Showing the will to win

We brought some of our Red Rose Award winners and sponsors together for the first time since the event in March, shortly before lockdown, to look at the importance of a winning mentality in our present circumstances and how they have adapted their leadership skills to meet new challenges

How far can a winning mentality take you in times of uncertainty?

RF: As part of a winning mindset you have to be brave. You have to see times of adversity as an opportunity.

Part of winning is accepting and acknowledging that you are going to put yourself out there and will probably fail and fail quite publicly along the way.

We’re talking about this year’s Red Rose Awards successes but we came and left with nothing the year before. That trigged us to go and find out why and improve and get better.


  • Richard Slater – Lancashire Business View (chair)
  • Fran Ashcroft – Hexagon Care
  • Richard Few – Sales Geek
  • Gill Hall – Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses
  • James Morris – RSM
  • Shakira Musarat – Barclays
  • Iain Pearson – Age Concern
  • Pauline Rigby – Forbes
  • Amin Vepari – Lancashire County Council
  • Andrew Wood – UPS

PR: A winning mentality is necessary in leaders, but what I have found tough is that not every person within your team has that mentality. In times of adversity it is quite easy for people to get swallowed up in the negativity that surrounds us. I’ve found it hard to pull those people up and get them to look positively. We’ve also seen that in lots of clients.

The future is so uncertain, so for them to have a positive mindset is really, really tough.

AW: A positive mindset has helped me but I have also found the biggest challenge is getting the rest of the team up to that level. The business side of things has been tough, but we have taken this time to do things we would never have time for before. We’ve changed management systems and taken the time to update and upskill staff and adapt into other areas as well, which has managed to keep the team going though lockdown.

AV: When we went into lockdown we had to react very quickly. We knew that some businesses were going to panic and some businesses needed to reach out for help. We knew there was going to be a demand coming through and we made sure we were set up to take that demand.

Driving a winning mentality into others is draining. It is easy to get drowned in all the negativity that is there. You have to invest in your team, your people. We work with a vast supply chain and while we don’t employ them we still have to take a vested interest, because if they struggle then ultimately we will struggle.

SM: A winning mentality can take you quite a considerable way. Businesses had a difficult year last year and with Brexit and the election there was a lot of uncertainty. At the start of the year the outlook for a lot of businesses was great and then Covid hit. It significantly impacted many but what I found was that they had strategies and those strategies were accelerated. A lot of them have made some very difficult decisions.

GH: This winning mentality and attitude is the fundamental reason why family businesses are the oldest businesses. They last the longest. The average age of a family business is something like five generations. They keep going and going and going, because they really never consider not winning.

You automatically look for a solution and you go back on your heritage and say, ‘We’ve done it before, we can do it again’. We say to our staff, it’s no good sometimes just doing your best; you have to do what is necessary to succeed. Also, we have stuck to our values, so we have carried on with our innovation and R&D.

JM: Self-belief and confidence allow businesses to adapt and change, and a lot of businesses have had to. It’s making businesses better. Businesses have been doing things that they haven’t done before. Those that looked at the situation and thought there was an opportunity to do something more and better will come out of this with significant growth inspirations.

FA: It is times such as these you really see what a strong company you have. There is a belief within the company to employ the right people, to support them, to empower them. They share our visions and values, so when the chips are down those people stand up to be counted. When we believe in what we do we want to shout it from the rooftops.

IP: A winning mentality is everything for us. Resilience has played a huge role; being able to take anything on the chin and not see it as a problem but more of an opportunity. We have some amazing staff that have rolled their sleeves up and got on with it. It’s about focusing on what matters. I’m a big sports fan and whether you are a rower or a sprinter, it is about avoiding wasted motion.

It is about surrounding yourself with good people and once you do that the rest, in many ways, takes care of itself. You are not trying to get people into the same mentality. They come with that anyway. It is not necessarily the skills that you have got; it is your attitude, your aptitude to want to help. We can equip people with the skills.

How have you changed as a leader since the Red Rose Awards and the impact of Covid-19?

AV: Certainly for myself, when you look at what was pre-Covid to what is now, and look at the evolution of yourself as a person, it is quite unbelievable.

