See what our clients are saying about their experience.

“In the minefield of leadership training and courses the Future Leaders programme stood out as being able to provide an insightful and enlightening experience that seemed tailored to me, and one that has already had a life-changing impact. Through a myriad of activities, discussion and invaluable coaching sessions, the programme was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one I cannot recommend strongly enough.”
— James Brook, UCL
The Future Leaders Programme provides a ’toolkit’ for leadership, including space to reflect and a chance to apply learning in practice. Since completing the programme I have been able to capitalise on opportunities, respond creatively to challenges and manage change with new found confidence.
— Emily Munroe, UCL
The King’s Futures Leadership Programme was much more than a mere training programme: it was an initiation into a set of approaches, concepts, ideas, idioms, and methods, all of which were very good to think with. It quickly became clear once the programme began that my outlook on individual and collective organisational behaviour would improve radically, with the result that I now consistently see opportunities and possibilities where I once saw stagnation and inevitability. The RKB team excelled in every way – as session leaders, coaches, partners, and of course as leaders themselves. The cohort emerged with a keen sense of solidarity and a sincere belief that we could change ourselves, King’s, and the world for the better.
— Professor Ziad Elmarsafy Head of Department Research, PGR and Impact Lead Department of Comparative Literature, King's College London.
The UCL Senior Leadership Programme provided me with a practical, timely and holistic refresher of the critical people and behavioural aspects of leadership and my role as a leader in making the changes I want to see. I recommend RKB Coaching Consultancy to anyone wanting an engaging, dynamic and personalised coaching and learning experience.
— Anonymous
I have really enjoyed the programme. The facilitators pitched it just right and managed to gain the interest and trust of a group of slightly cynical academics within the first two sessions. Personally I have gained really important insights into my own learning, managing and leadership style, and been helped to identify where I need to expand my repertoire to effect more positive results at work. I have found the Action Learning sets really useful and supportive (and a bit challenging, in a positive way at times!)
— Helen Killaspy Professor of Rehabilitation Psychiatry, Clinical Research Advisor, Research Design Service, UCL
I worked with Rajwant and really valued the coaching sessions. She is an immensely intuitive human being and impressed me with her amazing ability to ‘get to the heart’ of the issue incisively – with the right balance of support and challenge. It is her ability to work at many different levels and to use insightful questions that enabled me to shift my thinking and to see things from totally new and unexpected perspectives and then take action to secure transformational change. With her background in academia Rajwant has the necessary intellect and mental agility to be an effective ‘thought partner’ that has helped me realize and unlock my potential beyond my own perceived limits.
I very much enjoyed our coaching sessions and would recommend her without any hesitation to others wanting a highly effective coach.
— Sharon Long (then Director of Claims XL Catlin Insurance)
Rajwant is immensely intuitive.. It is her ability to work at many different levels and to use insightful questions that enabled me to shift my thinking, see things from totally new and unexpected perspectives and then take action to secure transformational change.
— Recent comment from coachee
I found the UCL Future Leadership Programme to be a very valuable experience. The expert tutors helped me to explore what leadership is and to understand my own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Detailed sessions and materials gave me practical tools to support my leadership roles. Coaching and group work helped me to find perspective and solve my own dilemmas. The course helped me realise my leadership potential and give me the confidence to take on more complex roles.
— Prof Andrew Hayward Farr Institute of Health Informatics Research, University College London
Thank you so much for the work you have done with us…. I really feel you have moved us forward both as individuals and as a team (well, getting there!) and Rajwant you handled today beautifully – it was so well paced and yet with time to address the issues that arose. It also really helped that you knew some of us already! Can’t tell you how grateful I am for your work with us – transformative on several levels.
— Sally MacDonald Director, Public and Cultural Engagement, UCL
The Leadership programme exceeded my expectations and gave me the tools necessary to realise my academic vision. In particular, the analysis of one’s own goals and agenda and how they impact upon others gave me considerable insight into strategies and mechanisms of leadership that have a direct impact on my work. I now feel more confident to tackle rather than avoid challenges in running a large research group.
— Matthew Walker, Professor of Neurology, UCL
