Happy's L7 Senior Leadership Programme is Transformational!

In: BlogDate: Apr 24, 2023By: Henry Stewart

The first attendees of our Level 7 Senior Leadership programme have just completed their studies. The Level 7 programme is the equivalent of a post-graduate degree or MBA.

Our aim with the Level 7 programme was not just to teach a few leadership tips but to transform organisations. Did we achieve that? In this blog, Henry speaks to people who attended the programme and how it changed both their leadership style and their organisation.

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Step Back 

Central to the programme is that leadership is about stepping away and giving people the trust and freedom to make their own decisions.

As Allen Castro, Area Business Manager at Advanced Technology Services, says: “I gave my team more responsibility and trusted them to do their job.  I don’t step in and take over. Instead, I allow them to stumble and learn.  I ask questions with the intention to listen and change my opinion.”

This enables leaders to step back and give their people real autonomy.

Jason Mitchell, VP of Customer Experience at Typefi Systems, says: “I felt calm like I’d never felt in a work environment. Thanks to the reading, courses and experiments we’ve done, I knew my approaches on the day would work.

“The learning also gave me a new perspective. The work we have done to empower and understand others moved my focus away from me. Instead I could understand people’s deeper motivations. I spoke to make space for others or summarise or bring a decision on.

“This course has been 2 years of heavy training and has made the hard feel much easier.”

Jason further explains how his learning has affected his organisation in many ways: “Other leaders in the company are talking like they’ve been on this course. They are rethinking decision making. They are campaigning for psychological safety.

“They are letting others speak more. Overall we are working together more as a team and less as competing individuals. There were times on the course where I thought things would never change. I was wrong. And I can’t believe that I played a part in driving that change.”

Clear Guidelines

For Morton Holm, Head of Hornsea 2 Operations at Ørsted, it has been about setting clear guidelines for people to exercise their freedom. It has been about “removing myself from being a decision-maker to a decision-supporter. My most important leadership development has been around creating team empowerment.

“Setting boundaries and agreeing the outcome has moved the team into a much better place and released the pressure on myself to always have the right answers and solutions and freed up space to focus on people development and longer-term goals. I have questioned traditional leadership methods for quite a while, but only now been given a language to express my views constructively.”

Melanie Cohen, Director of Premium Home and Live In Care in Bournemouth & Poole, explains how it has changed her leadership role: “When I joined the programme, my perception of my role as a leader was stuck in the ‘I need to lead, control, and be responsible for everything.’

“I was desperate to create a happier place to work and felt the responsibility to make that happen for those around me. I had tentatively tried some ideas I had learned about in books, but nothing landed in a way that made it work.

“The biggest success of my participation in this programme has been the freedom it has given me in my role. I recognise my influence, respect its boundaries and actively reflect responsibility back to team members.

“The insights I have gained through the workshops, guest speakers, and my Level 7 colleagues has helped to give me the knowledge, skills and build the confidence to make changes within my organisation. It’s required bravery and an acceptance that changes don’t happen overnight – this is for the long haul.”

A New Paradigm

For David Shaw, Principal of Bilborough College, the course has “given me a new paradigm within which to work and a new lens to use to better see and understand the personal and organisational challenges that come my way. I have re-evaluated my concept of leadership and developed in a few ways.

“I used to think I had to have all the answers, now I know we will achieve more if I focus on asking the right questions. I was comfortable mentoring, now I’m happier as a coach.

“I used to enjoy demonstrating my knowledge and insights, but now I want to be a multiplier and avoid any diminishing behaviours.    

“It is now taken for granted that every staff member has a coach, and that coaching is the default model of development, improvement and challenge.”

Transforming the Culture

“This course is inspiring and has revolutionised how I lead,” says Hannah Briers, Head of Little Gate Farm. “My organisation has expanded rapidly. I genuinely believe I wouldn't have had the confidence or skills to lead my team without this apprenticeship. It's given me a drive, a power and braveness I didn't have before.

“Slowly I believe I am transforming the culture in my team. Staff have more freedom and autonomy, and there is a reduction in management. These concepts are being used now in areas across the organisation that I don't manage.

“I no longer give myself a hard time for every wrong decision I make, and feel like I have achieved, even when things don't go how I wanted. I won't get to where I need to be without making mistakes, and for someone that gives herself such a hard time, that's massive. As a result of being braver and a newfound confidence, I have found my anxiety has decreased.”

