Published by on Friday, 25 Nov 2016
Alex Bibby outlines the impact of the OSS Academy as a unique retail management development experience
Why Oxford Summer School?
Gosh, so it’s been a fantastic 8 years since I was first fortunate enough to become involved with The Oxford Summer School. I was a delegate back in 2009 then took on the Group Director role for 3 years, before stepping up to Vice-Chair for 2 years and will now Chair the 2017 Academy.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with the Oxford Summer School (OSS) to date and can honestly say that attending one of these unique programmes will have an impact on you for the rest of your life. I have no doubt that this is one of the best management development ‘experiences’ in the retail sector. That’s why my company and many others commit each year to sending their talented managers on all the OSS programmes.
The Academy is supported by a range of dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable retail experts and our team of Group Directors, my Vice Chair Katie and I take our responsibility to deliver a world class programme every year very seriously indeed.
Over the last 8 years I have seen over 1000 delegates pass through the red brick entrance to Keble College and I have been proud to see them grow, develop and stretch themselves more than many of them thought possible. There are sometimes tears, frustrations and disagreements as each group challenges themselves that little bit more as the week-long course progresses - what we like to call the ‘storming’ stage! But the exciting part is seeing confidence and self-motivation grow, as individuals and the teams they form part of move towards the ‘performing’ stage as they progress through the programme.
One of my very favourite moments is when I get to welcome all of the delegates to at the celebration event at the end of the week. Not only do the delegates share with me their ‘lightbulb’ and ‘key defining moment’ for the week, they also give me the confidence that they are going away with the knowledge, confidence and belief in themselves to enable them to achieve great success in the future!
Why is it so special?
Just like the delegates, the Academy gives me the opportunity to challenge myself. There’s an ongoing joke in many businesses that HR professionals are the last people to write and take control of their own Personal Development Plan. I was no different! Since becoming Vice Chairman in 2014, I knew I needed to be really clear about my own strengths and development areas so that I could achieve my personal goal of being the best I can be and achieve the success I am aiming for on my own HR career path.
The Academy gives everyone involved in it the opportunity to learn more about themselves and talk to others about how to use this knowledge effectively in their role. The enhanced self-awareness and improvement in your ability to manage yourself which the programme generates is, I believe, one of the major benefits of the Oxford Summer School.
I remember a conversation I had with Cormac Tobin, CEO of Celesio, before introducing his evening lecture, about what I wanted to do next. It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to be a Strategic HR? Business Partner and that I had built the self-confidence I needed to believe that I could become one. The exposure that everyone at the Academy gets to leaders from different companies enables you to have diverse conversations and gain different perspectives, where else enables you to do that! You have a great opportunity during the week to network with up to 200 people from our sector who are all there to support, challenge and help each other’s personal development.
Why wouldn’t you?
So what about me? What’s my weak spot? Well, standing up in front of 200 people to give my Opening Speech was probably one of the scariest moments of my life! However, it was also one of the most rewarding. I honestly believe that if you don’t challenge yourself and scare yourself a little each week, then you aren’t really seeing your real potential come through.
This year I have taken up the role of Chairman and again I feel that challenge and nervousness that you get when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. A feeling that many of the past delegates will know well too. I am following in the footsteps of a number of excellent, inspirational and highly successful Chairman, making the role somewhat daunting! The one thing that I will make sure that I keep in the back of my mind is that others have trusted me with this role and believe I can do it! Many businesses recommend the school to selected employees, this can seem a big responsibility, but I would challenge you with this; if you really want to achieve your potential then the Academy can help you do that - grab the opportunity with both hands and make it work!
See you in 2017, you won’t regret it!
Chair - Oxford Summer School Academy 2017