Interview with Charley Maher, Managing Director of Bristol Wessex Billing Services

Charley joined BWBSL in January 2015 and quickly responded to the opportunity to improve employee engagement across the business. Introducing a new culture and way of working which complemented the experience and passion for serving customers, which already existed within the company.

She launched a people plan, which altered the focus and truly invested in the people, particularly the leadership team. This coupled with improved communication, has allowed the business to successfully implement change and has delivered benefits for both the business and customers. Within her first year at BWBSL, her team won the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015 for Best Places to Work.

How do you harness the power of creativity in your team?

I’m always trying to find new ways to grow the confidence of my team to harness their creativity. Encouragement and praise is often one of the easiest ways to do this, reassuring and supporting people to have a voice. I often see my team at their most creative when I let other people take the lead – it’s amazing how a different approach and positioning can release ideas and grow confidence in others to share what may have otherwise remained beneath the surface! Encouraging collaboration and allowing the team to explore all ideas are also key. Ultimately, a lot of it is about understanding individuals and taking different approaches that will appeal to all.

Give an example of a way in which you created an atmosphere to allow creative thinking.

Often creating the right space, noise and light to operate within is key; peaceful offsite locations where we have a chance to use the outdoors as part of the session often brings out the best in my team. One of the best sessions we have had was when we were exploring the service strategy principles for the business and did so on a walk in the grounds of the venue we were using. When we are in the business I find team exercises as a warm up get people in the right frame of mind to explore and share, things like the ‘five-minute’ change exercise are great fun and really stimulate thinking, putting people in a creative mood. With the front line team we actually have our own ‘People’s Council’ where reps across the business work with their teams to encourage creative suggestions on how we can continually improve our business and I meet with the reps bi-monthly to discuss ideas and agree how we will implement, this is very effective for small, easy wins in particular.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to a new leader on pushing creative boundaries in their team?

Make sure people know you want to hear from them – engage people to share! Lead by example and regularly create time for creativity and sharing. Keep things simple, try a variety of techniques and allow others to support and lead. Don’t be afraid to challenge, however ultimately encourage, praise and create the right environment where people feel valued for their contribution and safe to make mistakes. Act on ideas and empower those involved to be a part of (or even better lead the) change!

Charley will present on ‘Finding The Ultimate In Life Balance That Connects Mind, Body And People’ in our leadership stream at BridgeCon 2017 in January.

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