The Impact of Wavelength Connect 2021 & 2022

Researched and written by Helen Trevaskis

The Impact of Wavelength Connect

As a purpose-led business, at Wavelength we are serious about the impact we have on the leaders and organisations we work with, their sectors, and the world. This is why each year we measure the performance of the previous year’s programme, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to hold ourselves to account and to help explain to future clients Why Connect? given there’s no shortage of leadership courses, MBAs, and curriculums available.

Below is learning from research with our 2021 and 2022 members, designed to show what leaders have done with Connect and what Connect has done to them. It was gathered through an anonymous on-line survey that went out to all members in each cohort and 10 in-depth interviews conducted across the two years. These took place several months after the programme had ended to ensure we were hearing about actions not intentions.

These findings are divided into three chunks:

3. Behind the Numbers

A qualitative view of how Connect helps leaders learn and develop:
– Connect with your story
– Connect with the big P and the small p
– Connect with the wider world
– Harness the power of connection
– Connect with what you can do

Find out more

What is Wavelength Connect?

Wavelength Connect is a unique executive education and leadership development programme focused on the theme of The Future of Business. Each year we bring together a cohort of 60 leaders from sectors that do not normally interact and provide access to a global array of the most admired, successful, and innovative companies, leaders and thinkers.

Across this nine-month, in-person, experiential programme of Events, Behind the Brand visits, Peer Working Groups and Executive Coaching, we immerse leaders in four key themes:

Global Perspectives on Innovation & Agility
Culture & Future Workforce
The Responsible Organisation
Personal Leadership

Together each cohort of leaders explore the opportunities and challenges they face within the business landscape, seeking insights and lessons to inspire action in their organisations and sectors. Along the way, we encourage and inspire leaders to build better networks, to support and serve their leadership now and in the future.

1. Impact Survey Results*

Each year we send out a quantitative survey to the previous year’s Connect cohort, to measure what leaders have done after the programme. In 2022, we replaced some of our questions to reflect changes in our understanding of how the programme works. We have now used these questions with our 2021 and 2022 cohorts and below are the combined results from these years.

Where survey questions remained the same as before, comparison data from our last (pre-pandemic) Impact Report is used to indicate how the programme is performing over time.

*33.3% of 2021 and 2022 Connect members responded to our anonymous survey.

2. Actions Taken

Below is a list of actions members told us they had taken following Wavelength Connect because of the programme or influenced by the programme. A majority come from the 10 in-depth qualitative interviews we conducted across the 2021 and 2022 cohorts, although the on-line survey also had space for qualitative responses some of which are included here.

  1. “We’re repurposing a room as a Netflix-style ‘Gladiator Pit’ for ideas testing!”
  2. “We’ve organised our three quarterly off-sites to build our culture and workforce, our first ever.”
  3. “We ask, ‘How can we do things differently?’ more often.”
  4. “I had a very open and difficult conversation with my boss about my role and where I would see myself in the future – inside or outside our organisation.”
  5. “We have brought forward deadlines and invested more than planned in our Net Zero initiative.”
  6. “I think probably 60-70% of our recruitment in the last 12 months, we would not have recruited before.”
  7. “91 people in my village have installed the Olio [preventing food waste] App!”
  8. “I talk about myself and about my ADHD now in the business.”
  9. “I’ve built ‘Safe Space Networks’ to discuss things I’m struggling with.”
  10. “I’ve gained clarity on my purpose and values and their alignment with those of my organisation.”
  11. “My direct reports and the people I mentor are creating Personal Boardrooms.”
  12. “After [the Rural Retreat] in June I called our Group Chair and we agreed to fold the company.”
  13. “Each quarter, I attend an external event, for new technologies and new ways of thinking.”

14. “I use my train journey to work to check in with myself not to write a to-do list.”
15. “I’m working with the Scouts to sponsor a badge on energy.”
16. “I loved how IKEA communicated in threes. So, we are looking at our communication strategy and how we are communicating it and whether we can get it simpler.”
17. “I made sure I had a mentor – the CTO now mentors me.”
18. “I’m using conferences as a platform to engage others with sectoral issues I’m passionate about.”
19. “I dealt better with some close friends struggling with their mental health.”
20. “We’re doing a job in Liverpool with an organisation we met on Connect.”
21. “Now, if I don’t have the answer I say so, then offer support for people to find their own answers.”
22. “I’m working with a Behavioural Scientist in my new job. Where that was triggered was visiting Pets at Home.”
23. “I’ve had two or three conversations with the ex-Unilever exec who ran the Purpose workshops there. And I’ve spoken to the Chief Exec about when we can do them in our organisation.”
24. “I give back. I’ve been mentoring people.”
25. “I did not resign.”

