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Business & Economy

Leading from the front

A robust management framework is fundamental to business success, and a joint venture launched by specialist recruitment and outsourced talent services partner Jackson Hogg, alongside The Experience Bank Group founder and director Peter Neal, is helping firms achieve just that. The venture, known as Future Leader Peer Groups, is bolstering existing bosses’ insight while laying the foundations to create more dynamic senior figures. Here, Steven Hugill finds out more.


Leadership is many things, not least a word whose ten letters belie its multifariousness.

From the plethora of books on the subject, to the abundance of management courses and online self-help guides, long has been the journey to sculpt bosses into all-round leaders.

But in a business world where great challenge springs eternal, such touchpoints – and their chapters, buzz-phrases and generic case studies – provide only limited benefit.

Step forward then, Future Leader Peer Groups.

Aimed primarily at managers within SMEs, and launched as a joint venture by specialist recruitment and outsourced talent services partner Jackson Hogg, alongside The Experience Bank Group founder and director Peter Neal, the endeavour cuts through the formulaic with a newfound freshness.

Through knowledge sharing and collaboration across real-world, multi-sector situations with like-minded managers in monthly meetings, participants – guided by expert coaches – find solutions to problems that lay foundations for watershed workplace evolution.

Inspired by his previous conception of a peer group to support non-executive directors and board advisors, and past involvement in classes delivered by global coaching organisation Vistage, Peter says the alliance marks a step-change in leadership development.

He says: “By bringing people together, who have no formal accountability to, or interactions with, each other, it is possible to create deep learnings that wouldn’t otherwise be attainable. 

“Working with fellow leaders and managers is an effective way to share knowledge, find solutions to common challenges and explore ideas you may never have considered.”

And such is the breadth of industries, and therefore sectoral tribulations, represented by participants, Peter says those involved glean a wealth of advantages.

He says: “There are a number of growth areas, from emotional intelligence to personality and perception, culture and diversity, imposter syndrome and defence mechanisms.

“It’s the same with business topics; from strategic thinking to innovation tools and techniques, managing change, cultural and employee engagement, corporate storytelling and project management.

“The whole gamut comes into play over the course of a year.

“A group member or the meeting chair will raise an issue, and another member will think, ‘that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to deal with – I just didn’t think of it in that way!’

“And that creates a real ripple effect because a managers’ growth undoubtedly drives the growth of those – and the wider business –  around them.”

A key facet of the venture, which is endorsed by Newcastle-based education qualifications body NCFE, is its structured, yet completely flexible, curriculum.

And this malleability, says Fern Couchman, Jackson Hogg recruitment director, allied to the open-ended nature of its delivery, provides a real draw, with participants able to work on unique situations, rather than contrived, textbook-based scenarios.

She says: “To be able to unpack day-to-day issues alongside people who have different perspectives, from different industries and backgrounds, is a real USP.

“A lot of training is pre-set and straight from a box, but what we’re doing is active learning in the moment. 

“Our consultants are meeting clients in the marketplace every day, and because we have such good relationships with them, they’re comfortable in telling us about the difficulties they’re facing.

“And from that, there has been real hunger for what we’re doing with Future Leader Peer Groups.

“It is great to be able to tell clients we’ve got a fantastic new offering that allows them to invest in their people in a different way, all while gaining tangible results.”

Peter too says the venture, which begins with a free, three-hour taster session in Jackson Hogg’s Wallsend-based Cobalt Business Exchange offices, holds much value for firms in their ever-increasing battle to find and retain staff.

He says: “The peer groups are very important in accelerating the development of middle managers, who companies see as having potential to become senior leadership team members.

“And it’s the same with what I call ‘accidental managers’, those who are promoted for being very good at their job, but who haven’t been taught the skills to be a good team leader.

“By placing these individuals within peer groups, it drives engagement and, importantly too, loyalty.”

Peter adds: “Ultimately, it is all about making people the best versions of themselves, who are living life deliberately and fulfilling their potential.

“By investing in your managers, you turn them from good into brilliant.

“And by doing that, businesses continue to grow.”