Case Study: TLC - Talk, Listen, Change

In: Case StudyDate: Oct 30, 2023By: Claire Lickman

TLC - Talk, Listen, Change is a relationships charity based in Manchester. They have been on Happy’s 4 day Happy Leadership Programme and one of their senior leaders has been on our Level 7 Senior Leadership programme.

Michelle Hill, CEO, explains how they have made TLC a truly happy workplace, based on a coaching culture, Pre-Approval and relationships.

“I suppose it started off with me. I've done quite a bit of time with Happy in lots of different ways, and that's really helped. It has shaped my view of leadership, I think, and I came in to leadership and came into a Chief Executive role believing that it was all around people, but maybe didn't quite know how to do some of it as we've grown.

“I think there's always a balancing act. You worry about your bottom line, you worry about how much money you've got in the bank, you worry about the performance of the organisation.

“So, for me, one of the things was almost the permission around focusing on people, being a good business decision as well as a nice thing to do. Actually, it made business sense. So I think that was really helpful for me because I think I wanted to hear that.”

The impact of Happy’s leadership programmes across the organisation

“We've done some work with all of our teams. Happy have done some training for us with our senior leadership team, with all our frontline managers and with our aspiring leaders in the organisation, implementing that approach to happy leadership across all areas of the organisation. And that's been brilliant. Really, really brilliant.

“You can see the nuggets of it starting to shine through. You can see people train Pre-Approval. You can see people looking differently around team development, coaching rather than telling. You can see it starting to change. You can see people asking questions, trying to drive decisions down as much as you can, so the decisions are made by the person who needs to make them.

“I think the happy leadership work has really made us think around learning. One of our senior team has been on the Level 7 Senior Leadership Programme, across two years. It’s been brilliant as well to see Emily go through the real embedding of that happy leadership approach.

“I think it has led to this approach to learning across the organisation. We're just about to launch the Innovation Hub, which is our opportunity of testing out new projects and new ways of working. At the moment it's very much thinking about AI and how do we use AI in the organisation.

“A key element is that we all make mistakes. We were doing some coaching today, and one of the things that we talked about is we've got your back. It's okay to go into meetings and say the wrong thing or panic and make a mistake. There is something about knowing that your organisation has got your back in that and that it's a safe space to have a go.

“At the core of our work are our three values: be psychologically safe, authentic and person centred. In theory, everything that we do, every leadership decision, every business decision should be tested against those three values – and if we're not living those values, then there should be an opportunity for people to hold us to account against that.

“We've got a menu of options around if people want to have a look at their own career progression in the organisation. That might be in terms of growing their role in the organisation, or it might be about developing mastery in the role that they do. We recognise that succession is not always about becoming a manager. It can be about just being brilliant at what you do.”

TLC’s approach to decision-making

“I am trying to make less and less decisions. I do still make some, but we are definitely going for that kind of coaching approach.

“Last year at the end of, and beginning of this year, I spent a period of time meeting everybody individually in the organisation.”

“I met with all 150 people individually, and it was the highlight of my day every day – just the opportunity to connect with people, find out what drives them, why they work for TLC, what matters to them. It was definitely the most inspiring thing I've done in the last 12 months.”

Nurturing a culture of diversity and authenticity

“We have a range of staff networks. We have networks for social activity and networks for staff with protected characteristics. We've got one for staff who identify as people of colour, one for staff who identify as LGBTQIA+, and one for staff who've got disabilities.

“The network for staff with disability has led to kind of massive changes in our staff sickness policy.

“The people of colour group have suggested that we adopt the Halo code, which is around people being encouraged to wear their hair in their own cultural style, and that being something that's recognized and celebrated. They've a prayer and wellbeing room in the organisation, so there's somewhere for people to go and pray.

“Our LGBTQ network are currently leading all of our activity around Pride across the northwest. They've got eight Prides I think that they're attending over the summer period.

 “One of our values is being authentic and we're a relationship charity. We want to invest as much time in our team and their own relationships at work.

“We want them to have a workplace where they want to be valued and they want to stay and they want to do their best. I think the more we invest in wellbeing and the team being happier, the better the results are.”

This approach is delivering results

“The growth in the last few years in terms of the number of people that we work with and people that we support and the areas that we serve has just been phenomenal.

“The key questions in our work are, do the services we deliver make relationships safer, healthier, happier? How is their relationship at the beginning? How is it partway through? How is it at the end? So how can you see the impact that we've made?”

So happy staff lead to happy customers? “100%. and if we were a relationships charity, if we don't do it, then who does do it?”

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