a real buzz in the room after a thought-provoking couple of hours. Mark MacKenzie of TfL said: “It was really, really interesting…. particularly as I am using insights discovery for better collaboration. We’re also using it in terms of getting people to have self-awareness of how you are and how other people approach certain tasks, and how we put being human back into a digital world.

“I like talking about how we’re still using 18th century thinking to develop staff in the 21st century, and thinking about the journey HR has been on and how it used to be about people then process and we do stuff. Now we are back to people again. It meant that on a change transformation programme we took emotion out of it – we weren’t interested in how you feel. Now I am interested in how you are feeling and if we can get that out of the way we are all more effective in moving forward.”

Programmes to learn more:

Clear Leadership Programme  is a collaborative leadership programme based on the globally renowned work of Dr Gervase Bushe.  Clear Leadership is aimed at middle to senior managers who want to develop their collaborative leadership practice and unlock the potential of collective success.

Change Leadership is practical programme explores what’s really going on underneath the surface during change and examines ways that you can influence those dynamics.

OD practitioners Programme – Our highly practical in-depth programme will equip you with a core understanding of what OD is, with practical OD tools and techniques; it will improve your skills and provide you with greater awareness of self and group process. We achieve this by bringing theory to life through practice – using your real world situations and experiences as the starting point for deep learning.