I’d heard great things about the Common Purpose Leadership Programme. In fact, it was often highlighted by previous BYPY winners as one of the most valuable experiences of their careers. I was, however, relatively unaware of the specifics of the programme and unsure what I was going to gain from it. Having run my own marketing agency from the age of 22, I had learned how to manage relationships and lead a team and I read a lot about personal improvement. I joined the programme with an open mind, ready to learn.

One exercise we practiced regularly on the course was where a group of 5-6 course members would sit round a table and each put forward a challenge they were facing within their business or career. After outlining the challenge and the background, the other members of the group would each ask questions. The rules were simple: only ask questions, no advice, no statements, and no guidance. The group coaching style of this was really helpful to me and the other participants. It works on the premise that the answer is within you; you know what to do, it just needs coaching out of you. Furthermore, if someone has arrived at the solution themselves, the solution is ‘owned’ and more likely to happen.

I now practice this technique with friends deciding where to take their career or team members approaching me with a challenge of their own. It has been invaluable in growing my business and ensuring the people working within it come up with their own solutions, which they are motivated to follow through.

Within the Navigator course participants take part in ‘Raids’, where we visited an organisation and come up with solutions for their challenges. I visited Agape on Newhall Street, Birmingham, met the team and learned of their business plans. Because Common Purpose sticks to the Chatham House Rule I can’t tell you anything about our discussions, but I can say that the problem-solving focus, whether applied to my own business or to another, helped develop my skills in always looking for solutions rather than obstacles.

Meeting a range of different business professionals, both fellow course participants and those invited to speak or run a session, opened my eyes to the range of leadership styles one can adopt. I definitely didn’t agree with everyone’s opinion, and couldn’t see some ways of working to be beneficial to JC Social Media, but forming the opinions helped me to define where my own leadership style sat among these examples.

I found a particular ‘values’ exercise useful in further defining this, where we were asked to list three people who we admire and three people who we didn’t like. We were then asked to write down the characteristics of those six people. It soon became apparent that those people we admire hold characteristics that we value and look to emulate, and those people we don’t like hold characteristics and display behaviour that we see as undesirable. I noticed that the three people I listed as not liking are known for being extravagant, showy and materialistic – personality traits I don’t look to emulate and don’t respect. Having a strong set of core values is important to any business and I can see future participants getting a lot out of this particular exercise.

I would recommend the course for leaders in any sector who are looking to hone their skills, progress and empower their team members and develop their networks. My advice to future participants is: go on the course with an open mind, no pre-conceptions, and no superiority. Turn your out of office on and put your phone on airplane mode so that you can be fully present and not distracted.

Being able to inspire just one member of staff to excel or secure one new client off the back of great leadership would make any course worthwhile. I’ve found that some of the things I learned with Common Purpose have made me a more effective leader both in my own business and as an ambassador for the sectors and city that I represent.