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.’
City Link North East Region
The North East Regional Director wanted to work with his team of 11 leaders to maximise their results.  In a loss making business, he was looking for the difference that could make the difference in their regional scorecard.  With numerous organisational priorities, he did not know exactly what team coaching was, however he did believe through his own leadership development that his team performance could develop greater synergies and collaborative working.
Sharon and her team facilitated a series of modules designed to address the key areas for development identified by the team. Qualitative and quantitative data was collected by observing the team and through interviews with each team member, the directors and representative operatives in their stakeholder groups.  From the feedback the team identified the lack of trust between each other and the stronger connections to their regional and local business units than to this leadership team as the core areas to work on.
The programme consisted of:
  • An exploration in to the type of team they aspired to be
  • What it could give them if they worked as a team and their collective purpose
  • The foundations for trust, including a deeper understanding of each other, what was important to each person and their motivations
  • How give each other appreciative and developmental feedback
  • How to work as a team when they were together in meetings with healthy debate and clear next step agreements
  • How to work as a team when they were working apart
  • A collective review process
  • Listening in to a number of regular team conference calls, also enabled Sharon to give the team leader ‘in real time’, feedback on what she had heard in relation to the way the team was working together 

The outcomes
The North East Regional Team became and remained the highest performing of all the regions at City Link. They became a team where the team members mentored each other, asking and giving help to resolve operational challenges in service of the overall team result. 
What the Regional Director said:
“The key thing is that you mould yourself around the client, you challenge, you don’t give in, you stick with them.  You absolutely work closely with a client to understand what their needs are even when that’s difficult.  You’re bespoke rather than a package and have shown you don’t use an off-the-shelf approach.
It’s been a good news story. The team members really came together as a well-oiled machine. It’s been of complete value.  Team coaching enhanced the team’s performance.  I think the team have come out as better people and better managers for what they’ve gone through. It’s been important, if not more important, doing this in a loss making business to unite the team.
I believe you can work with small and large companies and at different levels. You are making a big difference.

AR, North East Regional Director, City Link
Large Acute NHS Trust East Midlands – Executive Team Coaching
The CEO wanted to recruit the best possible Executive team and enable them to work at their best as a team to deliver the complex, challenging and demanding agenda of a large, acute, teaching Trust in an NHS system under constant scrutiny and change.

The CFO had witnessed team coaching deliver well in other settings and was keen to re-create this success. She wanted to see the sum of the parts be greater than their individual contributions – to observe the team’s effectiveness with each other and deliver collectively where it mattered. And for that benefit to reach into the wider system – “How the team engages with itself will stand us in good staid for how we engage with our key stakeholders such as the Board, our staff and our patients”.

We took the initial commission of the CEO and interviewed the Executive team members about the outcomes for the coaching and their views on the team’s current effectiveness.

The team then co-created the outcomes and programme design with us.
  • This led to a number of team sessions to work with them on including:
  • Mapping and understanding their stakeholders and what they need from the team
  • Creating the team’s purpose and aims
  • Understanding each other and creating new ways to work collaboratively
  • How to engage each other and stakeholders to meet their purpose

The key types of intervention were:
  • Interviews
  • All team members undertook the MBTI Stage 2 assessment as an initial assessment of their different styles
  • Team coaching sessions
  • Team in action observations and feedback
  • Individual coaching and observation and feedback

The team changed through the group coaching contract as people left and new members were recruited, so re-contracting was needed as this progressed. A number of members were taking on their first full Executive role so some extra support was identified as important for more and less experienced Execs to work well and learn together.

The outcomes – quotes from the CEO and CFO

“The best Chief Officers Group I’ve worked in”

This was achieved through:

  • Recognising that we don’t think in the same way and therefore we need different ways of getting everyone’s contributions
  • A bumpy ride, but each improvement we’ve made has built on the previous one
  • We are really starting to benefit from thinking about how we think. This is becoming a coping mechanism for us; as we see problems arising we are starting to deal with them differently
  • We have a greater appreciation for what each other needs/wants and can contribute
  • We are seeking to understand each other’s assumptions and get to the heart of issues through this
  • Exploring our relationships with our NEDs is leading to better Board relationships

What has made the biggest difference?

  • Seeing how our body language and voices impact on each other and in key meetings such as with the Board
  • Discussions around how we feedback to each other - uncovering the assumptions behind our opinions and actions has helped us with potential splits in the team
  • Using Time to Think concepts and rounds to help us turn sensitive discussions into a generative exchange of views.

How did we act that enabled this?

“By being patient with us and sticking with it.  The team has not always been easy to work with and it can be hard work to enable team change in the environment we’re in and you have gone way beyond a commercial relationship with us in working with that. You are committed to helping each individual get to a stage where we are confident and empowered to deal with the situation at hand without consulting you. It feels as though you are looking for ways to help us to be exceptional!”