In many ways I have become less demanding of people, but more understanding. While we have been in lockdown and a lot of people have been working from home, it is appreciating and understanding their personal challenges as well.

It’s that little bit of interest you take in people, that little bit of encouragement. It’s sometimes saying to people, ‘You know what, you have had a bad day, forget about it, move on, tomorrow is another day, and don’t dwell on that disappointment too much.

In times of adversity it is easy for people to get swallowed up in the negativity that surrounds us

RF: The ‘bringing the others with us,’ thing has not been a massive issue for us, and if we have learned anything from this situation it is that we have employed the right people. It has been a real acid test. We are tighter as a team and we are tighter as a board. Our people helped lead me through this if I am honest. Three or four people on a board aren’t going to drag a business through a crisis; the whole team has to do it.

Every single member of our team is being affected in different ways by this. We need to be aware and understand that and not just be responsible employers but be responsible human beings as well.

SM: It is being more understanding about people’s personal circumstances. Working from home has been a big change for people who have been in an office all the time. There are different pressures and responsibilities. It has been about understanding what they need and adapting the way I work as well, being conscious of how that impacts them and their households. Also, if you roll your sleeves up, adapt, do what is required, it does affect the people around you.

PR: I have become more empathetic. I think I am now more effective and more efficient. I have realised that I probably burn hours throughout the working week. I can be incredibly work-focused. I have two young children and I have a really supportive family behind me. The moment we went into lockdown I was stripped of that. I had to home-work. I had to lead a team of 40 and wasn’t ashamed to say that at times I found it really difficult. I was up every day at 5am trying to work before the children got up, before we did their school day, and then working until 10pm at night once they had finished and I had cooked tea and done house chores. There were times when I let people in and said: ‘I’m having a pretty bad time; this is quite difficult.’

AW: Adapting has been the biggest thing for me, trying to become a leader in a new way. Trying to make my team, who are mixing with so many people, feel safe and to get that positivity over to them in a digital way has been challenging.

I’m now sending WhatsApp videos every morning, just issuing a bit of positivity, reminding them about wearing a mask, reminding them about hand sanitising. It is just a different way of man management that I would normally do face-to-face. My team have amazed me, and we have come out of this better and stronger.

GH: At the start of lockdown I had my best and my worst leadership moments. Keeping staff safe was my biggest thing, and the fear I felt cascaded and was infectious. That was a challenge for me and I had to get over that.

I reached out to my network and my coach to ask ‘What am I missing?’ I had to counsel myself to be an inspiring leader, to change little words.

Instead of saying, I want to keep you safe,’ I had to talk about wellbeing. Instead of saying, We will survive, I had to say, We will thrive.It was just that twist of language that helped me to look at it differently and helped the staff, and then that was equally infectious.

Covid has really emphasised that it is good to build time into your day to sit and think and reflect on what is important, what adds value

We started saying things like, ‘You are all key workers. You are doing a great job. You are feeding the nation’, that sort of language. We didn’t want to take extra agency staff, so we were working long hours. They have lifted me as much as I have lifted them.

FA: I have changed massively. I have realised how reliant I am on the people that actually deliver our service, so communication has been key for me. I have become so much more appreciative of them.

It has reinvigorated my view of what I came into this job for in terms of making a difference to young people’s lives and it is about relationships. It’s not about the meetings. Surround yourself with good people and the job becomes far easier. Those people pick up the baton and run with it.  

IP: The huge thing for me has been the added value of having time to reflect on things. Reflection is something we often don’t do. It gets lost in the busy lives that we lead, and Covid has really emphasised that point that it is good to build time into your day to sit and think and reflect about what is important, what adds value.

You have to be able to lift your head up and look at what is around you to really understand the business that you are in, to really understand the staff and the volunteers you work with have lives themselves.  

JM: We went down the daily team call route and put our arms round everybody, reassured them; brought them with us on the journey and set out what the vision was and that things would be all right. That is perhaps something that we could have all done better before and we have had to do it now.

Then there is empathy, both around being more flexible as a business and as a leader, but also being a shoulder to cry on when somebody needs it and being there for people and letting them know that you are there.

The point around having the time to reflect on the way forward and what adds value in your business is key. We have certainly reassessed what we do and how we do it.

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