London South Bank University (LSBU)

Leadership transformation at LSBU

Client challenge

In 2015 a new Vice Chancellor (VC) was recruited at London South Bank University (LSBU) to deliver a transformation strategy and ambitious 5-year strategy to raise their reputation. There were lots of changes to the organisational structure and senior leadership, with only one member of the original Executive team forming the new exec team going forward with the VC. There were significant leadership challenges such as low trust, silo working and poor communication.

PSI partnered with LSBU to develop the leadership climate and capabilities to enable cultural transformation and equip leaders with the Emotional Intelligence to lead the change skilfully. The desired outcome was for leaders to be more empowering, hold others accountable, promote openness to change and innovation, and inspire and engage those they lead.

Solution

We started firstly with a diagnostic phase, conducting structured interviews with the Executive and Operations team (comprised of 26 people) to better understand the current culture, leadership behaviours, aspirations and challenges. The second phase was a 3-stage intervention with the senior leadership team. We helped them understand themselves and their impact, and facilitated the team to identify and change how they did things in support of the desired culture change. We also launched a Leadership Climate Survey to understand the extent to which leadership behaviours were currently in line with those desired for effective change. Other work also helped to identify desired behaviours for leaders across LSBU, linked to their strategy and culture change.

At phase three, we constructed a Leadership Attributes Framework articulating what good leadership looks like at LSBU, with behavioural indicators for each attribute. This provided clarity and shared understanding of cultural expectations.

35 behaviours were created for Strategic Leaders and Operational Leaders. These were used to create a bespoke online 360 degree feedback tool, which was completed by all Strategic and Operational Leaders. We delivered feedback sessions for the Strategic Leader population and trained the LSBU OD and HR team to conduct feedback sessions for the Operational Leaders.

Following this, LSBU created a Leadership Academy offering development programmes based around the leadership attributes and core skills and knowledge for leaders. PSI created a module called ‘Leadership at LSBU’ which provides leaders with an understanding of the Why (values, strategy and purpose), What (leadership behaviour/focus of efforts) and How (Emotional Intelligence) of leading at LSBU.

Results

The positioning of LSBU in the Higher Education league table rankings before and after have improved substantially, and they hope to increase further as the enhanced culture becomes more embedded.

Guardian University League Table

  • 2015: 112/116 (3rd percentile)
  • 2018: 78/121 (35th percentile)

The Times and Sunday Times University League Table

  • 2015: 122/123 (1st percentile)
  • 2018: 106/128 (17th percentile)

The Complete University Guide League Table

  • 2015: 120/123 (2nd percentile)
  • 2019: 93/131 (29th percentile)

Further evidence of the business results can be seen through the external awards and recognition LSBU has achieved in the last 3 years:

  • 2016: won ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ in Times Higher Education awards.
  • 2017: awarded a silver rating in Teaching Excellence Framework, set by the government to recognise and reward high quality teaching.
  • 2017: made The Sunday Times League Table UK Top 20 for graduate prospects.
  • 2018, won the ‘UK modern university for graduate salaries’ and ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide.

LSBU have also seen through their engagement survey a 5% increase in leadership and confidence in leadership. The average staff engagement score has risen from 58% in 2015/16 to 69% in 2018/19. And in 2018, of the 48 questions that have a comparison to 2016, 92% of questions improved.

PSI has a really good understanding of the challenges of organisations that are going through change. I'm proud of the whole journey, it's been a really positive and important contribution to LSBU.

Cheryl King-McDowall, Director of Organisational Development

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