What a winning team looks like…


4 Months on from what can only be described as ‘The Apprentice on steroids’ we caught up with a few of the current champions to find out exactly how they pulled off the big win and more importantly what they got from taking part…



Picture L-R: Ashley Stanton, Kate Lees, Louise Sharrod, Tanbir Duhra, Madeline Freewood ,Emma Balchin

Why did you sign up for the challenge?

Ashley: I‘m currently developing myself towards a managerial role. Having completed my ILM I was looking to improve my skills further. As the challenge was an opportunity to move from operational to strategic thinking it seemed like a no brainer to sign up!

Emma: I’d recently been questioning the direction of my career following significant changes after two periods of maternity leave. I’ve always been ambitious with a clear career path which seemed to have disappeared. I thought the challenge would be a great opportunity to experiment with roles and situations totally outside my comfort zone and previous experience. I wanted to see if my skills were transferable, how I coped and if I could develop from the experience.

Madeline: I work in a predominantly political environment, I saw the Challenge as a way of gaining insight into leadership and governance from a senior officer perspective.

How did you approach the challenge?

Ashley: We approached the challenge with apprehension as there was very little information to work with! Personally I felt nervous, looking at the other teams we could see there was tough competition. Some teams consisted of Heads of Service and not being a manager I wondered if I had done the right thing. In the days leading up to the challenge I just decided to go and tackle whatever was thrown at me to the best of my ability and take whatever learning from it I could.

Emma: We just wanted to do our best so we met at least three times to speculate what the day might entail, how we could research areas we had no idea about and what roles we might need to assume. We set up a WhatsApp group and were in regular contact, this assisted the crucial team building which helped us fly on the day. The way our team gelled was phenomenal. I was with such motivated, clever and diverse women who had no egos or presumptions.

Madeline: We decided on a pro-active approach! We identified our collective strengths and gaps in our knowledge then split research tasks and reconvened to pool information. We spent time thinking about the strengths we could bring to different roles and what challenges a management team at Watsutton might be faced with.

How useful was the enhanced package?

Ashley: It was pivotal to our success, the amount of support and guidance in terms of our development was immense. Our first session included a team exercise where we were all blind folded which enabled us to build trust and confidence in each other as most of us did not know each other and certainly hadn’t worked together before. It was clear to see from my GC profile that I would have so many opportunities to use it to develop myself and to understand how we performed as a team. Carl our observer shadowed us on the day to ensure we had plenty of feedback for the follow-up sessions. I now have a clear path of personal development to help me into my next role, without the package I would not of had the opportunity to take stock of where I am and where I want to be.

Emma: I think the 1st session panicked us, which got the adrenaline going and that drive to win. It helped us get to know one another and devise a strategy for working together over the two weeks before the challenge. It’s all too easy for something like this to have no significant impact if you just get right back into the daily management issues at work, so coming together again was crucial.

Madeline: It was very useful – the initial meeting helped us to get to know each-other and impressed upon us the need to do some strategic thinking/ preparation prior to the event. The two feedback sessions following the event provided tailored group and individual feedback, this helped us reflect on our current practice and set goals for our future development. It helped us recognise what had gone well and what we might have done differently. Without these sessions the opportunity to embed learning from the day would have been very limited.

You were the 2nd highest fundraiser - how did you tackle it?

Ashley: With just 2 weeks to go we got straight on the case. We wanted to raise as much money as possible for such a fantastic cause.  We ran a cake competition, a bake sale, guess how many sweets in the jar, we auctioned a signed Wolves shirt kindly donated by the club and a bucket shake around the civic. We worked with our communications team to get activities advertised to employees quickly, we even had our MD promote our fundraising during his employee brief!

Emma: We met to discuss what we could do, and pretty much investigated every idea, dividing the tasks amongst us to fit around the day jobs. We did as much as we could- we wanted to win, and it was a brilliant charity which we could totally get behind.

Madeline: As well as council wide activities we also undertook small activities within our own teams, I raised £100+ from Labour Councillors.

What have you gained from undertaking the challenge and did you achieve your original goals?

Ashley: I now have a greater appreciation of what SMT’s are challenged with and it has introduced me to the world of politics thanks to interaction with our Leader on the day. I have definitely achieved some of the goals I set, those not met now form part of my ongoing professional development.

