A leadership development programme for life


Oasis programmes are not just for the near future – for some the impact can be lifelong.

Jim Rafferty

Fifteen years ago, Jim Rafferty took part in a life-changing programme. What he learnt had a lasting impact, both personally and professionally, which has stayed with him ever since.

A new development programme

In 2000 Jim was working as a senior manager in a housing association when a new managing director came in with a vision for creating something different, sustainable and unique in terms of leadership development.

At a very early stage it was recognised that different and challenging times called for radical, new approaches that would help staff to work in and with new teams and processes.

Whilst a number of eminent business schools tendered for the work, Oasis was seen as the entity capable of delivering what was wanted and needed to unleash the potential in people.

Jim went on the Manager Development Programme pilot programme, which was based on the framework of the Oasis Seven Stage Model for Effective Relationships and co-designed by Oasis and the housing association. It was a predecessor for the Oasis relational leadership programme Leadership, Life and Learning.

Managing turbulence and change

“From start to finish the programme had a different feel,” said Jim.

“It was immensely confidence building, everybody said their confidence had grown by the end.”

The pace of change in the housing world was ratcheting up and the push was towards having to do more with less.

Although very creative at the strategic and organisational level, the need to change had not been recognised at the operational level within the housing association.

Jim said: “It was very challenging. I had been in the organisation a long time and was very comfortable, I had adapted myself to the status quo within the organisation and the programme allowed me to see that and gave me some ideas about how to change that.”

Applying the learning in practice

Participants on the programme were from different geographical areas, levels and functions – different in the organisation at the time, and very useful.

This broke down barriers, enabled contact across the organisation and helped forge new alliances and friendships which lasted for years.

Jim said: “In terms of the challenges that were faced in the years afterwards, I’m convinced that the programme really helped me and others to deal with a lot of situations in a more responsible and mature way and probably more effectively.”

Rather than taking a traditional troubleshooting approach to team dynamics, Jim found that focusing on relationships was key to working out what was really going on.

“The Seven Stage Model for Effective Working Relationships is an extremely helpful model that has stayed with me.

“The other thing that was extremely helpful was the knowledge that I gained about leading and developing teams – both about leadership in its own right but also about allowing shared leadership and collegiate behaviour around the table. That over the years opened up a lot of strengths that we were all able to take advantage of and a great deal of job satisfaction for the people involved,” he said.

“We should send everyone on it”

Jim was promoted and became a director of operations for the north and eventually executive director of national operations before he retired six years ago.

“The skills I learnt on the course were relevant to almost any situation. For example, ‘contact’ is so basic but it took me to go on that course to realise how important it is and that not everybody works the way I work.

“It helped me manage different personalities and realise there are more tools in the box, different approaches to situations and interrelations with other human beings. We should send everybody on it.”

Impacts on other areas of life

Jim says that the understanding of how human beings interact has helped him in all aspects of life, including with his family.

He said: “Essentially what the programme did was to create an awareness among participants of the variability of human beings and the variety of choices one can make in dealing with situations with other people.”

And his advice to others thinking about undertaking an Oasis development programme, such as Leadership, Life and Learning?

“The main benefit is self-awareness and self-knowledge. If you are thinking about doing LLL be open minded, be prepared to be uncomfortable and know that it is probably going to be gainful. I would recommend it highly. It was life changing for me.”