Reading Tree

Lisa Colley, Independent Usborne Organiser


Maximising the strengths within you to build better relationships

25th February 2019

On Wednesday 20th February and Thursday 21st February, over 50 Leaders joined the Usborne Books at Home team for an inspiring two days of business development and celebration at the Heythrop Park Resort in Oxfordshire.

The focus for this season's Leadership Academy was 'maximising the strengths within you to build better relationships' - and no time was wasted! Our two day celebration kicked off with an important congratulations as every Leader was reminded of just how well they had done to achieve their place. Each Organiser then took the LA pledge, and took the first of many steps to build upon their strengths and cement their status as a brilliant Leader:

  • I will step outside my comfort zone to build better relationships throughout my business starting with the leaders in this room today
  • I will face all my fears and remember why it was so important to me that I attend this event
  • I will have lots of fun!

The fun began with a game of Human Bingo - after all, understanding others is key to building strong relationships throughout a business. With Curly Wurlys to be won, stakes were high (we were also desperate to find out who had been kissed by David Beckham!). Once the prizes had been claimed, our Leaders were asked to position themselves on a continuum line reflecting their answer to the question: how confident, on a scale of 1-10, do you presently feel about your Usborne relationships with potential recruits, team and customers, and other Organisers and Leaders? By taking the time to ask, understand and empathise, another important step was taken towards developing and strengthening our relationships.

The next session was all about coaching. Our Managing Director, Mark Franklin, Leadership and Business Development Manager, Sue Pittman, and Leadership Development Coordinator, Karen Chamberlain, expertly demonstrated the first of three 'real life' coaching conversations that took place over the course of the two days. Assigning themselves the roles of Coach, Coachee and Facilitator, the main purpose of this exercise was to showcase that it's not about being perfect, but continually adding value to our relationships by developing our skills.

After a welcomed coffee break (involving some divine homemade cookies), our Leaders split into groups of three and put their coaching skills into practise as they explored the opportunities and challenges within their online relationships. With each rotation interspersed with a stand up and shake about, Leaders had plenty of practise before a group de-brief discussing key learnings and reflections.

After a buffet lunch, the celebrations continued with a first recognition of the top ten Achievement Awards finalists. These ten deserving Organisers joined us in London on Friday for a money-can't-buy experience at Publishing House, followed by an exclusive dinner at The Ritz - congratulations to all!

In contrast to the morning's session on building online relationships, the afternoon delved into the opportunities and challenges of running an offline business. After a second coaching demo from Mark, Sue and Karen, our Leaders again assigned themselves the roles of Coach, Coachee and Facilitator and built upon their active listening skills.

The final afternoon session of the day treated our Leaders to a first glimpse of 'The Usborne Club' (or 'Project Unicorn'!): a new subscription service that delivers expertly curated books directly to the customer's door. Presented by Campaign Manager Mariesa Dulak, who very kindly joined us from Usborne Publishing in London, there was a definite buzz to be felt - we can't wait for these to start arriving on people's doorsteps!

After a fulfilling day of skills development, our evening celebrations began with a pop as our Leaders enjoyed a champagne drinks reception. We were very lucky that 14 of our 2018 Travel Incentive winners had joined us at Leadership Academy - each winner was presented with their travel booklet and Russian-themed present as they shared a top tip for achieving the criteria for the 2019 Travel Incentive. The winners left us all feeling inspired, showing our Leaders the amazing things that can be achieved with hard work and determination. A delicious three-course meal brought a fabulous day to a close.

Day two started with a cooked breakfast before we welcomed back our Leaders for a second fun-filled day of business development. Inspired by the previous night's wonderful winners of the 2018 Travel Incentive, the morning's session started with recognition of those in the running for the 2019 Travel Incentive in the wake of January's fantastic results. With continued hard work, it could be them dusting off their dancing shoes and joining us for a Cuban Carnival in 2020!

The discussion then moved to building strong World Book Day relationships. Earlier this year, our founder, Peter Usborne, proclaimed "I want us to be the saviour of school libraries". Last year, Usborne Books at Home gave away a phenomenal 300,000 books. With the aim to up this to 500,000 in 2019, Carron Charlesworth and Nicola White took to the stage to talk about how they work with schools, preschools and nurseries to run successful events.

After a third and final demo by Mark, Sue and Karen, our Leaders had the opportunity to again practise their coaching conversations, this time focusing on how their teams can maximise the World Book Day opportunity. After a group de-brief, the morning session was wrapped up with Leaders creating their own personal action plans to firm up their goals for the remainder of the season.

There was only one thing left before lunch, and that was the announcement of the winners of our Duck Award! Our Leaders were asked to nominate a fellow Leader they felt had used their strengths to build new relationships at Leadership Academy. However, there was a twist. Our Leaders were asked to reach under their chairs to find... a Little Yellow Duck! We were left feeling so inspired by ALL of our Leaders' determination to succeed that we felt everyone deserved a little something. Well done, everyone.

With a gorgeous Farmyard Tales goody bag packed full of resources to be picked up en route to a hearty lunch, excitement levels were high for the afternoon's session. We were joined by Martin Burder from The Art of Brilliance who ran a fantastic session, motivating our Leaders with an emboldening sense of their own capacity for achievement and change.

Feeling inspired as ever, our February Leadership Academy was brought to a close with our Leaders being presented with their well-earned Certificate of Achievement.

We hope that every single one of our Leaders came away feeling revitalised and invigorated to take the next steps in building their business, whatever shape that step might take.

"Can I come next time?"

Every Organiser could attend for FREE if they achieve membership of the Business Development Programme. We would love to welcome you to our next Leadership Academy event in June. To find out how you book your place, read our Business Development Programme blog or speak to your Mentor.

Tags:meetings and events