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Our Clients

With over 20 years’ experience of leadership development and executive coaching, we’ve had the pleasure of working with many client organizations with a focus on the professional services, financial and IT services sectors. We have also worked with non-profit-making public sector organizations and charities.

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Clients. Past and present.

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For more information about our client work, please contact us at enquiries@atdpartners.co.uk or call us on +44 (0) 7415 106135

Case Study. Allen & Overy.

A new workshop to support emerging female leaders is helping us to better understand what’s blocking progression for our most talented women. Alison Temperley, who designed and leads the programme, explains why.

Look at the diversity and inclusion statements made by almost any professional services firm in recent years and you will see a familiar problem repeated time and time again.

All big law, consulting and accountancy firms are working really hard to find new ways to retain their most talented women and to encourage them to take up leadership positions in their organisations. They see the benefits in terms of profitability, reputation and the avoidance of risk.

But despite a wide range of initiatives, few, if any, are making the sort of progress they so clearly want and need. Too many women are opting to leave these organisations early in their careers, rather than stay on and seek promotion. Even if gender diversity is evenly balanced at the graduate recruitment phase, women’s representation falls off quickly in more senior ranks.

It’s a problem faced at A&O and it’s one that Alison Temperley, Managing Partner of atd Partners has seen at first hand many times. She has spent many years designing and leading women’s development programmes in organisations like EY, Linklaters and Allen & Overy, not to mention a host of financial institutions, corporate and public sector clients.

“The firms I am working with are incredibly well meaning and absolutely determined to do the right thing. A true meritocracy has business benefits for all” Alison, says. “But progress is proving slow.”

Is she clear why? “I think a big problem is that people make assumptions about what is holding their women back, and women, themselves, make assumptions about what their employer expects and needs.

“So, in the end, one of the main reasons why firms have not made as much progress as they’d like is because they haven’t actually engaged both sides. This has to be a joint initiative between the firm and its women. The benefits for women in the firm are clear but the business benefits for the firm and all who work in it are also compelling.”

Alison is a chartered accountant by original training and is clear that a level playing field for career progression is important for the business. “This is not a ‘nice to have,’” she says, “it is a business need. The statistics suggest that the playing field is not yet level”

Challenging us to change

This is an issue we wanted to tackle head on when we invited Alison to create and lead a new programme for A&O’s emerging female leaders, as a key part of our new Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, unveiled three years ago in 2016.

She has now run six workshop programmes for our Emerging Leader women.

An essential part of the Emerging Female Leaders Workshop (EFLW) programme is, of course, to support, coach and empower our most talented women, providing them with useful tools and techniques to shape the sort of career they really want with the firm.

But, just as importantly, the workshops are also about challenging assumptions by getting a real handle on where women see barriers to progression, and what can be done to help overcome those barriers, both by the firm and the women themselves.

This approach is in marked contrast to the approach some organisations are taking, says Alison. Often she is asked to “fix the women” through her work as a coach but she is clear that this won’t create real change because it is starting in the wrong place. It needs to be a ‘both and’ rather than an ‘either or’ approach – organisations need to change too if they want to make real progress.

“If you take the women and “fix them” and then put them back into an organisation that hasn’t changed, all you get is a lot of very unhappy women.”

Her focus on individual and organisational change chimed exactly with what A&O was looking to achieve.

Client Feedback

"… helped me to focus on the key strategic issues in the business and the attributes required for the Partner role. I was well prepared and ultimately successful. Thank you for yoursupport. Fantastic result!"

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New Book!

Inside Knowledge: How Women Can Thrive in Professional Service Firms

"Alison's new book Inside Knowledge provides practical guidance for women working in professional service firms who aspire to achieve their full potential in what have traditionally been male working environments."

Testimonials. From happy clients.

