How OSC’s CEO adapted her leadership style during the pandemic
Samantha Rutter founded Open Study College (OSC) with her father when she was just 19. Today, Open Study College has grown to become one of the UK’s leading distance learning providers.
Over the last 14 years, Samantha has accumulated experience in all areas of the business, she’s handled everything from enrolments to customer service to course development. This has given Samantha valuable insights into what each department needs to do to operate effectively and help the business grow.
In 2018 Samantha’s father, Mark, handed OSC’s reigns over to Samantha, putting her in the position of CEO. Under Samantha’s leadership, OSC has continued to grow with not only her team expanding, but our course range and learner numbers increasing too!
To celebrate this year’s International Leadership Week theme, ‘leadership re-invented', we asked Samantha to share how the pandemic has impacted her leadership style and the way she manages OSC.
What have been some of your key learnings when it comes to your leadership style since the pandemic began?
Both we as a business, and myself as an individual, have had to change our approach to leading our team over the last 20 months quite drastically. Personally, I have had to become comfortable with many of the team working from home, which bought changes in relation to how we managed people. I was concerned about this early on in the lockdown and I questioned whether the team would work as well from home and be as productive. I’m pleased to say those concerns were soon squashed! If anything, the lockdowns bought the team closer together, and we had, and still do have, a real sense of community among our people which aligns with our company values.
I have learnt that there is a way of balancing expectations with actual outcomes. We had many of the team trying to juggle working from home with childcare and homeschooling – something that I definitely didn’t envy them for!
How has the above changed your approach to leadership?
During the pandemic, we had to become more flexible in terms of work/life balance. Some roles are different of course, as the team needs to be on hand for our learners during usual working hours to ensure the support is always there for them. Some members of our leadership team have changed the way they work, sometimes working late into the night to enable them to free up an hour where needed in the day, but ultimately, as long as they get the job done, I’m happy. I’m fortunate that I have management teams that support me with leading the wider team. They also believe that you can meet expectations, and actually surpass those expectations in some cases, by offering our team members that extra flexibility.
What changes have you made to the way OSC is managed as a result of the pandemic?
As we have so many departments responsible for different parts of the business, it’s impossible for everyone to manage their teams the same way, particularly as we do have some members of the team working from home most of the time. We’re lucky that we now have two premises, so we’ve been able to spread people across both offices, meaning everyone now gets to come into the office at least once a week. I believe that it’s important to see team members around the office and for them to have face-to-face contact with their colleagues and managers as I find it really helps with morale and mental health. We all know those long days at home in the depths of the lockdown became tedious and a lot of people, including myself, did struggle at times. We’ve had lots of lovely feedback from our team members who enjoy that time with their colleagues and friends, rather than staring at them through a laptop screen! We had lots of team socials planned during the pandemic, most of which have had to be postponed, but we’ve managed a few more recently, and it’s been great to be able to have time with the team, particularly as we’ve welcomed lots of new faces to the OSC family since the start of the pandemic.
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