3. Behind The Numbers

In a similar way to our quantitative survey our qualitative interviews are conducted in the year after the programme ends, when the dust has settled. Ten interviews were conducted across our 2021 and 2022 cohorts with a mix of organisational types, sizes and sectors.

Below are five key insights from this which we are using to help improve our 2024 programme and to have informed conversations with potential Connect clients, to explore what they can expect should they invest in Connect and to decide which of their senior leaders might most benefit from it.

- Connect with your story

“I don’t come from an ordinary background. I always felt like I would never succeed. I went in thinking I was only ever really 80% equipped to succeed in leadership – that I was missing something. Then listening to people’s personal stories… Alastair Campbell, Alison Platt [Chair, Ageas, NED, Tesco], the Samaritans CEO [Julie Bentley]… I realised that’s just false. I haven’t been set back because of the fight, if anything I need to harness what I have and turn it into an asset. Hearing that people are human at quite a senior level and successful it was like, ‘Oh wow!’ That was huge for me.”

Carrie O’Keeffe, Group Quality Director, Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC

It’s a mistake to think a room full of senior leaders is a room full of confidence. There are no superhero leaders, and this is something we consider when selecting who will share their leadership stories on Connect. We choose leaders willing to show vulnerability, to share mistakes, to talk about difficulties and the darker times. Leaders willing to admit that while they have stories we can learn from, they don’t have all the answers. Leaders with varied backgrounds and journeys.

“Nick Walkley: so much of what he said was so powerful because he was clearly quite broken and sort of figuring out for himself how he puts everything back together. And he came from that point of vulnerability and talked about the challenges. It was laid bare. It was pretty refreshing to have practically every speaker adopt that approach.”
James Clarry, CEO, Justice and Care

We can do this on Connect because we build relationships with speakers, many of whom view Connect as an opportunity to reflect on their own leadership. We also deliberately construct spaces that facilitate deep sharing, conversation and reflection, beyond the maelstrom of business as usual.

“Yes, and also the encouragement through the programme to reflect and that constant messaging, you need to stop! You need to reflect! I’ll just never forget Sheepdrove – going on the walks and having the chats and getting to meet people and have personal conversations, and that will foster self-reflection. It’s not just a bunch of slides and more slides.”
Carrie O’Keeffe, Group Quality Director, Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC.

Mention must also be given here to the power of “storytelling, personal journeys and learning about people’s lives” as it was not just what our speakers shared but how they shared it that Connect members found engaging. Often this leads to a chain reaction – Connect members who hear a leader sharing their story with humility and vulnerability then do the same, which inspires those they lead to do so too. Busting myths about what “great leadership” looks like along the way.

- Connect to the big P and the small p

“When we listened to Dr. Aravind I had a moment of like, ‘Oh! Oh my God! Let me write it down.’ And I think what is very important is how I have aligned my own personal purpose to work, what is done within the organisation, with my department. For me that was the best possible take away because once you have clarity on what is your purpose and what you are here to do in this world, you become very clear on what needs you have, what you want. Then the magic can happen.”

Sergio Bachs, UK People Director, Pret A Manger

On Connect, even when purpose is not the topic of conversation it is the topic of conversation because every leader we introduce our cohort to tells stories steeped in purpose. And while few leaders come on Connect never having considered personal purpose, many come without having worked out how what is fundamental to them connects with what is fundamental to their organisation, their sector and beyond. This includes leaders from highly purpose driven organisations.

“One of the things I spent time doing with my coach was talking about systems… I was able to draw this picture in my mind of me as a connected individual within a system. Rather than seeing myself as a standalone leader and thinking about followership and the influence between me and my team. I found that enormously helpful.”
James Clarry, CEO, Justice and Care

The benefits of this alignment can be profound and multidimensional giving leaders a fresh and empowering perspective on the position they hold, unlocking potential. Equally there is a risk if what drives them is absent from where they work.