"atd partners asked very good questions and really made me think, they helped me to have an outside perspective on the issues in the organisation and my part in them. I really appreciate what they did for me"

"Alison is a great listener and challenged us a lot. Her style made it easy for participants to open up and discuss their challenges"

"Alison is very professional and able to create a friendly atmosphere that makes people share their views openly"

"Alison was a great help to me; helping me to focus on what is important to me at this moment and in the future"

"Alison presented some very complex ideas in an easy to understand way"

"Alison is an amazing coach and an amazing person, I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for bringing back to life, a part of me, which I had considered dead for a long time"

"I was impressed by how quickly Alison analysed the issues considering she knew us for only a short time"

"Alison was amazing. She created a safe environment for all to share and voice their opinions. She has an amazing ability to read people"

“The sessions have been invaluable for me as a female and as a lawyer (the terms not being mutually exclusive!). While in hindsight a lot of the work we have done and ideas we have discussed seem logical and (nearly) second nature now (and it is difficult to understand why I was not thinking about them before), they certainly were not when I first started the programme. I really do think that is an important point to make to the partners when advocating for this pilot to be rolled out across the A2 group – while the issues/idea we discuss may come naturally to them, to young female lawyers that is not necessarily the case.”

“I can only speak incredibly highly of it. It has completely transformed the way I think about Linklaters and my career and has been fundamental to improving my attitude and building my confidence.”

“The programme forced me to make a habit of consciously thinking about my career. My highlight/favourite thing was being challenged to take action, not just to talk or think: including stating my ambitions, meeting people around the network, having an ‘elevator pitch’ ready, thinking more deeply about what motivates me and being more alive to issues of perception and impressions.”

“A key highlight from me was being given that time to focus on my career.  To step away from my desk and have some time to take stock and work out where I was and where I wanted to go.  Having regular meetings with agendas which were specifically tailored to our needs really helped this.  The sessions provided an encouraging and supportive environment but also a challenging one – and I really valued being challenged on my behaviour and habits at work.  It was good to have take-aways from every session and it made me focus on proactively changing my behaviour before the next session so that I could provide an update to the Group.  Without that structure, I must admit I would have been likely to keep the time to focus on my career at the bottom of my to-do list.  Particular themes which were really helpful to cover for me included the politics session and those which focussed on confidence and perception. I also really enjoyed the session with the female partners”

“Hand on heart I can say that there was no aspect of the programme that I did not enjoy or learn something from. I would struggle to pick one specific session that was a “highlight” (as they were all excellent), but as a more general comment I particularly enjoyed the open floor/open mic structure Alison and Fran encouraged at our sessions. I felt comfortable to speak openly without being judged or fear that it might be repeated back to my practice area. In this respect, I think it was good that we all came from different practice groups, and are all at different stages in our carer (although all within the same “A2” block). It meant we each had different perspectives and experiences to share and learn from.”

“I appreciated the time and space for reflection. I already had a reasonable habit of doing that but I think our time together emphasised the importance of it.”

“A big highlight for me (and the really unique thing compared to anything else I had done before) was the challenge. The dynamic of a small group and challenging and encouraging one another was really special. It was just fascinating to hear what colleagues (who I had generally known for a while) thought about themselves and how different it was to my own perceptions/other peoples. I was able to use some of those discussions as a mirror to look at myself and say “Are there times when the things you say about yourself sound as ridiculous as these things other people are saying about themselves”

“I found the programme to be both practical and relevant to my level. The issues discussed were the ones A2s like me face (or try not to face!) frequently. The best part was having an opportunity to discuss sensitive issues in an open forum of peers and get different perspectives to the same problem. It made me realise how common (/conventional/normal) the challenges that I face are; and that the only thing different between me and the next person is the mindset with which we are responding to these challenges. I particularly liked the session on business development, taking control, projecting confidence and the session with the female partners of the firm. The best part was getting concrete tips on things that I could do/change to get the results that I wanted.”

“Hearing about the experiences of the other women on the programme (often it put my experiences in perspective and made me think I’m pretty lucky!). I also enjoyed being forced/having a specific time to reflect on what I want from my career and if Linklaters is able to offer it. It feels a little self-indulgent just thinking/talking about yourself and the programme is good in that it gives “permission” to spend serious time on this.”

“I did appreciate the opportunity to have an open and honest discussion with female associates from other Groups on the issues which are important and relevant for associates of my level of seniority. The programme made me think about these issues.”

“The most valuable part of the course for me has actually been meeting people from other groups and therefore building more of a network across the firm. I therefore definitely think that if the course continues, it should continue to consist of small groups of people representing a variety of departments.”

“Meeting colleagues of a similar level from other parts of the firm and hearing views and experiences from outside my immediate department. Understanding how others (usually men!) approach the role and realising that it is possible for me to take a lot more control over my career and progression.”