“Our third annual LA Challenge event attracted 16 teams of talented individuals from authorities and partner organisations across the region to what turned out to be a great day at the Molineux Stadium.
“An element of our contribution to building a stronger public sector workforce, the LA Challenge provides an excellent opportunity for participants to experience the highs and lows of leading and being part a Council Management Team. Whilst the learning takes place in a simulated environment, the pressure is real and the experience invaluable in developing understanding of the challenges of executive leadership and building confidence to make the next career step.
“The acid test of added value is that we can identify participants from previous years who have used their LAC experience as a springboard to move into senior management roles.
“Whilst the event is all about the participating teams, I must acknowledge the skilled event management of our partners at Breckland Training, the efforts of all of the fantastic role-playing volunteers and all of the team here at WME who as ever, make things happen.”
So what did this year’s winners get out of the LA Challenge?
“The LA Challenge creates the perfect platform for council staff to step up and take on a senior leadership role during a demanding, high-pressured situation.
“Rugby Borough Council has entered a team into the challenge for the past three years. It’s a perfect fit for the council’s corporate values, which include commitments to support staff development, work together to achieve common goals, and be creative and flexible when delivering services.
“For many staff, working at a council can be a ‘goldfish bowl’ experience. A member of the finance team may never cross paths with a planning officer. IT staff and housing officers can pass each other like ships in the night.
“The LA Challenge not only brings staff from different council departments together to work as a team, but also encourages staff to look beyond the confines of the goldfish bowl and grasp the bigger picture of managing the wide range of departments which deliver a council’s services.
“Rugby’s winning team comprised Lee Clark (Estates Management Team Leader), Mike Connell (Senior ICT Officer), Katherine Stone (Local Land Charges Officer), Lynsey Parkinson (Technical Accountant), Lynda Carter (Visitor Centre Assistant), and Sophie Leaning (Senior Planning Officer).
“For Sophie, the LA Challenge was in stark contrast to her role in the council’s development strategy team:
“Day-to-day I work in a very calm, measured environment, so the opportunity to work in a fast-paced situation and be able to think on my feet was great.
I loved the creative nature of the challenge, having the freedom to come up with solutions to problems we do not usually encounter at work.”
“As a relative newcomer to the council, self-confessed extrovert Mike Connell signed up for the challenge to work with colleagues from other departments
“I wanted to do my bit to break the stigma of uncooperative and insular IT departments. What I enjoyed most about the challenge was the team spirit, which ultimately powered us through to win.”
“Winning the LA Challenge has done wonders for the self-confidence of all the team but, for Mike, it also brought a new appreciation of senior management.
“I now have a far greater understanding of the kinds of pressures senior management teams have to deal with and the importance of keeping a strategic vision when 90 per cent of the people you deal with focus on operational details. I had never considered a senior management role a career ambition before taking part in the challenge, but it’s now a level I aspire to.” – Mike Connell
Communications, Consultation and Information Officer
The GC Index were a key sponsor on the day and here Vicki Sleight discusses what she believes is the value of an enhanced package:
“Those teams that used The GC Index® framework to identify how they make their impact were able to allocate roles and build trust quickly, which improved the team-working process. It was amazing to see the positive impact this had on relationships and the way the teams functioned.
“They were able to put aside any pre-conceived ideas about their role in the team or what they ‘should’ each do and instead focus on where they will make the biggest impact.
“Exploring the impact they could make as an individual and team also enabled them to prioritise tasks effectively.”
Chief Play Maker, The GC Index
The LA Challenge could not be delivered without the support of our volunteers. We spoke to Councillor Val Gibson about what she got out of volunteering:
“I chose to get involved in this year LA Challenge for a number of reasons; As a new member of the WME management board I had heard about the Challenge and wanted to represent the City of Wolverhampton Council as last year’s winners. Not to mention that I jumped at the chance to give something back and help on the day as it was key for the participants to have real politicians on hand. Furthermore, I was interested to see what I could learn from others.
“The Challenge far surpassed my expectations and I enjoyed taking part. The highlight for me personally was meeting new people and witnessing first-hand how the officer roles interacted with senior councillors. The role-playing aspect was interesting as I gained a different perspective when playing the leader of the council.
“I would recommend others to take part in the LA Challenge as a volunteer as I gained a lot from the day. One of the key benefits for me was watching how the teams interacted. It was easy to spot potential future leaders. The theme for the day was making cuts to keep within budget for the coming year. I came away from the event filled with ideas on how to tackle budget issues within my own council as the participants came up with some very good ideas.
“Equally, I think the value that the LA Challenge has on participating organisations and employees is clear. Firstly, the event is crucial to developing our future leaders and supporting them to learn more about management positions in a comfortable and encouraging environment.
“I believe the day also helps to build people’s confidence. An employee from my own council, Ellie Griffiths took part on the day and was thrilled to win the award for Most Valued Player. Although it was well deserved, Ellie was still shocked to have won. I can see the difference that this has had on her confidence already.
“Other key benefits of attending include strengthening team building skills, giving participants experience of working with politicians and effectively communicating with the media.
“All in all, I think the LA Challenge was a fantastic event with benefits for all attending. I would encourage everyone to offer their help.”
Councillor Val Gibson
City of Wolverhampton Council
And finally, Richard Wills from Breckland gives his view:
“What a huge joy and privilege it was to deliver our Local Authority Challenge© for WME once again. Believe it or not, the challenge has now been delivered to over 1000 different competitors from local authorities, charities, emergency services and other public sector organisations from all over the country.
“As always we witnessed individuals grow with confidence as the day progressed; we also witnessed teams discovering the importance of partnership working as the minutes ticked by. The power of simulation learning is always clear to see, and I’m delighted that participating organisations get so much reward from the event.
“I am really proud of our fabulous partnership with WME which gets stronger and stronger. We are lucky to have found a delivery partner that is ultra-creative and 100% supportive.
“I’d like to give huge congratulations go to the teams and individuals who walked away with an award on the day, especially Rugby Borough Council who prised the trophy away from two-time winners Wolverhampton; that’s no mean feat!
“The evidence following the Local Authority Challenge© 2018 points to the region’s future being in great shape. See you in 2019!”
MD, Breckland Training Services
Each year the LA Challenge raises money for a local charity, and this year we were pleased to have raised £5000 for Severn Hospice, with the City of Wolverhampton Council winning the best fundraising award.
We are pleased to announce that next year’s Challenge will take place on the 27th September 2019 and we are already taking bookings. If you are keen to ensure your team gets a spot, then we recommend contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and securing what was this year’s early bird deal of £1,350 (standard) and £2,475 (enhanced) which will be available until the 31st March 2019 (as fees will be increasing come next year). Likewise, if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer then let us know.
LA Challenge 2018 Winners:
Rugby Borough Council
Best Chief Executive Award:
Staffordshire County Council
Best Media Award:
Dudley Metropolitan Council
Best Partnership Award:
Malvern District Council
Best Presentation Award:
Rugby Borough Council
Most Valued Player:
City of Wolverhampton Council
Best Fundraising Award:
City of Wolverhampton Council