Great. All the Deans are delighted with the momentum that has been established with the programme - we are really starting to see the benefits and the people coming through, which is terrific!
— Professor Geraint Rees FRCP FMedSci Dean, UCL Faculty of Life Sciences
“Rajwant has an amazing ability to get to the heart of the issue - with the right balance of support and challenge – to bring about real change.”
— Recent comment from coachee
I found the coaching the most valuable – really helpful and thought provoking. It’s enabled me to be thoughtful about my next steps and indeed my current circumstances. Thank you! I am recommending coaching for leaders both in UCL and outside in my other roles.
— Anonymous
The Future Leaders Programme (FLP) was truly a transformative experience for me. This programme helped me not only to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a leader, but also to develop a much clearer understanding of what my career goals are and how I can achieve them. Through the programme, I was able to learn new strategies for managing people and situations, and also to understand how to use my previous strategies more effectively. This training has helped me to make some significant progress in challenging situations, with far less stress and anxiety than I previously would have experienced trying to manage those situations. The best testimony to the success of the programme is probably the fact that everyone else in my group also felt the programme had been extremely valuable to them —- even though we are all sceptical scientists and some were initially very dubious! The facilitators handled everyone’s concerns incredibly skilfully and openly, helping everyone to navigate effectively toward their own goals.
— Jennifer F. Linden, Ph.D. Reader (Associate Professor) in Neuroscience Interim Co-Director, UCL Ear Institute
I have found working with Rajwant possibly the most transformational experience in my life…. Coaching with Rajwant has felt like breaking the bars of my self-inflicted behavioral restrictions: I like myself more now, and others do too! I fully recommend her approach and methods to anyone that wishes to develop their leadership potential.
— Recent comment from coachee
As part of the programme I received coaching sessions with Rajwant. I found her coaching a blend of probing, exploring, challenging and encouraging. It helped me by making it easier to examine my current work challenges and ultimately find solutions. The result was that I resolved some tricky, long standing problems. With the help of her coaching I was also able to recognise the cause of these issues, even if the cause was my own approach. One thing in particular that I liked was Rajwant’s honest yet supportive approach. This really made the difference between a mere surface understanding of the issues and more in depth knowledge of what lay behind them. I found the experience very positive and would recommend RKB coaching to people who want to excel in their role but need help in understanding how that can be achieved.
— Sammy Messaih (Director of IT for SLMS, UCL)
The programme came at a really critical time in my career in the HE Library sector. In making me work hard at reflecting on the dynamics of the workplace, my style, issues of change, capacity, resilience and responsibility, the programme refreshed and transformed my attitude. It was a shot in the arm that led to new decisions and directions: a really welcome way of getting off the treadmill and gaining some thinking space. The facilitators can’t be praised too highly, and their command of their material, knowledge of the issues and their expertise in action learning and coaching made being on the programme a real pleasure.
— Vincent Matthews, UCL Libraries
This was an excellent programme which really helped me to focus on leadership and its many complexities. We were gently edged outside our comfort zone which really helped to broaden horizons and appreciate the subtleties of leadership. I would highly recommend the programme.
— Mark Cranmer Division Manager Division of Surgery & Interventional Science Faculty of Medical Sciences, University College London
The Strategic Leadership Programme has been an extremely valuable experience which I feel honoured to have participated in. The opportunity to get to know people from across the College in such a meaningful way is the foundation for me of its value – and I would stress here the importance of having academic and professional services together. The combination of coaching, action learning sets and use of established tools and frameworks to stimulate our thinking on leadership helped me personally to reconsider my own skills and capabilities for leadership, and to address both critically and constructively my own direction and purpose in academia. As a result of the course I have been able to reflect on my own position effectively and made some informed decisions that I am confident are the right ones for me – and for my institution – about how my development and progression can make the most productive and meaningful contribution to the College.
— Laura Spence Professor of Business Ethics Director of Research Impact School of Management Co-Director, Centre for Research into Sustainability, Royal Holloway