You have been:
  • Thoughtful about what we can most benefit from
  • Provocative; you could come across as soft and fluffy, but you challenge us with intelligence and an appreciation of the emotions that are present and need surfacing
  • Personable without being intrusive
  • Challenging for us to think for ourselves and not giving us ‘stock’ answers that may not work for us
  • Objective, informed and professional, even when tested by the scale of challenge we face as a team.

We particularly appreciated:
  • Your ability to pull on and adapt a substantial range of models and techniques ‘in the moment’ in order to help us to meet the purpose of the coaching.  You don’t just follow one track and we either come with you or not.
  • Authenticity – you say how it is for you and reflect back to us the challenge that the team gives you. You walk your talk, clearly using the same techniques you teach us to aide your own thinking.  And I can see you learning as you work with us.

The secondary gains of the coaching

“We have now engaged with our NEDs in a more generative way and have moved forward our desire to develop the Board to work as a more effective team.”

“Using the learning with my own team, I have applied much of what we’ve learnt at an Exec level.  Most specifically I’ve helped them to see situations from other’s perspectives and how to look to what I can change about myself in order to have a better impact.”

“In the tough moments of this job, thinking about the way I think has really helped me build resilience and allows me to cope with myself and others so much better.”

“The learning has helped me across my workplace as well as with my family and friends.”
Social Enterprise CIC Hospice Central England
Helen designed and delivered a team coaching programme for the top team of a newly formed Social Enterprise, Community Interest Company. The Senior Management Team (SMT) were new to their roles, filled with energy, enthusiasm and innovative ideas.  They were facing the huge challenge of establishing the organization as a going concern in a very short timescale and it was important they all worked together as an effective team with everyone working to their full potential.

The programme was delivered in 6 modules focusing the team on their key outcomes, how to work together and with their system of diverse stakeholders effectively to achieve these outcomes. Each individual had 3 1:1 coaching sessions in support of individual learning.

The programme helped to reinforce the SMT is a team and enabled them to work as a unit, challenge each other, have different ways of understanding, come closer to one another and reinforce the importance of being whole people. The organisation performed really well in its first year as a CIC, with the Chief Executive making a direct link to the programme as a significant input to this success.
Finance department HEFT, NHS Trust
Helen was asked to create a powerful learning of leadership for aspirin leaders within the finance function of large NHS Trust. She designed an event around the format of the TV programme ‘The Apprentice’ in which the aspiring leaders were project leaders for a randomly selected team of people from the finance function. The project took place over the day and the project leaders had to guide their teams through a timed set of exercises designed to get them creating new solutions to real finance challenges.

The project leaders were prepared for the day with training in the key exercises/tools that were to be used and in some core leadership skills identified by the CFO. They were supported on the day by Helen and colleagues and the Apprentice ‘Competition’ provided a fun and at the same time real frame for them to demonstrate their learning and potential. The feedback after the event was collected from all of the project leaders individually and follow up conversations had about where they wanted to take their learning. The feedback is shown below. A recent conversation with the CFO revealed the longer lasting effects of the day – with many of the aspiring leaders going on into leadership roles and performing highly.

The core learnings from the event were:

About themselves

Loving working with teams, seeing development needs for self and others in teams, developing confidence, managing energy levels, recognising need for challenges and support and feedback, being creative (even unconventional!) good as long as the goal is achieved, acknowledging their own capability and self-belief.

About teams

‘It’s important that everyone contributes and plays their part, facilitating the team (rather than always trying to ‘lead’) can lead to better results, appreciating different ways of working, personality and ability, ‘I don’ t have to facilitate all the little decisions’, need to draw on the motivations of the whole team not be the one pushing all the time and..
..a team working effectively can deliver so much more than one person alone.’

The leaders feedback to us was:

So grateful for the opportunity, experience, support and guidance. We have really grown from this and now want more development in order to reinforce this and take it into the teams I lead now and in the future. Thank you for your expert guidance and help through-out.
Costa Coffee – Store managers leadership development
Sharon and Helen co-designed a programme for Costa Store Managers across the country to provide basic leadership skills that matched the organisations leadership values.

The programme needed to fit the fast paced retail environment that branch managers inhabit – they may be serving coffee, clearing tables, holding team meetings, reporting to their bosses on performance and developing their staff in one day. They had generally not had much leadership training input.

Having talked to a number of Regional and Store Managers about what training was truly needed/would work, we designed a programme that was launched through large facilitated events and continued through workshops and short bite-sized interventions provided by regional managers to the branch managers. Our delivery role was to train the facilitators and trainers in the interventions and create materials to support them and the branch managers in using the learning.

The feedback from all was very positive – it lead to many examples of higher quality leadership across their leadership aims and the business expansion programme that it was designed to support has been highly successful for the company.

