Case Studies – Jo Snell (Bransby Horses)

Jo Snell, CEO of Bransby Horses, shares her experience of being a Band of Bosses® member

How did you know Band of Bosses® was right choice for you?

I suppose there’s a saying isn’t there, “It’s lonely at the top”. To find any group of… I’m not saying similar people, but people who were in a similar situation… People experiencing the same challenges, very different, yet in many ways, the same… was what first told me that Band of Bosses® was the right choice. It’s great that we can share experiences based on some of the material that Hil brings to the table. Hil’s material prompts deeper discussions.

It was great early on, and I think as the group has matured. It’s brilliant that we’ve got that group of people we can trust, rely on, turn to and who are looking out for us. When we’d had the floods and Band of Bosses® met up at Bransby Horses, it was almost as if everybody just wanted to give me a big group hug; even before I’d even said anything. You simply feel that there’s support at the right level, and it’s confidential support, with no personal agendas.

I’ve always worked well within a team environment and you give, and take, a lot from that team. When you get into this position of CEO, where you’re having to lead an organisation, the dynamic can’t help but change. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got a fantastic leadership team, but, at the end of the day, I’m still their boss. With Band of Bosses®, you have that group of people that you can speak openly and confidentially with; who are there to support you, listen to you. They’re colleagues, without there being any conflict. There’s not a conflict of interest at all. The other BOBs are not an employee that’s going to interpret things in the wrong way. They’re not my chairman, ultimately my boss, who is going to be judging me. It’s non-judgemental, while, at the same time, assisting you to make judgments.

I also decided Band of Bosses® is right for me, because, while stretching you, it’s fun and enjoyable.

“I came thinking my choices were A or B and left a brilliant plan C!”

What would you say are the key things you’ve gained from being a band of Bob?

New learning and reviewed learning:
In terms of leadership, Hil brings, for example, behavioural theories to the table. We may be familiar with some of them, because we will have met similar sorts of things, but Hil brings them to the table in such a way that gives us an opportunity of talking, openly and confidentially, about our own experiences, that either back up that theory, or conflict that theory. We can challenge it. It reminds you of the things you may have known, but have forgotten or wouldn’t have thought applied; and they would prove useful. In Band of Bosses®, you can really pull things to pieces. You can really challenge things and each other.

I think it’s refreshing. It reminds you of some of the good stuff that you’ve learnt, but you get so blinkered and so engrossed in the day to day, you sometimes forget some of the good stuff. Band of Bosses® reminds you of some of the useful skills that you have learnt along the way, brings in new skills, and ways of thinking, and then we go about applying them in our different organisations.

In Band of Bosses®, we’re learning from each other’s experiences as well. We have a bit of a laugh and pull each other up on things. Learning from each other and reflecting no our own experiences, you then learn how to do things and how not to; When things works, and when they don’t.

Time out:
Time out for me as the leader of an organisation is valuable because it just gives me a clear mind and then I’m a better person, a better leader, for when I go back into the workplace.
It’s especially the case when there’s challenging times. With the devastating floods, I really, really appreciated that group session we had, because there was just so much camaraderie. The group sessions are refreshing. Sometimes there’s a pat on the back, sometimes it revives you to carry on.

Robust planning and action:
Over the years, Hil has worked with me on the business plan, getting people to understand SMART targets and leadership skills for senior and middle leaders. Bransby Horses has become a much, much more robust, people focused organisation than we were before we started with Band of Bosses®.

The organisation is in a much better place because of the work we do together at Band of Bosses®, that I then bring back to the organisation. All the training that Hil has gone on to deliver has been powerful for us over the years.

“Everything you get out of Band of Bosses® is really positive. There’s lots of humour. You’re not on show, so you can just let it hang.”

What would you say it’s like having Hil work with you?

You get to the point where it’s like Hil’s on your shoulder! You know what Hil would say, even when she’s not there.

I’ll bring something to a 121 that I want to talk through. I know I want to dissect it. I know Hil’s not just going to pat me on the back and say, it’s all okay. I know she’s going to take the time to think it through with me, to come up with a solution that will work. I know it’s never going to be easy, it’s always a challenge. It’s not, oh what can I talk to Hil about today? Or, we’ll have a bit of a chat about this. It’s always good stuff that is about driving things forward. And it’s always a challenge, but that’s why it’s so useful.

Hil challenges me in the right way; to think outside the box, I suppose. To think about some of the pitfalls, think about the things that I haven’t thought about. To come up with solutions, we work through all sorts of scenarios. What may work or may not work. Have we tried this, have we tried that? Each of us BOBs can come to Hil with a what can feel like an overwhelming situation.  It can feel like a big ball of wool and we’re thinking, “Oh my God. What the hell are we going to do with this?” And then Hil guides you through to unpick it all. We come up with an action plan and I can go away and go, right, this is what I need to do. Boom, boom, boom.

Even though we’ve discussed and worked things through together, and Hil has poked about and challenged me, I always feel that I still own the solutions. And that’s important.

“Using the Solution Circle format, I was able get clearer, in my own mind, by articulating the challenge and answering the ‘Questions for Clarity’ from the other BOBs”

Can you share a specific example of the BOBs assisting you to a new solution?

A specific example of the BOBs assisting me toward a new, and far better, solution came when I was the focus of one of our Solution Circles.

The key area of challenge I put to my fellow Band of Bosses® members (BOBs) was how to structure the Marketing Team to best effect. I had a couple of ideas, but I wasn’t sure either would get us to where we really needed to be. I valued the BOBs’ input.

Using the Solution Circle format, I was able get clearer, in my own mind, by articulating the challenge and answering the ‘Questions for Clarity’ from the other BOBs. Listening to the BOBs discuss possible options and courses of action, guided me toward a solution that I would not have reached, otherwise.

What would you say to someone thinking about working with me and becoming a BOB?

Do it! Just do it! Everything you get out of Band of Bosses® is really positive. There’s lots of humour. You’re not on show, so you can just ‘let it hang’.

I think it’s important to realise that, to be a BOB, you’ve got to be the sort of person who’s prepared to give as well as receive. There’s a responsibility to contribute and listen. That’s how the group works so well.

You have to make the time for it. It’s a few hours every month, but the value you get out of spending that time with that fantastic group of people, I think, is invaluable for your state of mind, and ability to do an even better job.