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Stories of Success During COVID-19

Dec 10th 2020

Here we share some stories from our Wavelength alumni and eco-system of success despite the many challenges that Covid-19 has presented!

2020 has been a tough year but as it comes to a close we wanted to bring a bit of happiness by sharing some stories from our Wavelength alumni and eco-system of success despite it all!

A+E Networks

Our final story comes from Karl Burnett, VP Human Resources at A+E Networks and a Wavelength Connect 2012 Alumnus. He shares how the Black Lives Matter movement was the catalyst for the launch of a new Employee Resource Group, BELONG.

Karl tells us: “On the back of Black Lives Matter, a number of our employees across our EMEA regions came together and organised themselves with enormous success. The video below describes it nicely.”

Karl writes: “I believe the BELONG initiative is of particular note for three reasons: 1. It demonstrates that at A+E Networks we walk the walk when it comes to diversity. We already have terrific representation…

24% BAME versus 13% industry average; 23% BAME Leadership versus 8% industry average; Women well represented at senior management (45%) and middle management (53%).

… but this turns our attention to Inclusion and Belonging and challenges us to work even harder to ensure that everyone has equal voice.

2. This was entirely driven by individuals as opposed to some sort of Management/HR initiative. It demonstrates a truly empowered workforce able to set their own agenda and make change happen.

3. To achieve such impact during lockdown and whilst remote working was incredible. The BELONG group managed to ‘create a buzz around the office’ without being in the office!”

We love this example of how an organisation was open to the tough conversations about Black Lives Matter and, instead of only celebrating its existing success, challenged itself to do even better.

Tate & Lyle

“Creating Our Own Future.” We’ve questioned everything and learnt massively during our lockdown experiences.

Laura Hagan, Chief HR Officer at Tate & Lyle, and long-term member of the Wavelength eco-system, reveals how they are honestly canvassing and sharing their employees experiences and using what they find to build back better.

Laura writes: “We put people first – and everything else followed. If you look after people, the magic of creating something special (and commercial success) follows. The future of work – like the future of everything right now – is perhaps uncertain. But, whilst the pandemic experience has challenged us in many ways, it’s also given us an opportunity to change work for the better and the confidence to make early and quick decisions. We continue to ask our colleagues around the world to tell us what they want to keep and what they can’t wait to move on from!

This is what they shared:


1. Focus on outcomes over time spent ‘in the office’. Our people have produced great work and are more connected than when they were in the office all the time…

2. More open and compassionate leadership – embracing mental and emotional health, feeling safe and accepted, able to express without concern.

3. Fewer visitors means fewer distractions 
in our plants and labs. Some great innovation happens when the world outside goes away!

4. Many of our wonderful people have always worked at home – they feel more included and understood now.


1. All day spent on screen on Teams. It’s draining and intense.

2. No need for a ‘them or us’ culture – those in plants/ labs / those at home – let’s work out a way for all.

3. Some things work so much better in person – relationships for new people, developing less experienced talent, spontaneous creative moments and sparks.

4. Feeling isolated. We like each other at a personal level, we want to meet, connect and hug.”

I suspect we’ve all encountered these highs and lows over the last ten months – organisations that face those insights head on will be the ones who create successful post-pandemic cultures and hybrid ways of working.

Hospitals Foundation Trust

Steve McGuirk is, amongst a number of other roles, Chair of The Hospitals Foundation Trust, which oversees the Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals in Cheshire, and a Wavelength Connect 2011 Alumnus. He shared with us an inspiring story of award-winning innovation during COVID-19 that has successfully saved lives.

One of the hospital’s consultants said they had started from “ground zero” in how to manage the pandemic in Cheshire. Dr Mark Forrest told Sky News: “We watched very closely what was happening in other countries, in particular Italy, and learned from them.” He said their small team of seven consultants and their respiratory colleagues quickly realised the ventilators were not the “magic bullet solution” to COVID-19.

Instead the medics from across different departments at the hospitals successfully cut mortality rates and improved chances of a quicker recovery through iterative innovation. They worked to adapt breathing machines usually used for sleep apnoea – a condition where you stop breathing during sleep.

The clinicians say that treating COVID-19 patients early with their ‘black boxes’ has meant there has been less need for the more intrusive and invasive ventilators and that their patients have experienced a far quicker recovery rate from the virus.

Dr Mithun Murthy from hospital’s respiratory department believes the adaption of the simple device had probably been responsible for changing the lives and the medical outcome for hundreds of COVID-19 patients who’d passed through Warrington Hospital.