Emma: I’ve gained great relationships with colleagues whom I’d never worked before, I now know more about their roles so am more likely to work more strategically across the council to deliver improved, more coherent support to Wolverhampton communities. 100% achieved my goals and feel excited about the future!

Madeline: My original goals were very broad and short term because I didn’t know what to expect, for me the sessions after were more useful in terms of setting goals for future career progression.

What are you doing differently as a result of the challenge?

Ashley: I’ve discussed my role becoming more strategic with my manager and this has been taken onboard, meaning I’ll be able to use my new found skills on a daily basis. I’ve also re-evaluated my personal development and met 5 brilliant women who I wouldn’t have had the pleasure to work with without the challenge. We have learned from each other and built brilliant relationships. Our MD has acknowledged that we are a great example of Women in leadership and that our team shows how far our organisation has come in the last 5 years… although he keeps joking that were submitting an all-male team next year….we’ll wait and see! Bring on LAC2017!

Emma: We are still waiting to realise the full impact, but it has all been a truly inspiring and fun experience. I’m more confident taking on roles outside of my service area and asking for opportunities that will help the council and achieve my own goals.

Madeline: Working with senior officers we are looking at current organisational challenges for us to lead on. While our day to day jobs might not have changed the team has given me a peer network I didn’t have before, I’m already learning so much from the other members of my team.

What’s happened for you work wise since the challenge?

Ashley: I’m looking at a degree in management and also thanks to my work in the follow up sessions I’m challenging and stretching myself by taking on a new work stream – Councillor development. We have presented to our senior leadership team; what we gained from the challenge and our plans for the future. Our sponsor; the Director of Finance has agreed that he will work with our Senior Executive Board to identify an actual project for us to work on together that will benefit our organisation – and of course we will be submitting a team to defend our title in 2017!

Emma: We want to be an asset that senior managers can draw on to solve problems and get tasks done. We’ve asked senior leaders to give us any challenges they have to work through so we can come together on real issues and make an impact outside our own service areas. This will hopefully be great for the organisation but also raise our confidence, profile and moreover career aspirations within the council.

Madeline: We have raised the profile of the event within our organisation and the profile of the city by encouraging WME to book the Molineux for LAC2017! We’ve said to senior managers – you have an award winning team at your disposal, give us some real life challenges to help support our council’s corporate priorities, allow us to put our new skills to the test!

The GCIndex view on the winning team

The GC Index were one of the co-sponsors of the LA Challenge and each of the enhanced teams had the opportunity to take its new organometric test.

The GC Index, is the first tool of its kind to assess proclivity of how individuals contribute and make an impact to an organisation, role or project, regardless of personality, gender, race, age or level.

Dr GC says Being a Team: With a strong Play Maker profile this team wanted to get on. They created a spirit of shared endeavour and achievement. This helped them to cope with setbacks and to be resilient under pressure.

The Power of Ideas: Strategist and Game Changer profiles meant the team valued ideas and, to some extent, creativity-. however, ideas were evaluated through a lens of pragmatism ( Implementer profiles) this team valued things that work. Their ideas also sat within a strategic context ‘do they support longer
term goals?’

Getting things done: The implementers provided a focus on action which was energising. The team created a sense of urgency and momentum which was supported by the team’s ‘Polisher’- they settled for ‘good enough’ in their drive to get things done.

Shared Values & Identity:
The ‘glue’ that held this team together:
• Shared team endeavour and achievement: ‘can do’, ‘sleeves rolled up’
• Communication and collaboration
• A practical and pragmatic focus upon getting things done
• Not allowing ‘perfect to be the enemy of good’

For further information regarding the GC Index contact Marianne Douglas, m.douglas@wmemployers.org.uk 0121 569 2077

Team Stats


Team Stats
Organisation City of Wolverhampton
Status LAC Winners 2016
Package Type Enhanced
Charity contribution £1325
GC Index Profiles Ashley Stanton: Game Changer / Implementer
Emma Balchin: Strategist / Implementer
Tanbir Duhra: Play Maker / Implementer
Madeleine Freewood: Play Maker / Implementer
Louise Sharrod: Implementer (Polisher & Strategist)
Kate Lees: Play Maker / Strategist