As an academic who is a loudmouth, “natural leader”, the course provided a framework and relevant context for learning why and when my personal leadership style might succeed or fail. I now genuinely understand that there are other styles that I can adopt, whilst still being totally myself. I now know that thinking about these sorts of things and talking them over with peers isn’t gossip or a waste of time, it’s vital. The course was wonderfully facilitated by strong individuals who contributed both key themes relevant to working the public/higher education sector and host of personal experience.
— Prof Adele K. Fielding MB BS, PhD, FRCP, FRCPath Reader in Haematology/UCL Co-Director of Research and Development/Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust
My coaching programme with Rajwant was pivotal for me. Having had a successful career I found myself at a crossroads. My coaching experience was extremely challenging and liberating and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Rajwant is an extremely professional and challenging coach who provided me with a fantastic opportunity to rethink where I was in my life and career. Having reached a crisis of confidence Rajwant provided me with the time and space to work on a range of issues and take back control in my life that I felt I had lost. I would highly recommend Rajwant to any individual or company that is considering using coaching as a development tool.
— Alison Griffin Corporate Director of Local Authority
I consulted Rajwant when I was considering the next stage of my career: whether to stay in my current role or to establish my own consultancy. Rajwant’s astuteness, depth of knowledge and honest appraisal enabled me to reflect on both options, question assumptions I had made about each of them and consider how each would meet my working preferences & values. Just as importantly, she provided me with insight into my values, qualities and abilities and gave me tools to support and augment them. Throughout, Rajwant was kind, supportive and approachable. Nearly a year on, having set up my own consultancy, my discussions with Rajwant remain clear in my mind and I regularly draw on the insights she gave me.
— Anonymous
I would recommend the UCL Future Leader Programme to every academic. This very engaging and relevant course, put together by two amazing coaches it certainly helped me realise my full potential as head of one of the research departments of the Institute of Neurology. Most importantly, it gave me the tools necessary to tackle very real issues a senior academic is confronted with, from daily research group management to engaging with other members of the University leadership on important strategic initiatives.
— Xavier Golay Professor of MR Neurophysics and Translational Neuroscience Head, Department of Brain Repair and Rehabilitation UCL Institute of Neurology National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery
Although initially sceptical about the need for such a programme, the more I participated in it, the more I saw how important and necessary it is to have a programme such as this to support academic and professional staff in Higher Education with leadership development. The programme raised our awareness of the intricate and multiple factors that leaders in academic institutions have to grapple with. It provided several frameworks to help us identify and understand leadership challenges as well as alternative ways of handling them – particularly the need for leaders to manage self, people, interests and outcomes at the same time. The “icing” in the programme was the individual coaching sessions which really focused on your personal leadership needs. I enjoyed the programme tremendously and I recommend it to both those new to leadership roles as well as more experienced leaders.
— Gloria Agyemang, Professor of Accounting, Royal Holloway
I can hand on heart say that the UCL ‘Future Leaders’ programme has changed my life by improving my abilities as a leader. From day one the facilitators introduced myself and others in the cohort to tools, approaches and leadership concepts that enabled me to better understand my own behaviour as well as that of others I am leading or being led by. From this I have been able to develop an effective leadership style which has enabled me to deliver and achieve my own and my department’s goals. What’s more the coaching sessions were invaluable and provided an effective way for me to critically reflect upon and consider my practice and how to improve the ways in which I think about and respond to particular situations. Finally and vitally, the sessions on work life balance and energy have helped me to improve my fitness and overall well-being. Future leaders is not something you can afford to miss.
— Dr. Chris Brown, UCL Institute of Education
I have worked with many coaches and Rajwant is one of the best I have had. She is intuitive, creative and inspiring. She has a way of encouraging a way of thinking about oneself that is very permission giving and growth inducing. I found myself thinking in a different way about issues and as a result really shifting in my processes. I recommend her whole heartedly and you will meet a creative, intelligent and insightful coach who will make a big difference to who you are in the world. She is truly inspiring.
— Recent comment from coachee

