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Martin Cook

General Manager (Yorkshire), Bidfood

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 heard about Alliance Manchester Business School through various colleagues in my network and at the time I was looking to enhance my executive education and business knowledge. I asked our Learning & Development department to look for a course that would suit my requirements.

Why were you interested in the programme?
After speaking to the programme organisers, it was very clear that this course was not all classroom-based and was, in fact, quite hands on with an Applied Learning Challenge (ALC) that was to be worked on in your own environment, with support from the group. The enhanced Leadership, Strategy and Commercial Awareness elements of the course were also areas of interest.

How did you feel at the end of day 1?
Day 1 was a big day - a lot of pre work with cases studies to review, meeting the whole group and reviewing the course itinerary for block 1. It was a lot of information to comprehend and didn’t quite sink in until I had some time to reflect; however it gave me a hunger for more!

What, if anything had changed, by the end of the three blocks?
In my opinion, my whole view on education had changed. Coming from not a particularly good educational background, I was amazed at the ‘sense of achievement’ feeling I had. I had proved to myself that I can participate and retain valuable information which gave me a greater confidence within my role. I have also asked my peers if they have seen or experienced any change, to which the feedback has been dramatic and positive.   

What did you enjoy the most?
I enjoyed the group discussion and debates and that we were all expected to perform a task out of our comfort zone, supported by constructive criticism from the group. I also enjoyed the fundamental message that was drummed across all three blocks - Be A Better You - and that you were allocated a coach to bounce ideas off and talk through progress and challenges on your Applied Learning Challenge. Group activities were also a highlight in the evening.

Have you managed to put into practice what you learnt?
I would certainly like to think so. I am extremely conscious now of slowing down and taking time to gather as much information as possible before making a better informed decision, which is more sustainable in the long term. 

Would you recommend the programme to others, and if so, why?
I would certainly recommend the programme to others as I believe it’s a better way of learning; it’s a more hands on approach as you are applying your classroom experience to a live working project. The lecturers we had during the programme were extremely knowledgeable, very friendly and teased out the best in all of the attendees. Nick Clifford, programme director, would always summarise the day or block which was very useful to check against our notes.

What is your top tip for others coming on the programme?
My top tip for anyone joining the programme would be to get involved from day 1 as you will only get out of the programme as much as you put in. Write everything down, don’t be afraid to get involved and debate what you think.

Can you sum up what you feel you’ve gained or how the programme has changed the way you work?
I feel that I have gained a huge amount of confidence during the programme and that I have confirmed to myself that the knowledge I have gathered during my career is where it needs to be. I have started taking more time to reflect and listen, which has allowed me to make better decisions. I also find myself keeping an eye on market trends and what’s happening within the Foodservice Industry and Technology. I also truly believe that I have become a better me, simply down to attending this leadership programme, which is probably the most satisfying.

I have seen a real change in Martin over the time of this programme and since completion. Martin is now seen as a go-to person by the other General Managers and has been able to support some of them with challenges in their own sites as well as keeping the status quo in his own. He has also aligned himself to strategic business projects such as Pay Simplification, giving him exposure to union negotiation. I have seen Martin become more reflective and considered in his approach since attending the programme and use his influence with his colleagues for the good of business wide improvements.

During this time of development Martin also set up the company’s first Customer Experience Centre in his site which has delivered real impactful growth for the business and is a model being copied elsewhere now due to its success.

— Candy Redfern, Head of Learning and Talent Development, Bidfood