Dr Maeve Lankford, describes how a consultancy contract with the LF helped her university achieve its strategic aims.
University College Cork (UCC) had a number of forays into the leadership development space with heads of school and department but we felt the need for something more coherent. We were attracted by the Leadership Foundation's experience in the sector - while many of our previous providers had sectorspecific experience, none of them focused exclusively on higher education. Before we decided to bring the Leadership Foundation in-house, some senior staff attended its open programmes in the UK. They returned speaking very highly of their experience. In this respect we had internal advocates for Leadership Foundation programmes before HR ever decided to offer the programmes internally.
The main reasons for running the programmes in-house were the high numbers of staff who required the training, intensified by a decision that 90% of staff in leadership positions should complete leadership training by 2017. With the numbers involved (approximately 90, of whom around 50 were academic leaders) the only cost effective and timely approach was to deliver the training in-house. From a base in Ireland, this also meant significant savings on travel and related expenses relative to open programmes in the UK. We also had flexibility to manage timing of programme cohorts and ensure all are able to easily take part in the programme.
At the time of writing, we have run three head of school programmes and three introduction to academic leadership programmes with a further head of school programme planned for spring 2015 with up to 20 participants per cohort. During this period we have seen growing enthusiasm for leadership development opportunities among academic, research and professional services staff.
For 2015, we are substantially revising the content of both programmes in line with participant feedback. In both instances Leadership Foundation staff have been very supportive, have worked with us to produce programmes that more closely match our changing needs and have done so without adding to our overall financial outlay. This is one major benefit of being a member over a period of time: the Leadership Foundation facilitators get to know our organisation and culture and can support us to develop and grow. They can also challenge us to face the need to change. It is a wonderful feature of all the facilitators with whom we have worked that, despite their knowledge, background and experience of higher education, they never collude with participants in accepting that it is all just too hard to change, or that higher education is so special and different that we can't learn from what works in leadership development in other sectors. In this regard it is important for me to compliment Ginnie Willis and Rebecca Nestor as the facilitators, along with all the operational programme support from LF head office staff who make it so easy to work together.
As a customer of the Leadership Foundation's Consultancy team, operating in Ireland, we have found it possible to customise the programme for the Irish experience. We have done this largely though the use of guest speakers we identify ourselves: everyone from university presidents (ie vice-chancellors) to heads of school. We have also customised programmes by carefully selecting pre-reading and ensuring that our Leadership Foundation facilitators have access to official publications and information on the higher education sector in Ireland.
In early 2012, I met with a staff developer from one of the Scottish universities at a Leadership Foundation workshop and she commented that, in her institution, once they had begun to really invest in leadership development activities they started to see the impact after about five years. I think it has taken us a similar time frame to see institutional impact. At all stages we received very positive feedback from participants but now we are seeing a significant increase in demand to attend the programmes. On appointment or promotion staff contact us to find out what leadership development opportunities are available to them. We have staff in more junior roles demanding leadership development interventions for their grades, arguing the need to be prepared for stepping into leadership positions. Senior staff who complete the programmes consistently nominate members of their own teams to participate. And, of course, we are managing to meet our leadership development KPIs year on year. For other institutions seeking to roll out leadership development training across their organisation I’d definitely encourage them to start by having a discussion with the Leadership Foundation about how it can help meet their needs.
There is no doubt that the cost of membership of the Leadership Foundation is a big spend and one that makes any in-house trainer think long and hard about committing so much of their budget up front even before one books a programme. However, I have to say that we have found it to be an investment and access to all the membership bonuses is not insignificant. In particular, being able to offset the free consultancy day against spend on in-house programmes has been very welcome. The other great benefit of being a member is that it focuses my attention. I am thinking through from one year to the next how we strengthen and complement our leadership development provision, with the result that we have also run Leadership Foundation programmes for our technical staff and our research staff respectively and this year are introducing, for the first time, a customised Leading Teaching Teams programme in response to needs identified at college level. We have also enthusiastically engaged with the Aurora programme.
Sometimes people ask if we’re doing the right thing having the same provider for much of our leadership development training but when one has a winning formula one does not want to mess with it, especially not just for the sake of it. Cork also uses other providers and sources to complement our Leadership Foundation suite of programmes including online programmes. And finally, for me personally, and for other staff engaged in leadership development in UCC, working with the Leadership Foundation has been a great opportunity to develop our own skills and knowledge by attending many of the workshops, accessing the Leadership Foundation materials and, in particular, taking over the facilitation of in-house action learning sets.
I would like to acknowledge that, perhaps as a result of our successful institutional collaboration with the Leadership Foundation, I am currently working with the Leadership Foundation to promote the Aurora programme in Ireland. I trust readers will see that this is further endorsement on my part of the Leadership Foundation's effectiveness in meeting the leadership development needs of our wonderful and complex higher education sector.
Dr Maeve Lankford is Manager, Staff Development and Welfare at University College Cork. She has 20 years of experience working in people and organisational development in higher education in Ireland and England, having held various roles in HR, Equality, Learning and Development and Welfare.
Last summer Maeve became a Leadership Foundation Associate
to promote the Aurora programme throughout Ireland. She is an Aurora Champion for University College Cork and since writing this article she has been appointed as the LF contact for HEIs throughout Ireland.
|The Leadership Foundation has 150 members, demonstrating a significant commitment to the development of leaders, managers and governors in higher education. We have a history of working
successfully in collaboration with our members. This case study from University College Cork, one of a number of member institutions in Ireland, illustrates one of the ways we do this. A reminder
of membership benefits and services is available.
If you would like to find out more about how our consultancy team can work with you to deliver similar in-house programmes, please contact Sweta Purohit Jina at