Case Study: School of Life and Medical Sciences, University College London (UCL)

RKB Coaching Consultancy developed and ran a Future Leaders Programme to build leadership capabilities among UCL’s academic staff. It proved such a ‘happy and positive experience’ for participants and excellent value for money for the university, that the project is now in its fourth year.

Client profile

One of the world’s top universities, UCL was founded in 1826 with a progressive mission to expand higher education to those who had been excluded, becoming the first to admit women on equal terms to men. The School of Life and Medical Science (SLMS) is the largest of the three schools that form UCL: comprising four faculties, it has a diverse student body of more than 9,500 and accounts for more than 60% of UCL's research and academic staff.

Building leadership capabilities

To attract continued funding for its research work and secure its future success, UCL has to maximise the potential of its academic staff, building cohorts of candidates for internal promotion from a wide range of backgrounds. Academic leadership is a principle theme within UCL’s 20-year strategy and is regarded as a critical test of the University.          

Within SLMS, the Academic Careers Office (ACO) provides training, support and mentorship schemes for clinicians and researchers, to help cultivate the brightest and best talent. The ACO is the brainchild of Professor Geraint Rees who oversees its work, alongside his role as Dean of UCL’s Faculty of Life Sciences. As an enthusiastic advocate of academic career development, Professor Rees works with Professor Graham Hart, his fellow Dean at the Faculty of Population Health Sciences to build leadership competence within SLMS. Their goal is to increase diversity among the senior team and give talented individuals more opportunities to progress.

Professor Rees reflects: “There is perhaps a perception among scientists that leaders emerge in some kind of Darwinian struggle. We wanted to encourage staff to believe that leadership can be taught and nurtured in the same way as other important skills like communication.”

In 2013, Professors Rees and Hart asked RKB Coaching Consultancy to devise and implement a leadership development programme for SLMS academics and research staff who had the potential to take on more senior roles.

The Future Leaders Programme – outline

An introductory launch event is followed by eight one-day workshops which cover different aspects of leadership, from emotional intelligence to building resilience. While examining the latest thinking on the subject, RKB’s approach builds on people’s experiences so they can apply the theory to their own working environment. For example, participants practise a technique called action learning where one person shares a work related dilemma or challenge and colleagues ask probing questions to shed new light on the issue and help them resolve it. 

 Together with the monthly workshops, each person receives three one-to-one coaching sessions with one of RKB’s experienced team. This gives each individual an opportunity to reflect on personal, professional and leadership issues and consider how they can progress in their career. In addition, participants are required to complete a leadership assignment which benefits UCL and enables them to put into practice the theory and skills they have learnt.

Client feedback

Professor Rees recalls that some participants in the first cohort were initially unconvinced: “This is traditionally a cost-saving environment so it is quite unusual to proactively identify people for training opportunities and many had not had management training before. Although some had clearly been waiting for this kind of opportunity, there was also degree of healthy scepticism to overcome.”

Of course, academics are trained to challenge and ask difficult questions but Professor Rees credits RKB’s Rajwant Bains and Anjali Arya for gaining the respect of the participants at an early stage. “It’s helpful that they had experience of the public sector because that established their credibility with this audience,” he says. “At the same time, their style is great – the delivery is very clear, friendly and encouraging but there is steel behind it. They were good at managing the group dynamics so the atmosphere was productive but they were always in control.”

“I attended the first and final sessions,” he remembers “and the transformation was astonishing. I was struck by how well everyone had bonded and the enthusiasm of participants – there was a real joie de vivre in the group and their respect and affection for Anjali and Rajwant was clear.”

He reports that the response from participants was overwhelmingly positive. “For example, they were interested in the insights into leadership styles and felt they had acquired tools that would help them in their careers. It’s telling that people were eager to continue coaching and have been on the look-out for further opportunities for development, while many still meet others from their cohort to discuss work challenges using the action learning technique. There is sometimes a tendency for people who work in niche areas to think that their work challenges are specific to them and I welcome anything that counteracts that feeling and encourages people to work together.”

