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"The programme really worked for me, it’s proved such a good investment of my time."

By Cranfield Executive Development
Chris Poulter B&W blog banner
"Looking back, I found the overall experience at Cranfield almost a magical one – it was a wholly positive time, with a group of great people, which started a personal transformation."


For Chris Poulter, Head of Increasing Defence Output at the Ministry of Defence, becoming more self-aware as a leader and having a better sense of the leadership role that he plays had an immediate effect on the way that he manages his teams, the way he interacts with his peers, and the way he supports his own leaders.


Chris works for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and leads a business unit in the military capability branch of head office. His team manages the translation of government strategy for defence and national security into tangible military effects, generated by the combined armed forces (Royal Navy, Army and RAF), looking specifically at finding ways to increase the productive output of military equipment like tanks, ships and aircraft.


“I had reached the first tier of the Senior Civil Service, but did not have a clear understanding of how to consolidate my skills nor did I have a clear route to progress my career,” Chris explained. “My objective in attending the High Performance Leadership programme was to take some time – for structured reflection and facilitated learning – to understand what has made me a good leader so far, so that I could continue to apply, stretch and develop those attributes.


“The programme offered a targeted leadership course, at a high-calibre institution, joining a group of diverse peers from other sectors with different professional and personal backgrounds. This was important to me as I wanted to form a perspective of myself in relation to a peer group outside my established professional community in Defence and the Civil Service.


“When I first became interested in joining the programme, I wanted to get a sense of my worth. I wanted to understand my strengths in leadership, and obviously those areas where I needed to develop. It was important for me to understand what value I bring: my worth to my teams, and my organisations, and what I bring to the situations I’m part of. All of that is something that I was able to explore and develop during the programme.


“Looking back, I found the overall experience at Cranfield almost a magical one – it was a wholly positive time, with a group of great people, which started a personal transformation. It really worked for me. The programme leaders were experienced, enthusiastic and credible, and my peers on the cohort were committed, engaged and friendly. What stood out was the fact that we all have common experiences, that although we might have different roles and we work in different industry sectors there’s a common thread of leadership that links us all together. That realisation was really exciting.


“We were encouraged to share our personal stories, and I found others’ perspectives and experiences were relevant to me and my work. That level of meaningful interaction and honesty meant we quickly formed strong relationships with each other, and I really appreciated the insights they offered. I enjoyed the conversations with my peers and valued the feedback that people took time to consider and offer me.


“My key takeaway from the programme was understanding my purpose and forming a judgement of what’s meaningful to me in the work that I do. It’s helped me understand that if my work role does not fulfil my sense of purpose, then I’m not going to be able to give sustained high performance and this will ultimately be to the disadvantage of my employer, my colleagues and myself.


“The High Performance Leadership programme has given me a far better sense of who I am as leader, and I’m a far more reflective leader than I was before. I understand more about the nature of leadership from an objective point of view, the strengths and approaches of different leadership styles with an awareness of how I apply them, and I have a better sense of those areas where I need to continue to develop and to grow.


“Being self-aware and having a better sense of the leadership role that I play had an immediate effect on the way that I manage my teams, the way I interact with my peers, and the way I support the leaders that I work to. I’ve got a better sense of the spectrum of management and leadership I operate within and how I can make the best of the position that I hold within my organisation.


“The programme had some significant impacts on both me and my organisation. I am more confident and more aware of my strengths so I can make sure I play to them, and I am more sensitive to the areas where I am less strong, where improved self-awareness means I can be more considered and circumspect in my actions, to make the best of a challenging situation.


“I feel I am more rounded as a leader, and I am more willing to take a risk and put myself out there when I spot an opportunity that fits my skillset and which motivates me to invest my time. Being more aware of what I can offer my organisation helps me to identify where my strengths differ from and complement those of my peers, so I look for ways to add value in a way that is uniquely mine. I’m finding new ways in which I can fulfil the requirements of my current role, and the programme helped me to get a better sense of what it is that I’m looking for next and how future roles will help me to develop. It’s also given me extra guidance in what I’m looking for in terms of the culture and the aspects of the organisation that I want work in, so it’s helped me to take those next steps with a greater sense of assurance.


“I now know that I can take on more challenging, complex and diverse roles, that I can embrace variety and find it fulfilling, and that maintaining that sense of fulfilment is important for a rewarding career. Soon after my time on the programme, I saw an opportunity to lead a new MOD business unit, tackling longstanding challenges in a creative way. It would be meaningful, exciting and challenging work – it ticked all the boxes that I now know to look for – and so I jumped at it!


“The way we were looked after on the programme was wonderful. The professionalism and experience of the course leaders and facilitators was impressive, we learned a lot from them, we learned a lot from each other, and the overall package met the requirements that I looked for in being part of the programme.


“I strongly recommend the High Performance Leadership programme, there were so many aspects to it and so much was packed into a relatively short time. I found it a really positive experience, it’s been such a good investment of my time. I’m only sad that I don’t get to do it all over again!”



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Tags: leadership, article

High Performance Leadership