“I’ve always aligned myself with the purpose of the organisations I work with but now I think of purpose quite differently. So, whereas, organisational purpose is crucial, I think individual purpose is the most important because we can find the connection to organisations through individual purpose. Of course, I appreciate that can carry some risk because, in the early stages of my reflections with my coach, I had to revisit and think: am I at the right organisation, given what I feel my purpose is? Am I? And in the end, yes, is the answer and continues to be the answer. But it did carry a risk.”
Ken Danquah, CFO, Mercury Studios Co.

- Connect with a wider world

“I guess the biggest takeaway for me was the how important it is to bring the outside into the corporation, into your life… Technology is always changing, and the speed of change is fascinating. It’s super, super, super important that you always stay ahead of the game.”

Sergio Bachs, UK People Director, Pret A Manger

Connect catapults leaders outside their role, organisation, sector: by placing them within a cohort of leaders from other businesses and sectors; by taking them in to other organisations; by offering perspectives on what is going on beyond the UK, Europe, the West. While this is often disorienting, it’s a good disorientation, the sort deep insight, inspiration and learning emerges from.

“For me it was about meeting other people from other sectors and seeing the problems they have. Both within the cohort and then hearing the big businesses that came in to talk.”
Emma Fletcher, Low Carbon Homes Director, Octopus Energy

“I’ve been in Rentokil for 18 years. It’s pretty much where I grew up. And a lot of the benefit I took from Wavelength was getting that external view. Going behind the doors of other companies is fascinating.”
Samantha Schrader, IT Director, Rentokil Initial

“I enjoyed the almost geographical lens to innovation… Silicon Valley, Israel. It makes you think, what’s the environment? What are the contributing factors that lead to that sort of successful innovation?”
Geraldine Newton-Cross, Commercial Director, Energy Systems Catapult

“An area that I found really interesting was that long day where we heard from China and understanding what’s going on in their economy, WeChat, Alibaba and just an improved recognition of what’s coming from the East. I think the West is a bit like the Roman Empire – it’s had its day and is in slow decline, and I think we’re going to see the East coming through a lot more strongly and influentially.”
Julia Mixter, Director of Transformation, Raven Housing

“The programme really excelled in calling out the wider political, social and technological context and how it impacts on organisations – also the discussions around organisational lifecycle and the impact of the ‘life stage’ of the organisation’s leaders and the resulting tactical decision-making was very insightful.”
Connect 2021 Member (anonymous response to the survey question, ‘I am more informed about the big conversations affecting my organisation.’)

Another benefit of spending so much time engaging with other leaders from other businesses and of visiting other organisations during Connect’s Behind the Brand modules, is that it gives leaders a chance to hold a mirror up to themselves and their organisations, to identify where they are strong not only where they could improve.

- Harness the power of connection

On Wavelength Connect we emphasise the power and strength leaders gain from being connected to (the right) others. This is consciously built into what we do including by:

  • Creating a learning environment where leaders reflect and discuss what they are experiencing and hearing with peers from other organisations and sectors.
  • Introduction to the Personal Boardroom tool which blows ‘networking’ out of the water and introduces the concept of strategically built and fostered networks.
  • Providing the option of a Connect Executive Coach to support the transfer of learning back to their leadership and their organisations.
  • Hearing from leaders whose stories demonstrate the power of surrounding yourself with people with different strengths and different experiences who want you to succeed.

“The thing that changed for me was that before I almost wondered if I was being too dependent on other people. I sometimes felt I was making decisions by consensus. The Personal Boardroom discussion made me realise I’m just relying on people that have been there before! Rather than being dependent it’s being smarter because you’re getting advice from somebody who is an expert in a particular area.”
Alejandra Solache, Senior Vice President Research & Development, Abcam

“I tend to be quite self-motivated. It was like, I don’t need to talk to people. And then I realised I do need to talk to people. It’s through these conversations you work out your problems. And there are people that have skills you don’t.”
Carrie O’Keeffe, Group Quality Director Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC

“What was interesting was to see the value of having a new coach, who approaches things differently, then you have to tell your stories again. I’d been doing a lot of leading by the time I got the Executive Coach through Wavelength, so it was great to have a new one. It was really powerful for me. It helped give me the confidence to take this new role.”
Amy Casterton, Business Development Director, ES Global

Both the cohorts researched for this article experienced a modified Connect programme due to Covid restrictions, with some in-person events delivered on-line instead. Members told us that this, and the post-pandemic environment, impacted their ability to use the programme to build their networks. This reminded us of the importance of the face-to-face elements of the programme but also spurred us on to build an alumni strategy to help support leaders in building their networks whatever we all face in the future.