For Chris MacQueen, Associate Director Strategy and Planning at Stroke Association, “I have acquired a lot of knowledge about progressive leadership practices but, more importantly, I have gained knowledge, skills and experience in critiquing, adapting and applying them into the messy world of an established organization.

“Since April 2021, my organisation has made tangible progress towards encouraging and supporting more autonomous ways of working; it’s become better at collaborating peer-to-peer across functions; it is becoming a more inclusive place; and it continues to focus on its purpose and wrestle with getting better at aligning behind that.”


Are there real outcomes of this?

The Stroke Association’s staff engagement score is now at 88%, with year-on-year increases since 2020. In response to the statement: “I am able to input into decisions that affect me and my work,” 74% agreed or strongly agreed – an increase of 29% since 2020.

At ATS there is 97% staff retention. “Voice of the customer” is up from 7.5 to 8.7 and a 45% increase in profits, the best results the region has seen.

At Ørsted, the annual People Matter survey scores for the HOW02 team for 2022 are higher than any other team across the region. And the safety statistics are great – the Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) is 0 (Target is below 4).

Working Together

What people have really appreciated is how the group worked together.

From Hannah Briars: “To my fellow learners. This whole journey would not have been the same without your support, insights, jokes, WhatsApp group, all your different takes on life and work and personalities. It has enriched the course and experience and I hope we can continue to support each other whether it be on chat or continuing with group coaching.”

From Chris MacQueen: “I’ve learned such a lot from you guys! We’re from such diverse organisations and contexts, and I’ve loved the inclusive way everyone has supported each other without judgement.”

From Jason Mitchell: “You made this course exceptional. You have all played such an important part in a life-changing event for me. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to spend 2 years in such inspiring company. Don’t let the WhatsApp group die!”

In Conclusion

“I’m looking forward to this way of working being our future,” explains Melanie Cohen. “To welcoming new colleagues into this culture and being proud of who we are and how we work.

“I love my role now. I love being able to make such a difference without giving explicit instructions. This way of working aligns more authentically with who I am and the difference I want to make.”

And to close, from Allen Castro: “This shit is not easy. It takes courage to try and resilience to keep pushing and to get back up. The work is never complete, so enjoy the journey and remember the world is a better place with you leading a team.”

Melanie Cohen, Director of Bluebird Care (Bournemouth & Poole), started the programme in April 2021. For her full review of the programme and what to expect you can read her story here.

Could this programme be for you?

Our next Level 7 Senior Leadership programme starts in September 2024, and we still have some spaces available. While this programme is not for the faint of heart, the results and feedback speaks for itself.

While the Level 7 is the equivalent of a postgraduate degree or MBA, you do not require a degree to attend it. As this is part of the Apprenticeship standard, you will be required to dedicate 20% of your work time for the full two years to this programme. The programme can be funded by your Apprenticeship Levy, if your organisation has a payroll over £3 million – or for those not paying the Levy, the extra cost will be £700. (You do not qualify for the funding if you have a prior Level 7 qualification in business or leadership.)

Want to find out more about the programme and if this is for you? We are hosting a free, no obligation one-hour taster and Q&A session on 6th March via Zoom about our Level 3, Level 5 and Level 7 apprenticeships. You will learn more about the apprenticeship, experience the interactive learning style we use and have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the programme, funding and the application process.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

More by Henry

Learn More Leadership Skills in These Upcoming Workshops

A happy workplace leads to greater productivity and tangible business results. We have developed a range of leadership programmes focusing on the skills you need to develop a happy workplace, based upon our own practical experience at Happy and learning from some of the world’s great workplaces.

Here are just some of the public course dates coming up in the next few months:

  • Management Fundamentals — a two-day workshop designed for new managers to help you understand what makes a great manager and the practical steps you can take to make it happen. The next course runs in the classroom on 4th of June or online on 4th July.
  • The Happy Leadership Programme — our flagship four-day leadership course. Our Blended programme consisting of 12 Online 2-hour sessions begins on 10th September.
  • Brave Leadership — this is a one-year leadership development programme for women. This programme is about unleashing your brilliance, as well as identifying and enabling greatness in others. It will also create, and connect you to, a network of inspirational women.

All of these programmes are also available to book as private group courses for your organisation. Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more details including pricing and availability.