An interview with Roy Johnson, Programme Director, WIG Future Leaders Programme
Roy Johnson has been leading our Future Leaders programmes since its inception in 2011. He has worked for WIG for ten years with a development background in industry. Below he answers a few key questions about the programme.
Hi Roy, what is the Future Leaders Programme about?
The Future Leaders programme is for those in their early stages of their career, just starting to become team leaders or manage other people. Most people have between 2 and 10 years’ experience in their career, and all have demonstrated real potential. The programme combines some theory and a lot of practical work but the real learning comes from the other participants on the group.
Some of the contributors on the programme are themselves alumni of the Future Leaders programme, bringing their perspectives back to contribute to a newer generation. This constant learning, feedback, reflection and review benefits the programme design but most importantly ensures that there are opportunities for challenge and debate that help stimulate different ways of thinking about leadership. The focus is on making real and high impact improvements in the way participants lead now, and in the future.
So, what will participants be doing on the programme?
The programme runs over six months with four modules, two coaching sessions and a project. All of these elements combine to make an innovative and diverse learning experience. The programme works by combining different elements of theory, practice, experimentation and learning from experience. Across the very diverse participant group there will be some common challenges; for instance, what is it like managing people older and more experienced than you are? This will be common to most new leaders at some point and as well as sharing some experiences from guest contributors and hearing from other participants about how they manage these situations, participants spend time exploring more about their own leadership styles and finding what works best for them in their specific context.
The group examines how teams work, and how individuals can lead a team well, alongside lot of personal development, about how those early in their careers can present themselves better as a leader and work on some individual skills and behaviours. This is helped by the individual coaching each participant receives as part of the programme.
One of the key elements of the programme, is that all participants in mixed small project teams will apply their learning through a fast paced real world charity project. It’s a very practical way to test skills and experiment with new ways of being a leader. Because of our extensive networks we work with many charities to source exciting and challenging short projects as part of the programme. Participants are grouped into cross sector project teams and receive support and coaching throughout, and are encouraged to bring the combined expertise and experience of the diverse members of the group to enhance the project outcomes.
What would you say are the benefits from working with other sectors?
Many of the challenges facing new leaders will be common across all sectors and some of the real learning comes from discussing those. Working with people from other sectors gives a real insight into different ways of thinking. For instance, on a recent programme there were groups from engineering and aerospace companies working with colleagues from a large public sector organisation. The difference in style was significant; one group was very good at effective project management, the other group much better at consultation, collaboration and engagement. Working in complex organisations successfully needs both these skills. Working together with colleagues from across sectors allows you to understand different ways of leading and learn to adapt and make your own approaches much more flexible, for more sustainable success.
All WIG programmes benefit from this diversity in their approach. Learning from others at the start of your career can have a lifelong impact, as well as helping people develop networks which will endure beyond the life of the programme.
Finally, how would you describe the benefits to organisations?
Participants are filmed on the first module, to gain more insight into their presentation skills. At the end of the programme they then all present their findings from their respective charity projects. Invited sponsors and contributors always remark on the difference in their confidence, presentation and influencing skills in such a short time. The programme also brings opportunities for participants to learn new ways of working and best practice in other industries and other sectors. Often programme participants come from organisations which sponsor people every single intake, their confidence and continued investment in the programme is a mark of its success and impact past participants had on their organisations.