“Given Covid restrictions it was hard to build or maintain a Wavelength network outside of the sessions.”
Connect 2021 Member (anonymous response to the survey question, ‘I have consciously built a stronger network to support me.’)

- Connect to what you can do

“I think it’s quite remarkable, because actually, in the last six months, I’m probably operating faster, more decisively, more confidently … Now we are talking about expanding my role beyond CFO, taking on half of the business. And maybe that leadership opportunity is something that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been on the course.”

Ken Danquah, Chief Financial Officer, Mercury Studios Co.

Our hope is that leaders emerge from Connect feeling different about their leadership and doing different with their leadership – unsurprisingly, these two are often deeply intertwined.

“I’m more willing to take personal risks for things I believe in.”
Connect 2021 Member (anonymous response to the survey question, ‘I act with more courage as a result of Wavelength Connect.’)

“This is still a work in progress but based on the Wavelength programme I’d like to continue to reshape my leadership style to focus on the higher-level strategic direction of travel, building the culture, and empowering and enabling the success and growth of others within the organisation.”
Connect 2022 Member (anonymous response to the survey question, ‘I act with more courage as a result of Wavelength Connect.’)

We also hope leaders who have experienced the programme will act with more courage (nearly 80% responding to our survey said they have) because there are hard choices and decisions to be made by leaders, if things are going to get better for us all.

“I completely changed my view of myself. A lot of what I had been doing as a C-Suite leader executive in financial services ended up feeling quite small when I saw the wider purpose agenda… I think my horizons were lifted to see the wider influence I could have. I would like to have a more profound impact.”
James Clarry, CEO, Justice and Care

“I recruit for some very highly technical roles. These are roles that are unique in the pharmaceutical industry, and very highly paid. But they tend to be the same people that just keep popping up. After looking at it with the hiring manager I asked, why can’t we do things differently? Why can’t we go get kids who are not going to go through university, deliberately targeting disadvantaged areas, and there’s no reason why you can’t train these skills, you don’t need a degree. Right? All you need to be is bright.“
Carrie O’Keeffe, Group Quality Director, Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC

“I have become much more vocal about sustainability issues and social issues. Before I was more, ‘This is my opinion. I shouldn’t put this opinion before others’…. [Now] it’s being a little bit more extreme. As a person, people should know where I stand! I really don’t want to be just on the side-lines. I mean this is who I am and I believe Wavelength gave me the okay to be like this.”
Alejandra Solache, Senior Vice President, Research & Development, Abcam

With thanks to:

  • Alejandra Solache, Senior Vice President, Research & Development, Abcam
  • Amy Casterton, Business Development Director, ES Global (Chief of Staff, ES Global whilst on Wavelength Connect)
  • Carrie O’Keeffe, Group Quality Director, Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC
  • Emma Fletcher, Low Carbon Homes Director, Octopus Energy (MD, Evera Homes whilst on Wavelength Connect)
  • Geraldine Newton-Cross, Commercial Director, Energy Systems Catapult
  • James Clarry, CEO, Justice and Care (COO, Coutts whilst on Wavelength Connect)
  • Julia Mixter, Director of Transformation, Raven Housing Trust
  • Ken Danquah, Chief Financial Officer, Mercury Studios Co.
  • Samantha Schrader, IT Director, Rentokil Initial
  • Sergio Bachs, UK People Director, Pret A Manger (Global Director of Culture, Pret A Manger whilst on Wavelength Connect)

And all the Wavelength Connect 2021 and 2022 members who completed the anonymous Impact Survey.

Wavelength Connect Impact Report (2016-18)

In 2019, we published our previous Wavelength Connect Impact Report, drawing on research with leaders who attended Connect in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

This was the second time we measured and communicated the difference Connect makes to members. The first report, published in 2016, shared the impact on the first five years of leaders attending Connect. Three years on many things had changed in the programme as a result of what we learned then, and through on-going feedback from our Connect membership cohorts, and so this second report compared findings and impact.

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