27 March 2018

In-house leadership seeds

It’s a busy Thursday morning at UK Power Networks’ office, in Southwark, South London. The meeting room on the top floor, from where you can spot the London Eye on the horizon, is filled with chatter, with people sitting in small groups around the U-shaped table. There’s no room for idleness. Keeping the lights on in London is a dynamic job, especially when you share your organisation’s unwavering ambition to remain a top electricity distributor.

UK Power Networks is all about people; whether that’s customers, colleagues or contractors. Recently featured in the Sunday Times as one of the Top 25 Best Big Companies to work for, and the proud winner of an ‘Investors in People’ Gold accreditation, they know that excel-lent customer service can only be provided by excellently trained employees.

Today’s session is part of the Future Leaders programme which the power firm runs in-house. Now in its third consecutive year, the bespoke programme is accredited by ILM; on completion successful participants are awarded an ILM Level 5 in Leadership and Management. Gathered in groups of four to five people, the learners are preparing their briefs for the executive team, to whom they will present new solutions to the challenges the organisation is facing: how they are going to bring the vision and mission to life and how to ensure they are minimising their environmental impact are just a few of the topics. 


Future Leaders teams preparing for their presentation

We wanted to find out how this course has changed their perception on leadership and management, and how it is having an impact on the workplace.

Good leaders are spending quality time with their teams

Matt White - Lead Power System Development Engineer, Smart Grid Development is currently leading a team of three people. Since the beginning of his career in the industry back in 2006, Matt has spent time in a number of roles within UK Power Networks and has been trained and worked in both operational and planning environments. He was part of the inaugural UK Power Networks Engineering Development Programme, where he also attained a degree in Power Distribution Engineering, before going on to receive the Engineer of the Year Award in 2015 in his role as a network planner. 

End Point Assessment grading

“For me leadership is about inspiring your team, encouraging their development, listening and understanding their needs alongside those of the business. I think a true leader should be approachable and look to build strong relationships within the team. Setting clear objectives and working collaboratively together is essential to getting the best outcomes for both the team and the business”.

Throughout the Future Leaders programme, Matt has been able to reflect on areas that he identifies as requiring further work. “So far, the course has reinforced what I knew about the areas that I need to further develop in, such as delegation and time management. I need to ensure that I am spending the right amount of time both planning work and managing my team. In terms of some of the more strategic learning, the course has helped me improve the way I analyse projects, looking at all the key elements from political, commercial and technical standpoints,” adds Matt.

Your people are key to the solution

Lynne McDonald, Programme Manager - Distribution System Operator, was also awarded the Engineer of the Year Award back in 2016. Lynne started her career with UK Power Net-works through their internal graduate scheme in 2011 and has continued to build on her engineering skills while focusing on developing her leadership and management capabilities.


“I believe it’s essential for a leader to be fair and supportive. They have to ensure that they are bringing out the best in the team, by setting clear directions and empowering their team to do the best job that they can. I believe passion is the most important asset of a leader – it’s contagious and motivates people to get involved and go the extra mile - and ignites creativity.”

During the Future Leaders programme Lynne has had a chance to reflect on the challenges leaders are facing. “I can be highly critical and analytical of myself. The course has taught me how to reflect on that, but also not to focus on the negative aspects. First and foremost, I’ve learnt practical tools to support my project work, which gave me the mechanism to clearly articulate some of my team’s professional needs. When you’re embarking on any major business change like our smart grid work, it’s vital to empower your team so that they feel part of the solution and want to come on the journey with you. What I’ve learnt throughout the course is to actively listen, to take feedback on-board and co-design solutions”.

Future-proofing with leadership training

Sarah Porcelli, Head of Learning and Development at UK Power Networks, reflected on the importance of leadership and management training for a company and why they chose ILM to be their partner.

Leaders create the culture of an organisation, they are the cogs of the whole business mechanism and it’s very important to develop tomorrow’s generation of leaders who will set the tone. I believe very strongly in developing at the grassroots levels – we need to give people the skills they need as they progress towards their career as a leader within UK Power Networks. Over 70% of our previous graduates from the programme are now in a more senior role or have increased responsibilities. Through our high potential programme, Future Leaders, we ensure we are able to retain our bright sparks, by providing them with development opportunities and a range of different experiences. We also ensure we have the right skills to meet our organisation’s vision.

When it came to selecting a partner for their in-house leadership programme, Sarah says that it was all about providing good quality benchmarking for the employees.

We develop programmes internally but we would like them to be on the same level as the external ones. So it was very important to our employees to have an ILM’s qualification attached to our internal certification. This gives people the indisputable proof that our training is quality-assured. We were impressed by ILM’s standard – from the research we conducted, we felt it was the most robust in the market; and collaborating with them was brilliant, they are very responsive. In terms of ILM’s qualifications, measures, benchmarking data and the support offered - we felt that ILM was the right partner for us.


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