Real Stories 2018-01-17T10:23:23+00:00

Making Big Change Happen • Real stories

Stuart Dawson

Vail Williams logo

“Helps us steer our way through complex challenges and difficult conversations.”

Stuart Dawson – Director of Shared Services, Vail Williams LLP

“The One Leadership Project is supporting our cultural change programme, working closely with the Exec team and the project team, as we become an employer of choice and a great place to work delivering excellent and innovative services to new and loyal clients.

Their approach helps us to bond closely, get everyone energised around the work we are doing and impact we are making, and enabling us to energise the whole business.

Their style helps us appreciate each other and our strengths, talk about what we need to talk about, get clear on where we want to get to and how, and feel confident enough to take on big challenges ourselves.

The insights, models and experience in ‘making big change happen’ help us find clarity when we are in danger of getting lost.

Their personal touch enables us to rediscover motivation when we tire, and get ourselves together when we may feel like taking actions in different directions.

The facilitation helps us steer our way through complex challenges and difficult conversations. Their experience keeps us focused on what is important to the success of the work.

Their full grasp of the factors required to make change successful and to stick equip us with the skills to navigate the business and support the people in it to achieve.

They are able to bring out the best in people and inspire them to achieve more.

I would not hesitate to recommend them to people who want to do something big together, and to people wanting a conversation that can clear the thinking and lift the spirits.”

Nicola Peachy

Arthritis Research UK logo

“Workshops with Neil and Alister always deliver more than you expect.”

Nicola Peachey – Director of HR & Organisational Development, Arthritis Research UK

So Nicola, how would describe the work we’re doing together, the big change here?

It’s about enabling us as the leadership team. We have an amazing shared vision of what we can achieve and the changes that we need to make. But we needed to be confident that we were the people that could drive and deliver that change. It’s been about equipping us with the confidence, the skills, and testing our approach, to enable us to bring our people with us.

What makes this so important?

Arthritis and conditions affecting the joints bones and muscles impact at least 10 million people across the UK. Many of those people are living in chronic daily pain, isolated, depressed and navigating a health and social care system where arthritis is not prioritised. Arthritis is all too often invisible or ignored. That’s not acceptable. We need to create a sea change in recognition so that people with arthritis feel they have a voice, a sea change in the provision of services, information, care and products so people with arthritis are supported in managing to live well with arthritis, a sea change in investment in ground breaking research that creates hope for tomorrow.

What would you say has been achieved so far?

Through the work that we’ve done together, and the expert steering from you, we have a senior team who are calmer, more confident, more able to articulate and express the story of the change that we are trying to achieve. And more able to channel that commitment and passion. It is important it is that it’s not just us. It’s the amazing people who work for the charity. It’s the wider stakeholders and broader society that we need to take with us. And in order to do that, we can’t be frantic, impatient, confused and confusing. We need to be authoritative. We need to coach. We need to support. We need to enable. And we need to look after ourselves as well as others. The work we have done together has had a phenomenal impact on our effectiveness as a leadership team and therefore our effectiveness as an organisation and the difference we’re making for people with arthritis.

Could you say a little more about that impact?

We are able to be really clear about what it is that we are trying to achieve, our goals, our responsibilities, and the outcomes that we are seeking. Our ability to clarify, to ask the right questions in the right way at the right time. And to take the time to consider the answers before moving on. We’re an organisation in a hurry, but we are now increasingly able to be measured in that hurry so that instead of feeling overwhelmed, our people feel inspired and engaged. We are increasingly able to make the complex simple and compelling. That will have a major impact on the 10 million people with arthritis, their friends and their family and wider society. Telling a complex story in a way that is simple and compelling is the biggest challenge of all.

And the tangibles?

