Case Studies – Nikki Cooke (CEO of L.I.V.E.S.)

Nikki Cooke, CEO of L.I.V.E.S., shares her experience of being a Band of Bosses® member

What was the reason you decided BOB was right for you?

I think when you work in a senior position, it can be quite a lonely place to be. And I’m the kind of person that likes to talk to others, run ideas past people, hear what others are doing; kind of sanity checking some of the stuff. Within the organisation, there can be really limited opportunities to do that. I’m really mindful that I’m trying to inspire and lead my team, and not necessarily share my worries and concerns, because I want them to focus on what they’re doing.

So, BOB gives you a safe environment for being able to do that. To be able to share ideas, to be able to test ideas and also to be able to hear about the challenges that others are having; knowing that you’re not alone. For me, that safe space to be able to do all this with like-minded people, was really important. It is safe and it is contained; a trusting and trusted environment.

I also like the fact that we talk not just about the business, but about the personal. Sometimes, those things are quite different, but they’re interconnected. I liked the fact that there’s room for both.

“BOB has broadened my mind. It’s opened doors to new ideas, but those ideas don’t stay with me. They’re things that I share out with others.”

What are the key things you’ve gained from being a BOB member so far?

The first thing is it’s broadened my mind. For example, prior to BOB, in my entire life, I had probably read one or two business books. And in the few months I’ve been a member of BOB, I’ve read three; all brought to me through BOB. I reckon, a lifetime versus three months, is quite an exponential increase. I actually don’t own any of those books any more because I’ve gifted them on to members of our team. For example, I gifted one book to one of managers, who was really struggling with the diversity that she’d had acquired in her team. Whilst she intellectually knew that was a really good thing, she was really finding it really challenging to manage.

And another member of my team was really struggling with how to gel some really disparate individuals has now got another of the books. BOB has broadened my mind. It’s opened doors to new ideas, but those ideas don’t stay with me. They’re things that I share out with others.

I really like the diversity of people that are in the group because we’ve all got different organisations, but it’s remarkable how we’re all dealing with similar challenges. And that’s quite nice to know. So many of the issues we talk about actually come back to people, which are in common everywhere. And I mean people and processes are the two places where things go wrong and they’re common to every kind of organisation.

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.

“What’s it like working with Hil Gibb? It’s not like working with anyone else.”

So what’s it like working with Hil Gibb?

It’s not like working with anyone else.

I was really cautious about bringing somebody in to work with myself and the leadership team. I’ve spoken to several other leadership coaches, management gurus, and I hadn’t found anyone that I felt would fit us.

I felt that people came with a prescription that they were going to deliver. There were some boxes that we were going to tick. The programs were undoubtedly good, but I didn’t feel that they could adapt to the peculiarities of my organisation.

Bear in mind too, that we started working together with Hil, when we were in the middle of a global pandemic. I was also really aware that I had a couple of people that were particularly skeptical and didn’t feel that leadership training would have any relevance to them. Getting the right person was really important.

What, to me, is really important to know when working with Hil Gibb, is that it’s entirely bespoke to you. What I really like about working with Hil, is that we can have a conversation after a session and say, “Oh, we need to tweak this or we need that. Or this person is having this issue.” And she’ll reshape the program or, in real-time, a whole session, based on the needs of the people.

It’s really bespoke. It’s really insightful.

And it’s really, really practical. That practical thing for us has meant real change because, of all the leadership programs that I’ve ever done, this is the only one where, in every single session, I’ve come away with a tool that we then used. It’s that real practicality that’s a key bonus to what Hil delivers. That’s important. I’ve sat in five day leadership programs and I’ve flown gurus in from the U.S.; I’ve gone home with a signed copy of their book and never opened it. It’s made not a blind bit of difference to anything that I’ve done. What I love is that my team come to me and say, “I’ve got this problem and I’m thinking about using this thing we did with Hil. What do you think?” The work we’ve done with Hil has really translated into how and what we really do day to day.

And those cynics are now Hil’s biggest fans. To me, that’s because they see value. Not only they see value, they parrot Hil’s phrases and I love them for it.

How does Hil challenge you?

So, I’m thinking particularly about the leadership program the Hil delivered, and it translates to BOB. I don’t think a session is ever easy. We’ve seen people have amazing breakthroughs on things that have really challenged their own core beliefs. And the sessions really make you think and question. If you’re thinking and questioning, you have to do something different and that’s not always easy. It can be challenging.

“Working with Hil has exceeded my expectations, as far as the impact that it’s had on the team and had on me personally”

What would you say to someone who is thinking about working with Hil and/or becoming a BOB?

So the first thing I would say is be really clear on what you want out of it.

Please be really clear because you’re signing yourself up for a process that is potentially challenging, but also really, really impactful and if you’re not up for doing the work, then there’s no point. It isn’t necessarily about time, but it is about energy.

But, if you are up for doing the work and you do want to really move your organisation or move yourself or move your team on, then there’s actually no one else that I’d consider working with.

And if there’s any indication of that, just this week I’ve said to Hil, we’ve got so much value out of the leadership program with our senior team this year, that I want to roll it down to our middle managers.

I mean, for us, the initial goal of getting involved in the program was to grow the resilience of the team in a really, really challenging time. And I think we have achieved that and more.

Working with Hil has exceeded my expectations, as far as the impact that it’s had on the team and had on me personally; hence looking to roll it out more widely in the organisation. I think it’s allowed us to develop a language and a way of being. It’s probably accelerated the cultural change we were looking to create. We’ve got there more quickly than we would’ve been able to without Hil Gibb and the work that she’s done with us.

I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending your services to anybody as long as they’re prepared to put the work in.