Leading change in a long-established business needs tact, foresight, perseverance and much focus.

Grail Engineering are a traditional engineering business based in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean. The company has traded for over 50 years with septuagenarian brothers Chick and Roger Grail still active in the business today.

Always looking to the future, a few years ago the brothers appointed three non-family members as Board directors, one of whom was Andrew Bendall.

With specialisms in machining, fabrication and laser cutting, Grail supplies engineered components to major blue chip clients such as Rolls Royce right through to one off parts to local farmers. This broad spread of services in an ever more competitive arena was bringing its own set of pressures. Something had to change.

Last November, Andrew enrolled on the LEAD programme and set about considering where the company’s future best lies with which products, in which markets and how best to communicate with the key clients. In parallel, Andrew began to explore how he could improve his leadership by asking staff what he should stop doing, start doing and continue to do. Andrew’s tactful approach generated much feedback with ideas to improve as well as confirmation of what was being done well.

Andrew identified that meetings were not being managed as well as they could be. He introduced an agenda which everyone could contribute to and was circulated a few days in advance; he coached individuals to prepare in advance of the meetings and to circulate key reports that were to be read. Andrew ensured that meetings now started and finished on time with everyone having full discussions on the key points rather than just reading out reports. Morale improved, people became more focused and productive.

Next, Andrew switched his leadership focus towards those that were performing and who had ideas to drive change and away from the naysayers. Andrew was prominent in a restructure, focusing on the new needs of the market and dealt with the negativity minority removing them for the firm. This is not an easy or pleasant aspect to tackle in any organisation but Andrew preserved. A renewed optimism began to take hold within the company. Visual change was occurring.

Andrew was further emboldened in his approach through the LEAD Shadowing & Exchange process where he visited two peers in their places of work and then undertook leadership and business strategy projects in their firms. They, in turn, visited Grail. His peers independently verified his approach was working and Andrew observed leadership and processes at play elsewhere which he could adopt and adapt within his company.

Andrew is a very humble person, which is an excellent quality for any leader. He encourages staff to get involved and uses open questions to ensure people’s views are heard.

The changes that Andrew has initiated has led to a game changer for him and for Grail as last month he was appointed Managing Director.

There is still much to do but keep an eye on Andrew and all at Grail Engineering.

This article first appeared in my Game Changer column published in Gloucestershire Echo & Citizen and online at South West Business

Back to the blog