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Ian Tomlinson

The Manchester Leadership Development Programme takes place over six months and consists of 3x3 day residential blocks, featuring a range of focused, intense and participative activities looking at leadership, strategy and commercial excellence.

How did you hear about the programme?
I had initially been looking at undertaking an MBA but it wasn’t the right timing for me in terms of my career and my family. I attended an Alliance MBS taster event and the Manchester Leadership Development Programme was presented as an option by the team. I felt that this would be a better fit for me at that point in my life.

Why were you interested in the programme?
I was attracted to the content of the programme, covering three key business areas – leadership, strategy and commercial awareness. In particular the coaching element of the programme was integral for me. As part of the programme you are assigned a coach to work through your applied learning challenge, the issue that you specifically focus on to relate the course back to the workplace. You keep in touch with your coach before, during and after the residential elements of the programme. I thought that this would help me embed what I learnt. Also as a freelance consultant I felt that I needed to take some time out too and mix with people from other sectors. It would also update my thinking and my offer for my own clients.

How did you feel at the end of day 1?
Exhausted and over-stimulated! It was tough-going working through all the feedback from our pre-course psychometric tests. What I found out about myself surprised me on the day and on reflection too. It gave me the thirst to be challenged throughout the rest of the programme.

It’s also worth mentioning the Thai cooking experience that we all went to the night before the course started. As an icebreaker, this was a great way to meet the rest of the group and break down barriers quickly. When we met again in the classroom the next day, we were already comfortable with each other and could get the most from the group dynamics straight away.

What, if anything, had changed by the end of the three blocks?
The applied learning challenge that I’d started the course with had moved from an idea to a clear plan. I recognised the need for absolute clarity on what and why you should do something and I felt that I now had the confidence to carry the plan out too.

What did you enjoy the most?
The programme accommodated a real mix of learning styles. The tools and techniques came across really well and group work was important in developing our understanding. The pace of the residential blocks was very quick so the interblock sessions became crucial – they ensured that the learning was reinforced throughout the six month programme. Face-to-face coaching was also important for me to explore and think through how I was going to apply my new knowledge to my business issues.

Have you managed to put into practice what you learnt?
I’ve been working together with a group of individual consultants to form a new business proposition. All the elements of the course have helped us as we’ve worked together to focus on our strategy, brand, products and approach. The programme was at the perfect time to get us all heading in the same direction. I find myself referring back to what I’ve learnt regularly.

Would you recommend the programme to others, and if so, why?
Absolutely. It’s not what I think of as a “traditional” course and has been Invaluable to build into my business development plan. It’s helped to bed in key fundamentals and I’m still in touch with the rest of the group, sharing issues and best practice as we work through the next stage of our careers.

What is your top tip for others coming on the programme?
Come with a completely open mind and trust the process. Everything happens for a reason but you don’t always know why. Don’t consider missing the welcome dinner the night before either – this is critical to the group dynamics.