5 Minutes with Our Founder - Philippa

For our third 'Five Minutes with.....' feature, we sat down with Philippa Thomas, our founder to find out (amongst other things) what inspired her to start the company.

by Emma Bond 0 Management Development
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Philippa, as a Principal Learning Consultant and Founder, what originally drove you to set up Skills Shift? 
In my earlier career, I earned a track record for turning businesses around and delivering sustainable growth in sales and profits. I know what it feels like to be at the sharp end as a manager, facing major and disruptive changes ushered in by events beyond your control (e.g. a business takeover, economic recession, organisational re-structure) yet still having to get the very best out of your people to not only survive the tough times, but thrive. These experiences have given me deep insights into what organisations and their managers really deserve from their investments in management training. It’s so important that development programmes deliver solutions to the real (rather than theoretical) challenges that organisations are facing and help managers identify and implement solutions which will have the best impact in the short, medium and longer term. This means ensuring training content is targeted at improving managers' abilities to get the very best out of their teams, under often extreme pressure. It also means ensuring the training is facilitated by consultants who, as well as being experts in learning, have real world business experience at senior managerial levels under their belts. 

What do you think Skills Shift does best?
Our customers say that what we do best is creating flexible, targeted, cost-effective management training programmes that go on to make a measurable contribution to our their business results. And I'm delighted to say that they think we’re really nice people to work with too!

When it comes to identifying management development requirements and creating a development programme, what advice would you offer to in-house L & D teams?
The starting point should always be in getting a good, well-rounded understanding of the requirement. Don’t just think “we need to put together a management training course” then immediately dive into planning the content. Get to know what the business really needs its managers to deliver and why, what managers currently do well and where their skills might need to improve. As well as speaking to the senior sponsors, try to obtain some objective data to back up your research e.g. sales and customer feedback trends; staff retention rates; themes from recent performance reviews; and….what are people talking about by the water coolers! Once you have this information you will be able to create meaningful goals and objectives, then decide how you can achieve them. Rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach, you could use a combination of in-house workshops, eLearning, line manager coaching, then engage an external provider for key elements, where you feel there’d be a clear benefit in doing so.
What do you think is the 'new' hot topic in management development?
We always have a healthy scepticism of the latest “fads”! In our programmes, we therefore use a core of proven best practice models and frameworks, which are easy to understand and apply, and which achieve often spectacular results for our customers. These models and frameworks are of course continuously evolving, but the core concepts stay unchanged and true. However, there are two topics which are gaining significant traction at the moment: developmental coaching and emotional intelligence. Both topics feature heavily in our programmes and are making major contributions to building a motivational, high performance cultures in the organisations with whom we work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love that every day I get the opportunity to work with amazing people, whether it’s customers who are committed to using learning to drive their organisation forward, or inspiring consultants – in the UK, Europe, USA or Australia - who are just bubbling with innovative ideas for developing our customers' managers.

What has been the strangest/funniest thing to have happened to you while at work?
Gosh…..loads over the years and some not repeatable I’m afraid! Most recently, I visited a cocktail bar in London City one evening with friends. It was styled as a speakeasy with a secret entrance through a SMEG fridge in a diner. Imagine my surprise when I realised it was actually the basement of somewhere I used to work! The basement of this training centre used to be filled with training materials, IT equipment and spares, and it used to flood fairly regularly too, meaning it usually had a rather unpleasant smell. Now, it’s a very trendy bar filled with young hipsters. How times change!

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