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New £9.5m leadership development programme for the Northwest

05/31/2009 22:50:20

The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has announced the rollout of a significant new leadership development programme across the whole region, following a highly successful long-term pilot project at Lancaster University Management School.

The £9.5 million Northwest programme, known as LEAD (Leading Enterprise and Development), is an integrated learning and development programme, which will be delivered by a network of providers to businesses in the region.

LEAD is an innovative leadership programme designed specifically for, and in conjunction with, businesses with up to 20 employees in England’s Northwest.

The programme was developed and piloted by Lancaster University Management School, with the support of the NWDA, over the past five years. So far, over 150 business owners have been through the LEAD programme with proven results.

An independent evaluation of the initial pilot showed that 90% of business owners who took part in the programme reported an average annual sales increase of £200,000. Previous delegates have also credited the programme with increased growth, improving staff productivity, and helping them to change business processes – which in turn has allowed the delegates to step back and focus on the strategy and growth of the business rather than the day-to-day running.

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the NWDA, said: “Organisations have recognised leadership and management as a priority to enhance productivity and competitiveness, and over the last 20 years have devoted substantial resources to this. In contrast engagement by small and medium-sized enterprises is often limited by time and financial constraints. However, better skills at higher levels drive leadership and management, which are the key drivers of growth and profit.

“The NWDA has a major role in ensuring that training, education and skills development is meeting the needs of employers and individuals in the Northwest. By working with partners throughout the region our work can benefit a range of businesses.”

LEAD concentrates on the two most important areas of the business: the business itself and the personal development of the owner-manager.

The programme brings support and knowledge to owners who find themselves so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of the company that they find it difficult to take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. Primarily, owners arrive at the programme with specific issues they want to tackle. These issues are then grasped head-on – not as theoretical problems, but as real-life business challenges – and the programme then provides structured processes and answers to specific problems.

Michael Gray from 1st Stop Finance, a past delegate of the LEAD pilot, said: “We achieved a fourfold increase in turnover, with our workforce now up to 119. To grow as rapidly as we did, while also increasing profits, is a difficult balancing act, but LEAD helped us to implement very effective policies allowing us to achieve the right balance.”

The expansion of LEAD will enable a further 2000 business across the Northwest to benefit from the programme up to March 2012. Thirteen new providers have been appointed to deliver LEAD across the region (see list below), forming a network of support focused on SME growth.

Marian Ginesi of Linco Communications, a current delegate on the LEAD pilot, said: “We now feel we have a business and not a hobby. Since I started LEAD our business has tripled its turnover”

Sue Peters, LEAD director at Lancaster University Management School, said: “LEAD contributes to raising regional productivity and promotes business growth by specifically focusing on the leadership development of participating owner-managers. The findings of the pilot evaluation suggest that we have certainly made our mark.

“The overriding feeling among owner-managers going into the programme is a sense of isolation. As well as being consumed by the need to be involved in the minutiae of delivering services to their customers and running all aspects of the business, they find it difficult to stand back from the day-to-day activities to focus on strategic planning,” Sue explained. “Our findings show that participants have learned enhanced staff development, delegation and management skills that have freed up time to focus on the strategy and growth of the enterprise.”

The NWDA has announced a strong network of college, university and private-sector partners from across the region who will deliver the programme on behalf of the Agency. The providers include:

Business owners who wish to participate on or hear more about the LEAD programme should visit