The L&D Manager said:

‘We gave you quite a lose brief upfront and through your highly professional and flexible approach you came up with great end products. Much of this was due to you taking time to understand our business and the people that the programme were targeting, really engaging them in the design. The results were that we were really able to embed our leadership competencies and values into the business, really stretching and challenging our store managers to develop with the business. We’ve created really useful PDPs on the back of this and now have a programme of products and workshops which we are continuing to use. The programme has had a real effect on our employee survey – the comments have truly born this out. I would happily recommend others to use your services.’
Waitrose Branch Manager Programme
In the lead up to a transformation programme which was to affect all Waitrose Branch structures, it was agreed between the business and Learning and Development (L&D) that a programme was needed to assist Branch Managers in their role as key leaders to lead through change. Branch Managers are very experienced, established senior leaders in Waitrose so needed to be treated with tact, flexibility, maturity and wisdom.

The programme was to be designed and run by L&D with the rare inclusion of an external provider, to provide some fresh input and thinking to the programme. Helen was asked to lead the design and delivery work with the L&D manager in Waitrose, with Sharon working on the delivery of the programme alongside Waitrose staff.

Helen co-designed and ran a pilot programme with the L&D Manager for 12 Branch Managers, to test the relevance and effectiveness of the content. She then went on to re-design aspects of the programme from the feedback, brief the other coaches to deliver this and co-delivered the programme to a further 200 Branch Managers (BMs).

L&D Manager comments:

Helen worked with me to create and deliver a key programme to Waitrose Branch Managers to enable them to lead through major change. Sharon used her extensive Waitrose experience to deliver the programme to 3 groups of managers with great rapport and skill.

The programme achieved its outcomes at the time – energising the Branch Manager community to think through the impact of change and it has had a strong lasting legacy within the business five years on.

What started as a need for skilled delivery resource to work with senior leaders turned into a refreshing, supportive and generative working relationship in which the team helped me to develop and build my relationships within the business and, at the same time, providing expert knowledge and experience to the programme and the Branch Managers.

Helen built huge credibility with our senior leaders and her ability to connect and get to know everyone associated with the programme made it feel as if she was ‘in’ the organisation – she built rapport at an organisational level.

From that platform she very quickly developed a full understanding of what was needed and flexed this throughout as the needs of the programme morphed. She asked great, thought provoking questions; cared as much as we did; believed in what we were trying to achieve, and truly co-owned the programme and the responsibility for its success.

I would recommend Helen and Sharon as designers and facilitators of highly effective learning as it is evident that they are able to work with Learning & Development as well as the business as a whole.
NHS Institute Fellowship Coaching
‘A key aim of the NHS Institute Fellowship programme was to build future leaders for service improvement in the NHS. In my Fellowship, I was encouraged to undertake some leadership development alongside the technical insights and skills development.

I had six coaching sessions covering such topics as understanding and managing difficult working relationships, remaining at my best in difficult circumstances, understanding organisational context, dissemination of ideas through presenting and writing, actions for change and influence through understanding others ways of learning.

The sessions gave me the opportunity to reflect on where I direct my energies, and how to direct them to more productive activities. I am more inclined to give time and, more importantly, energy to things that yield most for personal, professional and organisational goals.

In presentations, I had very positive feedback on their engaging nature and on the distinct change from my prior approach. I changed the way I prepare my presentations, giving more consideration to a single message and how I put it message over. I am more comfortable with using high risk approaches I know I can inspire people with, telling stories and bringing ideas and insights from other fields. I now give much greater attention to my audience, their needs, capacity and expectations.

I found the coaching an interesting challenge and I got a lot more out of it than I imagined. I’m still using many of the tools and techniques today and the lasting effects have been tangible.’

NHS Institute Fellow / Consultant Specialised Services Public Health England
Associate Director Operations, Large NHS Acute Trust Central England
Helen was asked by the Chief Operating Officer to coach a Director of Operations who had been moved to bring his highly successful approach to a different and high pressure area of Operations for the Trust and had struggled. The unsuitability of the post to the individual had been recognised, the AD had been given leave to refresh from stress-related illness and the Trust did not want to lose such a valuable resource.

The sessions concentrated on exploring the loss of self-esteem he had experienced, reinstating and building new, deep resilience and perspective and working with his patterns of thinking around how he knows he’s making a difference and how he prefers to work vs. the role he had been asked to do. We then focused on preparing him to come back into work and enabling him to access his inbuilt a resourcefulness.

At the end of the coaching the AD fed back that they had achieved all of their outcomes – reinstating a very good level of self-esteem and confidence in their own abilities. They were focused on their new role, delivering on KPIs as they always had and creating a team that worked effectively towards its goals.  They felt they had acceptance of previous situation and has ‘erected scaffolding’ for themselves for the future. 

