A Leadership Walkshop in the Mendip Hills to kick start a fresh approach to digital transformation

Summary

A Leadership Walkshop for the digital transformation team of an international Bristol-based publishing company.

A one-day walking workshop in the nearby Mendip Hills geared to helping the team get to know one another, discover their strengths, and define the way they would work together to deliver great things for the company.

Back story

Recent changes in leadership offered the opportunity to move on from what had been experienced as a toxic working environment. A combination of internal promotions and new hires meant that relationships had yet to settle before a fresh approach to leadership could take root.

The digital transformation leader wanted to get her team offsite into some fresh air as a physical and metaphorical way of marking the beginning of a more inclusive and creative way of working together.

“I really wanted to set a fresh agenda. What I wanted to do was to go outside because it was a real reaction against previous years where we had been cornered in a stuffy room and given a really hard time, and I wanted to do something that was as much the opposite of that as I could.”

Getting away from the office and the pressures of business as usual was important, as was giving people time and space for some serious conversations.

The ambition the team wanted to reach for

We met with the client face-to-face to discuss and formulate the objectives for the day:

  1. Signal a new style of leadership
  2. Get to know one another better
  3. Recognise our strengths
  4. Bring our values alive
  5. Explore how we will work together going forward

Design parameters included:

  • Within easy travelling distance/time from Bristol
  • Normal office hours
  • A team of 6, all of whom were capable of a 10km walk

The solution we delivered

We carefully created a circular route that was designed to support the divergent and convergent thinking around the inquiry questions we developed. This entailed a purposeful blend of uphill and downhill sections, as well as enclosed wooded and more open terrain.

The tempo of the walk was also carefully moderated to support the various modes of thinking and discussion.

We also used Use Cases – a familiar technique used in IT and applications development – to help the team bring alive their discussions around strengths, values, and ways of working. We split the team into different sub-groups to discuss these.

A pub lunch half-way round allowed the conversations to continue but in a different setting with a different type of energy.

Why the Mendip Hills?

Situated within 30-40 minutes of central Bristol, the Mendip Hills provide a rich environment for creative thinking and great conversations. They are an Area of Outstanding Beauty (as well as full of cultural history) commanding superb views in all directions including across the Bristol Channel to South Wales. The wonderfully varied landscape comprises open hill, wooded valleys, streams, spectacular gorges and rocky outcrops. They are accessible to a wide range of fitness levels with good paths throughout.

Results

The day was a success. Objectives were met, and the client team captured a number of actions they have since enacted. In their words:

“Everyone agreed that it was a refreshing and intellectually liberating way to host a management day.  We’re going to try to do more fresh air style learning in the future!”

“The day succeeded in signalling the change I wanted to make. There is a style of management which is talk and talk, command and control. ‘I’m going to stand at the front and I’m going to tell you how to think’, then you go for that, you carry on. But that’s not how I want to do it.”

“If you want to give a really strong signal that you want to change the culture and give people freedom of expression, you want to have a broader perspective and you want people to enjoy what they do and you want them to be challenged, really challenged, but on their own merit, take them on a bloody great big walk up a hill!”