Having originally worked with communications managed service provider Eurolink Connect to develop their strategic plans and grow the business in 2015-16, Steve had kept in touch with husband and wife, MD, Derek Maddox, and his wife, Commercial Director, Claire.
So, when, in the last couple of years, they made the decision for Derek to take more of a back seat (on the golf course!) and for Claire to take over the reins, she recognised that she could benefit from some support to step into the role confidently and develop her leadership skills.
As it turned out, Spring Leadership was able to provide much more than that.
As a fast-evolving business, Eurolink Connect has experienced numerous periods of change and growth over its 22 years. Which is both exciting and challenging. But it meant a steep learning curve when Claire replaced her husband at the helm.
Having worked with Steve before Claire recognised that his experience and mentoring could be exactly what she needed: someone to challenge her, to help question her decisions and someone to act as a sounding board.
She also realised early on that there was work to be done to support the management team in meeting the needs of the changing organisation too.
How did Spring help?
Initially, it was just about Steve working with Claire in a mentoring capacity.
“I’d reflect on what had been going on in the business, how things were working, how I was interacting with the team and the size of the challenges they had going on.”
“More recently, we’ve done a whole strategic reset, building the energies back up in the business and aligning the management team. Steve suggested we bring in Corine too, to help those managers, as well as me, in heading into the next stage.”
Claire noted that it took some time to align people with the fact it was OK to take that hour or two every so often to work on themselves. It’s something we often find people struggle with. But once this was put in place at the top and there was an expectation given to managers that they would make time, the sessions began to happen, and the response was extremely positive. With managers reporting, and Claire herself noticing, an increase in confidence.
“There was one real ‘hallelujah’ moment during a conversation with Steve, when we were talking back and forth about the idea of restructuring the business.
“Previously we’d noticed a bit of ‘them and me’ challenge creeping in between the sales and support departments. So I wanted to create a different emphasis around how they worked together to give the customer the best possible experience.
“I was sceptical it would work, but in talking it through with Steve realised that I already had the right person on board. They may not be techie, but they had the right skills and experience to be able to manage this new team.
“It’s really helped us to grow up.”
One of the other things Claire found valuable was the session we ran on situational leadership. Recognising the tendency to take over a problem when one is brought to the management team, we worked with senior managers to look at different strategies for making people more accountable. Claire says it has made a huge difference.
“If a manager comes to me with a problem, whereas in the past I would have given them the whole answer, now I’ll just look at them and they’ll say, ’OK, got it’ and go away and do it themselves. Because we went through that as a shared exercise it has helped us to start challenging one another.”
And the Results?
Particularly during the last year, as businesses have necessarily seen a move towards remote working, or fluid working as Claire likes to call it. That’s meant accelerated conversations, bringing forward transformation programmes that businesses had had on the back burner, a challenge that Claire says the business was well-placed to face.
“As Steve would say, ‘we’ve got the right people on the bus and we’ve got the right people in the right seats.’
“It means we’ve actually got the people in the right positions. We’ve got energy in the business. We’ve always had a good team, and like I said to them the other day, ‘We might be on a bit of a rocky, bumpy section at the moment, but we’ll come through it.’
“We have focused on the roles and the direction where everyone is going and sharing that vision. And that’s one of the big things we’ve been working on recently. We’ve gone and set targets now and we’re really pushing them.”
“I have 100% more confidence in what I do. I have a better work life balance. Whereas I used to work on weekends or evenings, I now don’t do business work outside of business hours. I know I’ve got the team and it doesn’t have to be me. So it’s made a massive difference. I’ve become a lot more strategic and have stopped getting involved at the level where I’m running it as a small business.
“I’m now better at empowering the lovely people that work with us and using their skills and their resource, which is better for them and better for me.”
What the Client Said
“Initially I thought a mentor was a nice-to-have, something that people in big businesses could afford to do and it was a privilege. I didn’t see the value of it. But now, I would absolutely say to anybody, to any small business leader, you should make it a priority.
“You shouldn’t put yourself down the list. It’s a real business requirement.
“Steve is a true professional. He understands what we’re looking at as a business and over all it’s been really useful for the guys. I get comments from my management team saying, ‘Oh we know you’ve had a Steve conversation.’ But it is good, it just kind of refreshes things.