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Board communications, plus broader business-writing skills


In-person training and virtual one-to-one coaching


11 senior leaders and members of the executive team, with organisation-wide rollout

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'We cut the iterations on our strategy documents from 56 to just 4!'

A senior management team grew their confidence to define strategy and cut their writing process down from weeks to hours. Now they're rolling out the training to all employees, including the C-suite.

The challenge

The Mortgage Lender prides itself on offering accessible ‘real-life lending’, providing mortgages for the self-employed, entrepreneurs and help-to-buyers. However, after being bought by Shawbrook Bank in 2020, they had experienced rapid growth and wanted to ensure consistency in the language of their strategic documents.

The senior management team is responsible for positioning the company strategically, which includes collectively preparing the annual business plan. Their proposal had to communicate the team’s strategic pillars and deliverables to the executive team and to the bank’s board.

But with multiple senior managers and time-critical turnaround times, it had become a challenge to establish a cohesive collective response – especially one pitched in the right voice and at the right level for its audience.

This had led to too many rounds of time-intensive iterations – over 50 by the time the first course ran. And it was delaying the strategy getting official sign-off.

‘We were trying to get to the point where we were speaking the same language, strategically,’ says Mel Hume, Executive Business Management – CEO Office. And, really, we did know what we wanted to say – there just wasn’t a clear approach on how to say it.’

The solution

Then the company’s Chief Risk Officer, Neil Hornsby, recommended that Mel talk to Emphasis, as he had previously attended our training.

We worked with the team to plan a high-level approach focusing on their key needs. The training centred on establishing the audience and the right tone of voice, while digging into best practice and demonstrating targeted techniques to get there. The programme included a face-to-face workshop and follow-up coaching.

During the pilot course that Mel attended, trainer Doug Nel led the group in workshopping version 56 of their strategy report deck.

‘It’s really helpful that we had a document as a reference point – you weren’t just being taught theory,’ says Mel. ‘It also helped that the document meant something to all of us. There was a personal investment in it because we were all keen to deliver it.’

The results

Mel personally experienced a before-and-after effect from the training. And she wasn’t the only one to notice a change.

‘After I wrote one new piece, Neil messaged me and said, “You’ve done the course,”‘ says Mel. ‘As someone who has been copywriting for some time, I was mortified he could tell the difference! But I took it as such a good thing – that it was noticeable.’

The individual impact was palpable, but could the team see the same effect on a strategy document that had taken over 50 iterations to complete?

‘When we came out of the session, we said “Right, we’re going to approach this again.” We were on a roll,’ says Mel. ‘And suddenly we were all approaching it in the same way, saying, “Take that – move that there. Tell a story. Shift that. Bullet point that. We revised the deck in about an hour afterwards.

‘And it wasn’t only using the tools from the course. It was the confidence we now had to get the point across without talking more. It was so powerful for us,’ says Mel.

The rewritten version took just four iterations.

‘We nailed it. The report was met with “Thank you, yes – it looks good.” And it’s had a huge ripple effect on the amount of time that people are having to set aside. That has an impact because you’ve only got so many hours in your day.

Now the Mortgage Lender has committed to training all staff, including business development managers and the C-suite themselves.

‘You’re not going to get anyone that’s a bigger fan than us. We all said to Peter, the CEO, “We all need to do it: the whole company,”‘ says Mel. ‘And it starts with the top.’

'It's had a huge ripple effect on the amount of time that people are having to set aside. That has an impact: you've only got so many hours in your day.'

Mel Hume, Executive Business Management – CEO Office, The Mortgage Lender

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