Creating an enduring legacy

Since the Future Leaders Programme began in 2013, it has gone from strength-to-strength. Eight cohorts – 128 people – have completed the course and in 2015, the programme was extended to academic staff from across UCL. The 2016 cohorts will include members of UCL’s Professional Services staff, alongside their academic colleagues.

“We started in one corner of SLMS and broadened the programme as it has proved its worth,” explains Professor Rees. “It’s probably too early to talk about the long term impact but we have already noticed that participants in the first cohort have been applying for leadership roles and increasing their prominence within the University. More broadly, the Future Leaders Programme has also helped to embed leadership attributes within SLMS and promote closer integration within UCL.”

The leadership assignments were particularly significant in this respect, he suggests. “I am planning to take some ideas forward, such as an investigation into the integrity of laboratory research but more importantly, the exercise encouraged people from different faculties and disciplines to co-operate in pursuit of common goals. And it helped academic staff to appreciate the vital role played by their non-academic colleagues. This cross-fertilisation of ideas supports UCL’s philosophy of collegiality and helps us address the challenges we face in the wider world.”

Professor Rees remains enthusiastic about the continuation of the Future Leaders Programme and concludes: “After working with RKB, I have become an enormous fan and I’d recommend them to others without reservation.”

Reference: 1 QS World University Rankings 2016/17, QS Top Universities, September 2016


Case Study: Royal Holloway, University of London

RKB Coaching Consultancy’s leadership development programme was so well-received that the College has commissioned an extended version in 2015/16

 Client background

One of the UK’s leading universities, Royal Holloway, University of London attracts more than 8,600 students from around the world to its Surrey campus and employs over 2,300 staff. Royal Holloway has established a strong reputation across its 19 academic departments, achieving an 89% satisfaction rating in the 2014 National Student Survey.

Organisational challenges

In response to increased competition for both students and funding within the higher education sector, Royal Holloway launched a seven-year strategic plan called Discover Our Future in 2013, setting out goals for 2020 such as increasing the student intake and building on its strong track record in academic research. One important theme in the plan was to “develop a high quality diverse and professional workforce” and identifying new leaders from Royal Holloway's existing staff.

To help it fulfil this objective, Royal Holloway contacted RKB Consultancy in December 2013 and asked it to design a leadership development programme which could be implemented across the organisation.

RKB’s proposal was submitted in January 2014 and it was commissioned following a mini-selection process, as HR Director Cheryl Newsome explained: “RKB Consultancy’s style of facilitation and approach with academics, as well as their willingness to tailor the programme to meet the College’s requirements, within the available budget, provided a good fit for us.”

RKB’s leadership programme

15 participants were selected for the programme from across Royal Holloway's academic and professional services staff, all at Head of Department or senior manager level. They were joined by the HR Director who was eager to experience the programme at first hand and ensure it was meeting expectations.

Starting with a launch event in October 2014, the programme consisted of eight one-day workshops which were held off-site each month until May 2015. Interspersed with the workshops were two executive coaching sessions for each participant where they could discuss their careers and work challenges on a 1:1 basis with Rajwant Bains or Anjali Arya.

The workshops addressed different aspects of leadership, from understanding organisational culture and reputation management to influencing and building relationships but key to the programme’s success was its emphasis on applying this theoretical knowledge to Royal Holloway. One way that RKB achieved this was to include a session of Action Learning every month to encourage reflection and develop problem-solving skills. During these sessions, one member of the group was asked to summarise a workplace problem they were facing. The others would then help them reflect on the situation and find their own solution by asking challenging but constructive questions. The presenter was expected to develop action points to work on before the next meeting and the whole group was then asked to discuss what they had learned. As well as encouraging participants to test their learning in a practical context, Action Learning was valuable because it encouraged cross-departmental co-operation and helped people from the academic departments understand the challenges faced by those in professional services.

Another important element of the programme was for everyone to complete a project which would raise their profile and demonstrate how they had applied their learning to a business-critical challenge. The projects ranged from introducing a CRM system to creating a database of maintenance information for Royal Holloway's Royal Holloway Victorian Founders’ Building. Each person had to report back on their project and a few presented the results at a final Review Workshop.