He described the coaching as ‘Uplifting’ and highly effective – giving the maximum possible outcome for him from a series of carefully targeted sessions. ‘Helen’s facilitative skills are exceptional.’

The COO was delighted with the results of the coaching – retaining a valuable member of staff and increasing performance in the new area he went to work in.
Large County Council – Director of Transformation
The Director of Highways was asked to take on a dual role and bring his project and delivery focus to the major transformations required by the County Council. This role brought with it the need to understand and work with the diversity of services and staff within them from Director and Member level down. He and his Director identified coaching as a suitable support to him to ‘step into’ this new role as effectively as his well-known Highways function. 

The outcomes:

‘Executive coaching has helped me to take a moment out of my busy schedule and spend some constructive considering my style and performance and thinking what if anything could I do differently or better.

My coaching sessions have been extremely valuable to me, I have been able to be completely open in honest in the safe environment and as a result have been able to review and understand issues from a different perspective. This has then allowed me to develop a plan for widening my executive management toolkit and be more effective in the future.

I now understand some additional theory concerning work place behaviours and as a result I can better understand my own behaviours and preferences and those of others. This has allowed subsequent development to increase effectiveness and results with all my stakeholders.

I have enjoyed my Executive coaching sessions as they have always been constructive and thought provoking. Being able to sit down away from the office and proactively consider various management issues is a small luxury, but it is one that that has provided me with a significant return on my invested time, and one that I would encourage all senior Executives to afford themselves. It has supported and guided me and enabled me to build on my already successful career. This is an ideal tool for those who wish to continue to learn and develop, and is relevant to today’s modern workplace.

Having a time where you can be completely open and honest and have no fear of being judged or criticised is extremely powerful and invigorating. The sessions are tailored around my needs and deals with me as an individual rather than a faceless manager.
Key words to describe Helen’s coaching of me : Open, honest, frank, balanced, constructive, safe environment, thought provoking, relevant, quality time, reflection ,focused, learning, understanding oneself and others, tangible actions.’
Large County Council Director
Coaching was offered as part of an outplacement offer with redundancy – the Director had a period off with Stress-related illness and wanting to avoid this in future.

The outcomes for the Coaching were:

  • To leave their 12 years in Local Government behind her in a good way
  • To create a clear, paced approach to their new CEO role in a Voluntary Sector organsiation
  • Take time to reflect on their career as a whole for the future
  • Create the right work/life balance from the start of their new role

The outcomes were:

‘I have challenged who I am, how I operate and what impact that has on me as a person’

‘The coaching has helped me to focus on who I am and how I want to feel when I get to the end of my career – thinking about my work, life outside of work and myself as a whole that needs planning, paying attention to and reviewing in equal measure’ 

‘Helen has opened my eyes to the need to re-focus and challenge the way I approach my new role. ‘

‘You have enabled me to see myself in a different light’ 

‘I can now maximise my energy levels and wellbeing whilst delivering realistic goals at work and supporting a happy and thriving family.’ 

‘I now regularly look in the mirror and take a helicopter view to honestly appraise where I am at’

‘Now I am clear about my direction, I need to establish clarity of purpose and identity for my developing organisation and be clear about the objectives and outcomes for our key business areas’
Large NHS Acute Trust East Midlands
Helen was asked to support the new Finance Director of the Trust. This was his first substantive Executive post representing a big jump for him in responsibility and scale. The coaching was set up to support this ‘jump’ and to identify gaps in his leadership style and the impact he wanted to have. This phase took him through being appointed Deputy Chief Executive and then Acting Chief Executive.

He was then appointed as CEO and continued the coaching as a place in which he could develop his internal and external presence as CEO, working with the challenges of being the Accountable officer and developing his Executive team and Board.

The outcomes

‘Through Helen’s coaching, I have developed and applied new approaches to the everyday meetings, interactions and issues that arise at this level as well as for specific challenges that I have faced. I have changed my reactions to issues and been able to apply different styles of thinking and acting to those in my comfort zone.  This has enabled the development of broader thinking as an Executive and Board member to parallel my on-going experiences.’

‘Her work with the Executive Team has moved this to another level – having got ‘the right people on the bus’ I needed to develop the team to work together better. It is now the best Chief Officers Group that I have ever worked in.’

‘The biggest difference to me has been in how Helen has helped me to see situations and people differently, to respond to things in different ways. I understand more the differences in people’s style and thinking and can adapt myself accordingly to get the best from them.’

‘Helen’s ‘steerage’ has provided me with models to help me think flexibly and she challenges me to see situations from different angles.’

‘The coaching has also given me huge secondary gains beyond the coaching contract as such – at home, inside and outside of work I have learnt to listen and plan more which has benefitted me and those around me.’