So, in the last year, we have gone from talking about partnership with other charities in the sector to being at the point of merging with Arthritis Care. Their heritage and their approach is one of care. It’s a social model of disability and support coming together with our heritage of medical research. We’re going from two organisations doing different things but with very similar goals and outcomes to being a single organisation – a clearer, more compelling and consistent voice that’s taking away some of the complexity and confusion that exists for people with arthritis.
I don’t think that the process of the merger would have happened in such a constructive and fast-paced way unless we had been working with you guys. Because actually, as a senior team we’ve been more able to prioritize. We’ve been more able to trust one another. We’ve been more able to move forward in a purposeful way.


Geoff Fallon from Vial Willams

Vail Williams logo

“Helps us steer our way through complex challenges and difficult conversations.”

Geoff Fallon – Vail Williams LLP

Do you want to be a highly successful, award winning Best Place to Work? Big change comes in many guises, and can be about big change within the business – which then translates to change beyond the business – the services clients receive, the clients and talent you attract and retain, the good work you do in the community and beyond. We’ve been working together with Vail Williams in a process to engage and grow the whole business through defining how they want to be, and how they want to be remembered, and translating that into the culture, the lived values, the way they want to work and the results they want to get. Geoff Fallon has been leading the project within the business, with One Leadership’s support. Here’s his story.

How would you describe the work together?

Huge. As a business, it’s kind of life-changing. It’s a huge shift in everything – in our mentality, in how we operate as a business, how we operate with each other. It is entirely different today compared to three, four years ago.

What would you say is the difference, the shift that’s happened in the mentality?

People working together, thinking together, thinking about each other and other people and how things affect other people. It’s gone from silos, whether it be a discipline silo, an office silo, a person silo. Now we’re looking at it as we’re all together. And that is huge, huge. People say “I’ve got an issue. We’ve got a client. How can you help me? I’ve got an opportunity with… Does anybody know? Can anybody help me?” Huge difference.

It’s sounding really collaborative.

Very. Very, very collaborative. Collaboration is cropping up informally amidst formal projects. The way we now work – we don’t sit in our discipline. Everybody wants to contribute. Your view is as valuable as anybody else’s view. That is a big change. People are beginning to feel ‘My voice will be heard and I’m not going to be left out and I’m not going to be scolded for my mad idea’. It’s never a mad idea. It can swing another spot-on idea. So now there’s a lot more sharing. People are visible. Our business plan is visible. The new business development is visible. All the stuff we do for charity is visible. People are being encouraged to take part. People know what’s going on. People have a choice. We’ve still a long way to go. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but that change is happening.

What do you think clients are noticing?

I think they are seeing different values. I think they’re noticing it’s a better place to work. They are walking into our offices and seeing the way we work and seeing what we’re about. Someone said to me “Hey, just saw that ‘Best Place to Work’ plaque. That’s impressive.” “Oh yeah, and we just got Investors In People silver.” “Wow. How many times have you gone in for that?” “It’s our first time out.” “Wow. Really glad you been looking after your people.” And we’re seeing the quality of people we are now attracting into and retaining in the business. Really good people.

Fabulous. How do you think the business itself is benefitting from that?

It’s strange old times. We’re on the precipice of Brexit and nobody knows what coming. The business is together and I think that’s a really big thing – we’re moving forwards together. Whatever is coming up and the stuff that we can’t control, or whatever it throws at us, we’ll be ready for it. It feels like a very collective alliance. We’re more aligned than we’ve ever, ever been and that’s from top to bottom. From Millenials and Gen X to Baby Boomers – they’re coming with different viewpoints. No-one is feeling isolated.

What would you say The One Leadership Project has brought that perhaps you may not have been able to do on your own?

Oh, the word I always use for you guys is you set the fire. You set the catalyst. We wouldn’t be where we are today if you guys hadn’t been here. We didn’t know each other and actually to a certain extent didn’t really care about each other, and didn’t communicate with each other. You sat us in a room and there was no plan, there was no table, and we sit there and did that exercise. has pinpointed exactly that same time as when things started to change. There was a undercurrent, then, of, “Guys, we can talk to each other.” It set the ground in motion. It set a huge change in the way the business set up, and the way the business is run. That was the acorn, that was the catalyst .

