Navigating Leadership and Wellbeing: FSL Aerospace’s Journey Through Uncertain Times

by | Aug 23, 2023

FSL Aerospace is a Supply Chain Integrator supporting the Aerospace/Defence/Security sectors since 1985. Specializing in the commodities of fasteners, machined parts, consumables and associated components. The business operates as an SME with twenty-three employees based in Uxbridge, Middlesex. They are proud of their ability to build long lasting, collaborative working relationships with their employees and clients alike.

As the UK entered the second lockdown in 2020, some FSL Aerospace employees were struggling with wellbeing issues primarily associated with the pandemic, quarantine and recent work pressures. Having already trained their staff population on our signature A.N.G.E.L. of Wellbeing® workshop, the feedback from these wellbeing sessions, further highlighted that FSL line managers needed additional support to better equip them at deal with the challenges of people management in the midst of change, growth, and uncertainty.

Carly Prickett, Managing Director at FSL Aerospace enrolled all senior managers and line managers onto the 6-month Rise of the New Leader™ programme, with the aim of supporting their workforce through the difficult transitionary period that followed the UK lockdowns. This was a combination of classroom learning and One-on-One Executive Coaching sessions.

Below are some excerpts of Carly’s interview about her experience and the success of the Rise of the New Leader™ programme.

Q: How would you rate communication across the company prior to your work with Aurora?

I always thought it was very good. But when it comes to a wellbeing perspective, communication was slim. We have got a culture of looking after people and helping people, but actually really focusing on mental health problems hasn’t been our forte at all. So, I’m not going to say communication was non-existent, but it definitely needed some work.

Q: Did you face any wellbeing/mental health issues within the company before you began working with Aurora? And if yes, how well-equipped did you feel to handle them?

We have done in the past. I took over in 2015, and I know there were a few issues prior to me joining, but I can’t really comment on what those issues were. Since I took over, there have probably been two main ones. I didn’t really feel equipped at all, other than to just listen to them and showing empathy towards them. I could identify when they were having a down time, but I wasn’t equipped at all when it came to the skills to approach this and spotting the signs to look out for it.

Q: The Aurora Programme is six months long. There are shorter mental health training programmes out there, but how do you think the length of this programme impacted development at your company.

I’ll be honest, at first, I was a bit sceptical when I realised the programme was six months long. That seemed like a huge investment in time for a management team. We were in the midst of the pandemic, and our industry (aerospace) had more or less shut down. But, having gone through it, the six months really gets it embedded into you and to the business because you continue looking at it. We did some one-off training with Aurora beforehand and they were brilliant as an introduction. I think if we had gone into the six months training, it would have been a bit much. So, to have been exposed to it in shorter sessions prior massively helped. For me, it’s one of those things where I opened a can of worms when we started delving into wellbeing. Naturally, they all came to the surface. It’s not a quick fix, so to have six months of support meant that we were able to use Ngozi and Obehi to actually help us through that. So yeah, it got it ingrained into us, even though at first it seemed daunting.

Q: What are the benefits you have seen since working with Aurora to train your managers on wellbeing?

So, it’s been a rollercoaster. At first, it was all guns blazing and then it really peaked. We had two really serious issues. One person actually ended up leaving. We tried to work with them on it, we gave them 1-1s on it with Ngozi, but it was quite deep and they didn’t want to recognise that. Unfortunately, we lost them. It got consuming and overwhelming when it was at its peak. I may have lost my way a little bit, because I was so focused on wellbeing that I had maybe overdone it slightly. There may have been a few people taking advantage of that so I was questioning what I was doing. You just think of what you learnt and put the tools in place. I wouldn’t want to sit here and say how easy it has been because it’s not. It’s learning that it’s okay to flow with it and not fight the current.

Q: A lot of people comment that this programme is a large investment. What are your thoughts on this?

Agreed. It is a large investment. For me to make that decision at the time was a risk, but it also helped my team understand what that commitment was. Ultimately, when you’re talking about your employees’ health, can you put a price tag on it? It’s difficult to judge, but you’ve got to make that decision based on the financial position of your organisation at the time. For us personally, I’ve seen a huge benefit in it. Don’t get me wrong, again through this upward climb that we went through. I wondered “Have we done the right thing? We’ve spent so much money on this.” Now, all I’ve got is problems. Sometimes you do have to ride through it. Short answer, yes it’s worthwhile and I definitely recommend it, if you can afford it.

Q: Since completing this programme, what differences have you noticed in your company’s culture?

Everyone is far more aware, from top to bottom. We had a particularly bad run with HR issues, for want of a more descriptive word. The environment wasn’t working, people were struggling. This is when we started to come back from lockdown. Everyone found it really hard. Actually, I heard employees talking to other people say things like “Go for a walk”, “Make sure you get some fresh air”, “Are you eating?”. People were really looking after each other. If I’m completely honest, it ‘overpeaked’ a little bit. Everyone seemed a bit too aware. We have now found a nice balance. Addressing mental health issues felt like a massive beast, and how do you manage that? But it’s not, it’s putting the tools in place to manage this. We’re not perfect, we haven’t got this nailed but people are far more aware of this now. Actually, we’ve had people say “Have you noticed so and so aren’t quite themselves?” and now we get the right people to have those conversations. Having the awareness more than anything has been a huge change for us.

Q: How did you find working with Ngozi and Obehi?

One word: lovely. Everyone said they are both so personable, nice people and they listened. They weren’t just selling their product and their knowledge, they actually listened to us and worked with us. They just made it easy, Ngozi, in particular. I worked with her directly for my one-to-one, and she just got it. She got me, she got us, and we had a laugh. We dealt with the serious issues but we also had fun dealing with the other stuff as well. They are a pleasure to work with.

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