Steve is really proud to share that The Hospital Foundation Trust recently came first in the ‘Innovation in Adversity’ category at the London Business School’s Real Innovation Awards ceremony.

Congratulations to all involved.


Coventry Building Society

“A new CEO in a pandemic… I could write my own book!” Steve Hughes, newly appointed CEO of Coventry Building Society and Wavelength Connect 2019 Alumnus shares what he did to become visible and build networks despite lockdown.

“The first six months are a pretty critical time for a new Chief Executive. The need to get to know your new organisation, the culture, the values and find out what’s really going on. Engage the new team but assess capabilities too. Gain the trust and support of the frontline teams, the Board and everyone in between, and lay out your vision and expectations for the future.

Now do that when you can’t meet anybody face-to-face and your new team are working from home.

I joined Coventry Building Society as CEO on 20 April, 2020, a month into the first nation-wide lockdown in the UK. I absolutely believe a leader should be visible and take time to talk and listen to customers and colleagues alike. It’s my natural style to lead by walking around and I was champing at the bit to get going. Leaders are also role models and I knew my behaviour was critical in embedding the right attitudes and behaviours through this challenging time.

The answer proved to be a massive programme of virtual meetings. Initially introducing myself, what makes me tick, what people can expect from me and what I want from them. But also what mattered to them. What they loved about the Society and what they thought we should do differently. I talked to small teams and large functions. I ‘visited’ every one of our branches, our call centres and fulfilment centres and held talkback sessions with our members all over Zoom Everyone had the opportunity to see me and tell me what they think. It was exhausting but brilliant too. I think I ‘met’ more people, more quickly than I would under normal circumstances, and these conversations not only helped my thinking they also were a catalyst for the change I needed to bring.

The six months ended with a six week strategic communication of a refreshed purpose, values and strategic ambition – a North Star for the business which has landed fantastically well. The Society, like the country as a whole is in the middle of this challenging health, human and economic crisis. My colleagues have welcomed me in, absorbed a message of change and embraced it with real energy and passion. There’s a lot to do and deliver but we are well set for the future.”

NBC Universal

We love these two examples of finding the positive in our new, suddenly virtual and often isolating world as colleagues at NBC Universal separately told us the same story from their different perspectives. And there’s a great example of the impact of truly thoughtful personal leadership in here too.

First up, Julie Quirke, Commercial Director, and Wavelength Connect 2020 Alumnus, told us:

“In our Brand Development division, our EMEA VP, Paul Bufton enhanced our corporate culture of openness and feedback, setting up regular team virtual team calls that fostered a strong sense of our place within the wider organisation and our sense of purpose to maintain business momentum. The ‘Connect’ meetings that Paul set up were a catalyst of positive team culture, delivering a clear business objective, fresh perspective and also a platform for individuals from every level in the team to showcase best practice. It was an important moment that allowed a collective team celebration of an individuals’ success and a foundational element that has bound the team more strongly in our virtual world.”

Meanwhile, Paul Bufton (Wavelength Connect 2017 Alumnus) himself shared:

“Firstly, as one of only two members of the exec team based outside of LA, I never underestimated the challenge of getting my point across in the weekly staff meeting on the end of a VC line. Despite all of the wonders of modern technology, not being physically present in the room felt like I was at a disadvantage. In the face of Covid and as everyone pivoted to remote working, with Microsoft Teams becoming a common venue for everyone, I definitely felt a stronger sense of connection and a better dialogue. Secondly, in the absence of being able to pop over to someone’s desk to thank them for a job well done, I’ve started setting up a quick 15min call to connect with them and express my thanks. I’ve also used the time to gather insights from team members who I wouldn’t normally speak to and it’s been really rewarding!”

As Julie sums up: “It is testament to Paul’s leadership that a great team spirit and sense of purpose has endured through a time that has had no reference points. As a result, we have greater resilience to face the challenges ahead and confidence as a team to deliver on our business objectives.”

Jaguar Land Rover

Here is a reminder from Margaret Beever, Senior Purchase Manager at Jaguar Land Rover and Wavelength Connect 2018 Alumnus, of the herculean – and hugely successful – effort so many organisations went through to move entire workforces to ‘at home, working’ as the UK went into its first lockdown in March.

“Flexible working has significantly changed, I believe that we have been forced to jump forward years in terms of how we approach work. If someone had said in January ‘move your entire workforce on-line by April, work round people having to manage school work for their children at home, and on-board and train people without physically seeing them’ I am sure most of us would have said impossible. But that is what we did, and did it successfully. We now manage what people do, not how they do it.”

What a great lesson in leadership and the art of the (im)possible! And we love this great photo of Margaret at a socially distanced management meeting!