UHCW Board Development Programme

The organisation was due to welcome a new Chairman into post and to recruit new Non Executives at around the same time. The prior Board had been a difficult place for the Executive to operate effectively – the style of leadership from the Chair and Non-Execs had been directive and at times blaming leading to a predominant style of defence and a lack of openness in the Executive.

Having experienced the power of team coaching as a Chief Officers group, the CEO and other CO’s wanted to use this as a fresh start to create a Board which encouraged the Executive to be open, were focused on the success of the organisation and provided appropriate and developmental challenge.

The Chair on arrival supported the development of the Board dynamic and the ‘new start’.  

The outcomes

  • The Board has a jointly agreed and understood Strategy for the organisation and the organisation is delivering against this
  • Board members make genuinely open contributions to the conversations the Board needs to have to add value to the organisation
  • Executives bring items to the Board that are appropriate for a Board agenda and seek to inquire of the Board and support open debate
  • Board members feel like equals who are ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’ towards the Organisations’ strategy
  • We have ‘Best in Class’ Governance structure and processes to support the Board and the organisation

Our approach

We contracted the work initially with the CEO, Chairman and Company Secretary – understanding their views and needs and creating a set of outcomes for the programme. 

These outcomes were then tested with the Board by interviewing the Non-Executive Directors individually and meeting with the Chief Officers group to both score the outcomes and provide qualitative feedback on each.
  • The themes from the feedback were used to design an initial session that started to build a new contract for this fresh start in terms of:
  • What Board members wanted to bring to the Board in terms of their experience and skills
  • What they needed from each other to create a generative Board
  • How they learn – what makes it possible for each person to learn easily and well

We then jointly reviewed the feedback vs. outcomes. This provided a platform for all to understand the previous Board dynamic and the legacy of that.

The Board left with actions to improve the quality of interactions between them formally and informally. 

We also agreed a series of session coaching the CEO and Chair on their working relationship as the key leadership relationship of the Board and the organisation.  

We worked in a closely with the Company Secretary on the governance implications of the Board development, weaving the governance through the development work to create an aligned governance and Board process. 


Board observations
  • Gave team and individual feedback against their outcomes – where aligned or not
  • Helped to establish themes for Board development and individual coaching sessions

Board Team development sessions worked on:
  • Aligning the Board to its purpose, the organisational values and regulatory requirements and looking at how to role model these to the organisation
  • How the Board can work with giving and receiving feedback to each other as the life-blood of learning about our impact and developing our understanding of each other
  • The role of Non-Executives and a ‘code of conduct’ for the Board as a whole

The Chair / CEO coaching:
  • How to role model their outcome of the Board being ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ – using feedback elicited from Exec and Non-Exec Board members
  • Feedback to each other, what their interactions needed to be to create this, recognising their different working styles and motivations

The individual coaching:
  • Understanding the motivations of other Board members and how to tap into these
  • How as a Non-Executives to be appropriately ‘involved’ and ‘informed’
  • How to influence different working styles in Board members and understand where their feedback/questions come from 


Significant progress on all the intended outcomes:
  • Open and honest debate at Board
  • Trust between Non-Executives and Executives enabling appropriate challenge and support
  • Full Board commitment to the strategy of the organisation
  • Improved agendas and governance flows 

Quotes from the CEO and Chairman:


‘Having external facilitation of this kind helped us to surface early on the reality of the legacy from the previous Board dynamic – it made us ‘Wide Awake’ to the scale of the issue if left un-tackled. This was essential for us to become a Board that truly work together’
‘As an experienced businessman and Chairman I know how I operate, however as a new Chairman others don’t know me and it reminded me that I needed to show them.’

‘Jointly creating five deliverable objectives for the Board development guided us through the sessions and is useful after the work as a reference point for all we are doing.’

Chief Executive

‘Starting the team work as soon as we could once the new Chairman and Non-executives had joined set us off on the right foot as a new Board‘

‘Shaping the work between myself and the Chairman jointly – doing a ‘mini-diagnostic’ with us, not telling us what we needed – helped us to create clear objectives for the work which we met.’

‘How you prepared us for the first session and set it up meant the Executive team were able to be open and honest in a way that proved really key for the Board dynamic going forward.’

What made the biggest difference?

‘The preparation and facilitation of that first session where we were exposed to the reality of how the Board had operated before. We wouldn’t have got there naturally and wouldn’t be where we are now as a Board.’

How did THOTM act that enabled this?

‘Imaginative and creative in the start to each session with us enabled full participation.’

‘Helpful to us in an appropriate manner to the challenges we faced’ 

We particularly appreciated:

‘How you gained the commitment from the whole board up-front to the work’

‘Your personal styles and the wealth of techniques at your disposal to support us’

‘The mix of your styles so that everyone had a coach who they could truly relate to’

‘Having the two coaches clearly gave us all benefits as one was able to watch the team while the other worked with them, feeding back to us and giving a different perspective.’

‘The structure of the sessions which built up our capability to be open and trust one another’

‘By the close of the contract we all knew we had done the work that we needed for now’

Secondary gains of the coaching were:


‘The Board was probed by Virginia Mason about its willingness and desire to develop under their guidance. Being selected to work with them would not have happened if the Board had not been ‘Shoulder-to-shoulder’.’   

(UHCW have been selected as one of the NHS Trusts to work with Virginia Mason Institute from Seattle to assist in transforming care and taking the Trust Towards Worldclass.)


‘The work brought the Executives closer through getting us to reflect on the past and present. We focused even more on improving how we work together – with cross benefits from the Board work’

’I was freed up by the work to be more myself, more open as I realised how much of a protector of the Executive team I’d been in the previous Board dynamic. This has brought benefits to me and the team.’