Wow. That’s quite a difference, isn’t it?

It’s a massive one. Everybody’s voice is now heard. Everybody listens to everybody else. If you have a view, you are able to speak it without interruption. And then we discuss what people have said. That is a huge change. And now it’s the heartbeat of the business. Actually, if you look after the people, they look after your customers, and respectively they’ll look after your shareholders. Which is a completely different mindset. If you’ve got more engaged people – we go back to that happy, engaged people – they will be more productive people. Simples. Paying them more, giving them table football, doesn’t make them any more engaged, and doesn’t make them more productive. But if you are encouraging them, and encouraging them to follow their ideas and their innovation and stuff like that, then you’re going to get more.

Where can you see this journey taking you now?

I think for us, it can only take us forward. This world is changing, and the way we are operating is changing, the way our business is changing. It’s all going to be survival of the fittest. We need to be one of the ones that are most agile, the ones that are more together. We’re creating the difference in the difference. There’s no one else doing what we’re doing. If you’re waking up now, you’re three, four years behind the clock, and you’re sort of trying to work it out when the world is changing. We are there now.

You’re leading for this within the business. What’s it been like for you to work together?

Oh, God. To me, it’s probably been the most exciting 18 months. It’s been frustrating at times. But like most things in life, nothing ever comes easy, and if you keep working at it, then the reward will come. We’re seeing that. The penny has dropped. There were times where I actually felt like, “You know what? I can’t do this anymore.” And actually, without your sensible guidance, hand on the shoulder, your ‘Let’s get this turned around’ bit, helping me understand where I was, how to carry it out, I probably would’ve walked away. But I haven’t. And so your guidance, help, kindness, friendship was invaluable.

The other thing is the what I’ve learned personally on the way through. There’s a great bit in your book, ‘It’s about you, but it’s not about you’, and I think it’s absolutely spot-on. Because it’s not about me, but it is. It’s a journey about us going somewhere. It’s a journey about me, and it’s about learning about me, and learning what I need to do, and what I can’t do. I have a better understanding now of my strengths and my development areas that I don’t think I ever had at any other time. I’ve learnt that you don’t need to manage people to lead them.

In my feedback one-to-one from the Lead Partner was how much he is noticing the difference in me, in my contribution and how much I was more bringing to the partnership. I’m enjoying it, and he could see it. So there’s the difference.


Tony Whitbread

Sussex Wildlife Trust Logo

“The effect for myself as CEO and the SMT has been immediate.”

Dr Tony Whitbread – CEO, Sussex Wildlife Trust

“Our environment faces many challenges. These are mirrored by leadership challenges in organisations looking to make a difference, with highly motivated and dedicated staff, but having to deal with inevitable consequences developing and delivering the inspiring vision with limited resources and handling the complexity and pressures of work.

Working with The One Leadership Project as individuals, as a leadership team, and together with Committee Chairs and Trustees, we find ways through the problems and unlock the higher ambition and getting more done with the same or less.

The personal and team support insight and tools make a real difference. I really value the conversations.

The effect for myself as CEO and the SMT has been immediate. Our Chairman highly values the support.

This work is even more important as we re-visit and revitalise our sense of shared endeavour to make real our vision and strategy for the Sussex environment.”


phil mulligan

Landscape institute logo

“Every time, they have created some magic.”

Phil Mulligan – CEO, the Landscape Institute

“The work we do makes a real difference to people and to society… We need to modernise, be attractive, develop; and that can be difficult. We have to keep a whole range of different opinions, perspectives and interest happy within one organisation.

Where One Leadership I think are at their greatest is where we have a large group of people who disagree or don’t have a shared vision; One Leadership are able to get progress and movement.

My experience of working with them is every time, they have created some magic… Every time we have exceeded the results that we could possibly have hoped for. There has been a real sense of purpose and achievement. It’s meant I’ve been able to progress on agendas that are vital.

They’re called One Leadership and they help us create one team to address our challenges.”


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