Alliance Manchester Business School - AMBS

Rob Finney’s experience

Chief Operating Officer, Tristone Healthcare Ltd

Senior Leader Apprenticeship: MSc Management Practice

The Senior Leader Apprenticeship Programme, MSc Management Practice was a part-time, blended learning Master’s focused on strategic learning development. 

Our Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme has undergone a recent redesign and course content is now more closely aligned with the knowledge, skills, and behaviours required for a senior leader apprenticeship award.

The newly developed, 18-month Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme, including a Postgraduate Diploma in Senior Leadership focuses on strategic leadership development and provides aspiring senior leaders with new knowledge and skills to advance their career.

The MSc is now only available as a top-up (paid for by the learner or their employer) to our Senior Leader Apprenticeship Postgraduate Diploma Senior Leadership, which is up to 100% fully funded through the Apprenticeship Levy.

Can you provide a brief summary of your background and current role?

I am the Chief Operating Officer of Tristone Healthcare Ltd. We are an investment company specialising in the investment and operation of specialist social care services. I am a social worker by background and have been in the industry for nearly thirty years. Our focus at Tristone Healthcare is very much on providing outstanding care to the most vulnerable individuals in society. We have grown from a new start business six years ago, to now caring for over 200 children and adults throughout the UK, with 700 colleagues. 

What were your motivations for joining the Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme?

I had been an operational manager for over 20 years but as our business grew and we acquired seven new businesses, I recognised that my leadership knowledge and practice was more instinctive rather than based on solid research. This led to a degree of imposter syndrome, particularly as I became responsible for supporting a number of very experienced Managing Directors.

I had also been out of education for over 20 years, and never got a first degree. My children were at the age where they were completing degrees, and indeed Masters degrees, so I was keen to challenge myself.

Were there any challenges that you were facing in your role that you hoped the programme would help you to overcome?

I was delivering management training to colleagues and serving on a number of boards, setting strategies for developing businesses. Helping colleagues to set that strategy and go through growth cycles became a clear part of my remit. I am a trained social worker but hadn’t undertaken any formal management training, at least not more than basic operational management. The Masters element was an opportunity to research a number of strategic leadership and management issues and apply them to my own business setting. 

Did you have any initial fears about joining the programme?

Absolutely. Mostly that I would not have the academic ability to complete the programme. In reality, it got much easier with practice and I saw better results as I got support and feedback. I was absolutely thrilled to finish with a merit. I also worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to complete the programme. This was a real challenge, and I did take a break for three months, but caught this up so that I could complete the programme on time. It was hard work, but well worth it.

To what extent do you think the Senior Leader apprenticeship programme enhanced your working practice?

Being able to understand a wider variety of leadership issues and reflect on my own leadership journey and style was invaluable.

Which aspects of the Senior Leader apprenticeship do you use most in your work?

Exploring different aspects of business strategy has been most useful. It has helped me to be a more productive and informed board member. I have used multiple aspects of my learning to develop training programmes for our leaders.

How have you applied your learning?

What was particularly useful was being able to use the content to develop training for managers and to use the research undertaken to improve management practice across the group. I have also used this research to inform practice papers that have been used in the trade press. 

In particular, I found it useful to develop materials and research in market-led strategy, to run management workshops on business strategy for our leadership community. This has given them the impetus and direction to reflect on their strategic aims to further give a competitive advantage.

What is the most positive impact your apprenticeship had for you?

It has certainly helped with the imposter syndrome. I feel more informed and able to contribute to the development of our business. It has also helped me develop an academic rigour that I did not have before. I find that I can now assimilate larger degrees of information more effectively.

What is the most positive impact your apprenticeship had for your organisation?

In particular, I concentrated my research on the use of emotional intelligence in leadership. I tried to anchor all of my work back to exploring what kind of leader is needed in social care settings. This has developed ideas around psychological safety and creative conflict which has underpinned our policy framework, as well as leadership development efforts. The programme has underpinned and strengthened our business ethical framework.  

What advice would you give someone looking to start the Senior Leader Apprenticeship?

If you are ready to develop your strategic thinking, don’t let a lack of confidence get in your way. Most people on the course will be thinking the same way. You will develop together. It will be hard work, it’s not a small undertaking, but like all things that you work hard for, the rewards are really worth it.

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Being able to understand a wider variety of leadership issues and reflect on my own leadership journey and style was invaluable.

Rob Finney, Chief Operating Officer, Tristone Healthcare Ltd

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