City & Country (C&C) conserves and re-imagines historic buildings to create exceptional places to live and work.

Having expanded from its base in Essex to own sites nationally, securing JV funding and aiming to at least double turnover in the 5 years to 2020, C&C needed existing Heads of Departments (HoDs) to step up to leadership roles in order to strengthen the Board and deliver growth.

Fortunately, they were open to taking a comprehensive approach to development.  Rather than just a single course, Athena Professional proposed a blend of social learning, experiential learning and coaching, with a strong emphasis on changing behaviour.  Social learning was facilitated using Curatr as the delivery platform.

Athena Professional is a business consultancy which helps improve business performance through people. Owned and run by Nicola Jones and Jane Armytage, their award-winning approach has real business impact, delivering better skilled and motivated people.

A Blended Learning Approach

Following a change in C&C’s organizational structure, employees were eager to take on new leadership roles. However, some people in the HoD group, felt a sense of entitlement having worked with the business over time.

Alongside this, there was a high risk of some key players being headhunted and leaving the business. Historically focus had been on technical abilities over people skills. The resulting lack of management & leadership skills was at odds with the emerging requirements of the business.

Athena Professional was recommended to C&C, with the initial brief to provide some coaching. However, it quickly became evident that more was required.

A blend of coaching and experiential workshops supplemented with online modules was settled upon as the best approach, enabling new skills to develop based on management & leadership behaviours.

Using Curatr as a Learning Platform

In a genuine collaboration between the two organisations, Nicola and Jane were effectively acting as an internal L&D team within C&C, using RACI analysis to help them understand the finer details of what the new roles would look like, and to better understand the people who would be undertaking the course.

The online components of the program consisted of 3 levels, each containing 2-3 hours of learning materials which had either been curated from existing resources or created afresh to help tie-in to the face-to-face elements of the course.

(These have since been reduced down to around 1 hour of materials per level).


This approach meant that challenge and support was provided through the offline elements, whereas digital aspects enabled a busy workforce to learn more flexibly around other commitments.

360° feedback was used to provide a benchmark at the beginning of the program, and was repeated at the end, to demonstrate how individuals had developed and moved their thinking forward.