The client’s view

Cheryl Newsome observed: “There was a shift in attitude from some who at the start of the programme were sceptical as to the benefits but later completely reversed their position. Some participants visibly gained confidence in their role as leaders and shifted from being hesitant in their presentations to be confident in their approach. They also gained the confidence to tackle performance issues they may not have previously done.”

Speaking as a participant, she added: “I gained some useful management tools and perspectives for addressing complex issues. I was able to refresh my knowledge and found the coaching sessions particularly useful. In addition, networking with the participants was a good opportunity to meet colleagues that I may not otherwise have met.”

While it is too early to measure the full impact of RKB’s work, Cheryl is in little doubt that the programme has been a success: “It has been extremely well received,” she said “A number of participants are continuing with action learning and have built relationships that are supporting them in their everyday work. The academic Heads of Department who participated in the programme have also gained the confidence to act collaboratively to challenge some of the College’s decision-making processes.”

Next steps

Royal Holloway were so impressed that they have asked RKB to run a second leadership development programme, beginning in October 2015. Following feedback from the original cohort, the next programme will include an additional workshop focusing on performance management, as well as a third 1:1 coaching session for each person.

Cheryl Newsome concluded: “I would recommend RKB Consultancy due to their breadth of knowledge and experience and flexibility of style. They are able to engage with both professional services and academic managers and to challenge in a non-threatening way.”



Case Study: Kings College, London

RKB Coaching Consultancy Ltd delivered a leadership development programme for both academic and professional services staff at King’s. Now in its second year, the programme has already helped foster collaboration across the University and enabled participants to think more strategically in their leadership roles.

Client profile

Established in 1829, Kings College London is the fourth oldest university in England and rated one of the world’s best1 with a reputation for world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. More than 26,600 students (including nearly 10,500 postgraduates) currently study at King’s and alumni include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the renowned physicist Professor Peter Higgs.

Raising the bar

As King’s approached its 200th anniversary, the University had to adapt to new challenges, from tough competition for resources to increased student expectations. Within this fast-changing higher education environment leaders need to be able to think strategically, as well as dealing effectively with day-to-day operational matters.

Raising the bar for effective leadership at King’s was important so as to develop an inclusive, high-performance culture where staff felt supported, able to adapt to changing circumstances and empowered to work collaboratively.

Hitting the ground running

Building leadership capability was a priority for Anna Lees when she was appointed Director of Organisational Development in September 2015. Recognising that King’s needed to transform its culture in order to grow and informed by a rigorous development needs analysis, Anna decided to create a new bespoke programme for those in a strategic leadership role. 

“We had an existing development programme for new heads of department and divisional heads but there was a lot of demand for something more holistic,” she explains. “RKB Coaching Consultancy Ltd had provided coaching services for King’s but when I asked around, I discovered they also had a really good track record in delivering the type of leadership programme I had in mind which was modular, experiential and had elements of peer learning and project work. In fact they had delivered virtually what I wanted for a number of other universities and they already knew us and understood our population so for me, this was low hanging fruit!”

“We then worked with Rajwant Bains, Managing Director of RKB Coaching Consultancy, to design a bespoke leadership programme. We included Professional Services and Academic staff because one of our strategic aims was to increase collaboration between Academic and Professional Services colleagues. We needed to work as one university towards one goal and the best way to make that happen was to have a shared learning experience.”

Anna and RKB Coaching Consultancy had to work quickly to launch a pilot leadership programme. “We spoke to RKB in October 2015 and we knew if we didn’t have something ready by the following February we would have to wait until the next academic year. Our approach was ‘let’s get this out there and RKB were able to work with us to these tight deadlines. We worked in partnership with them to develop the programme in line with the direction we needed to go. There was a lot of frenetic activity in the early days but RKB had the experience to take us through it and we had the drive and commitment to see it through.” 

