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Leadership Academy advocate: Graeme Murrell

Leadership Advocate - Adam Simmonds

A Q&A where graduates share their experiences of Leadership Academy training. What has it added to their life, both personally and professionally?


Graeme Murrell

Current role

IT Principal Officer. I manage the Kirklees Council website, with oversight of quality, user experience and accessibility across the council’s online estate. 

Which Leadership academy programme did you join?

Top Talent [Manchester 2022]

What were your initial thoughts about participating?

I was looking forward to it. At the time I was new in post and the Leadership Academy came highly recommended by my manager, who had participated in a previous cohort. I also recommended that a colleague in my team should participate as well, which is what happened. 

The Leadership Academy seemed like a great opportunity to get significant management training early in my role, and to do that amongst peers in the sector. But with two of us attending, I was hoping for more than that. It looked like a timely opportunity to really up our collective game in leading our team and the organisation towards delivering some very ambitious outcomes for the organisation.  

I was also keen to do something that involved some travelling and physically meeting people. Both of those things had been rarities during the pandemic, and I was looking forward to the sociable aspect of being with people.  

What were your first impressions?

All the things I was hoping to get from physically being with people were realised. It was great to be in a room, working together with people, and Aidan Matthews was a thoughtful and convivial host.

But I’ll be honest, the first day felt a little light. That impression was blown out of the water on day two, where we really started to deep dive into subjects like leadership styles. And I realised that the seemingly light first day had actually been a really effective way to introduce the cohort to each other and get us working together.

Be warned, day two hits hard and really gets you working! Me and my colleague left on a high. 

What were the most powerful elements of the programme for you?

Leadership styles was powerful, and also immediately useful. One of those styles came into play straight away at work. Having just covered it on the course, I was able to reflect on its implementation and discussed it with Aidan. 

The Belbin test and subsequent follow-up with Aidan were excellent. It was quite revealing to see what it told me about my, and my colleagues’ perceptions of myself. Nice to see they consider me to be more creative than I give myself credit for! 

Understanding people types was also revealing. That got me thinking about my team members, who was working on what and whether the right people were working on the right projects. On reflection, I realised that some work would benefit from being distributed differently within the team. 

Nothing compares though to the group project. Unexpected, and initially more than a bit forbidding, it became a very enjoyable collaboration. My group colleagues were great to work with, the challenge issued by Amazon Web Services really got us thinking and I thought we put together a strong presentation for the local meeting finale.   

After graduation, what were the key things you took away with you?

Confidence, enthusiasm and empowerment. It’s fair to say that me and my colleague were both buzzing after graduating. That’s rare, many courses are interesting or useful, but I don’t often come away from a course feeling that it’s going to have such a serious impact. This one did feel like that, and it has made a difference. 

  1. Confidence came from having worked together with such a great cohort, being one amongst equals in that cohort, and from the well-received presentation at the end.
  2. Enthusiasm… well, as I’ve said, we felt fired up. So many things and tools were introduced to use at work, it felt a bit dizzying. It was great to have a colleague along for the same ride, because we both carried that enthusiasm with us into work. 
  3. Finally, empowerment. That came both from being put forward for the course by my manager, realising his support for me in my new role, and from being taken seriously in the supportive environment of the course. I also felt empowered by the way those tools allowed me to see my working environment and colleagues through a variety of new lenses. 

How did you apply these professionally and what are the direct benefits?

Difficult to say exactly how I applied confidence and enthusiasm. But let’s say that taking part in the Leadership Academy made me happy and comfortable with my new role. I realised that I can make a difference in my organisation, and my passion for providing high quality digital service provision – already high – was fired up further. 

I’ve mentioned the tools. People types, and who will be best to apply themselves to different types of work, have stayed with me and inform my decision-making. I feel equipped to nurture my colleagues and help them to realise their potential. Realising my own creative strength has been useful too, and I’ve recognised it in some of the suggestions and decisions I’ve made since attending the course. 

So to empowerment, which has really helped me in an important piece of strategic work I’m involved in. I’ve been working alongside peers and those who are hierarchically higher up the organisation than me. But I’ve felt amongst equals, have been taken seriously, and we’ve just recently succeeded in achieving a significant milestone. I can see my contributions threaded throughout this piece of work and look forward to the benefits to be realised in improved service provision for our public.  

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining the programme you enjoyed?

Join it! Step outside your comfort zone, dive in and get your hands dirty. You’ll enjoy it too and you’ll see the benefits for yourself, your colleagues, your organisation and your service provision. 

Also, realise the support to be gained from a close relationship with SOCITM. Until joining the programme, they felt like a distant organisation, one which provided commentary and useful advice from afar. Not so, I now realise. I’ll soon be beginning a period of being mentored and there’s an Empowering Women course coming up that I’m keen for colleagues to participate in. There’s more too, a really good programme of events, courses and guidance through the year. Thank you to Aidan and also to Jason from Amazon Web Services for introducing me to the fold.

Read more about the Empowering Women and Top Talent programmes. Places are subject to availability and membership level. Check with our Leadership Academy Manager  for all  the information you need.