Delivering the programme

For the pilot programme, which consisted of two cohorts of 16 senior leaders, King’s asked the Executive to nominate participants that they thought had long-term potential or who needed support in their current leadership roles.  However, as the programme has evolved, King’s has developed a more structured nomination process and the role of sponsors has become more clearly defined so as to increase accountability.

Rachel Blanc joined King’s in early 2016 as Head of Talent and Development and works alongside Anna to oversee the University’s Leadership and Development Framework for current and emerging leaders. She explains: “Now we ask people to complete an application form in which they set out how the programme is going to develop them as leaders. All the forms go through a selection panel who look at what people want out of the programme, how committed they are to the process and how beneficial it is likely to be for them.”

“And we always have one eye on diversity and inclusion,” adds Anna. “Even from the pilot stage one of the things we were very careful about was reviewing the balance of different disciplines, genders and protected groups. One of our explicit aims is for this to be a truly inclusive programme so that, over time, we can impact the culture around inclusivity as well as leadership.”

Once selected, participants attend a launch event, followed by six one-day workshops and a review event when they present their individual leadership projects. Workshops include action learning sets so as to build capability and capacity through peer learning. The methodology is designed to enable the issue holder to come up with their own solutions through questioning from peers.

Participants also receive one-to-one executive coaching sessions with one of RKB’s highly skilled and experienced coaches, where the focus can be on personal, professional and leadership issues and future career progression.  


Anna and Rachel took part in programme cohorts 1 and 2 respectively, as Anna recalls: “We made a very deliberate choice not to set ourselves apart as evaluators or observers but to actually take part and see what it feels like so we could make recommendations going forward.

“Before joining King’s I had designed, delivered, facilitated, and coached on programmes very similar to this so I had to step out of that mode. As a participant, what I took out of it was the opportunity to refresh my outlook and to apply what I was hearing and experiencing to my new situation and context. The other thing was to develop my network and feel part of the community. So on a personal level the experience was very useful and from a sponsor’s perspective I could also see what was working and what wasn’t.”

The feedback from participants has been similarly positive. “They really value the coaching. One in particular had found going on the programme quite challenging but the coaching unlocked a lot of things for them” says Rachel.

The Action learning sets also prove to be a powerful experience for participants. Although it can initially be challenging to focus on listening and not jump in with solutions and advice, participants quickly recognised the long-term benefit of using questioning to take someone’s thinking forward.      

Moving the dial

Four cohorts have now successfully completed the programme, with one more due to begin at the start of the next academic year. Anna acknowledges that whilst it is still early days the programme and other development initiatives are starting to make a difference.

The transition from being an Academic who is focused purely on research and teaching to becoming a Department Head who needs to take a leadership role whilst juggling their research and teaching commitments, can be a challenge – especially in leading people who had previously been their peers or in some cases seniors. However, Anna observes that participants on the Programme felt empowered to step up into their leadership role and to set the strategic direction for their department.

“The feedback from senior leaders has been that we are beginning to move the dial” she says. “People are more open-minded about change; better at communicating; and there are better quality conversations between leaders and people reporting to them. We can also point to some of the innovative projects that have come out of the programme with collaborations across the university, including across Professional Services and Academia.”

The RKB effect

Anna and Rachel are confident that Rajwant Bains and her colleagues at RKB have been key to the success of the leadership programme.

“From the operational aspect, they are really structured and you can rely on them,” says Rachel. “I know they will follow up regularly and send feedback straight afterwards without having to chase which makes a difference. I have really appreciated that.”

However, it wasn’t just about programme delivery points out Anna. “RKB had to pick up and adjust to the individual needs in their cohorts which was different each time. They had to develop people’s confidence, their strategic thinking, ensure they were focused on some useful projects and ensure everyone moved forward as a cohesive group. That’s a huge task and I think they’ve done so admirably. “

“But in particular it’s the quality of the (RKB) people. The design of the programme is good and the methodology is solid but the thing that makes the difference is that Anjali and Rajwant are such strong facilitators.”

Reference: 1 QS World University Rankings 2018, QS Top Universities, June 2017