Women in Leadership Interview Series: Learning and Development Manager, Angela Colebrook

On March 8th 2019, International Women’s Day (#IWD2019) will be celebrated with the campaign #BalanceforBetter; calling for a more gender-balanced world. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women in leadership roles. I asked a number of female leaders to answer a series of questions about their experiences to share with you right here on the Ad Florem blog.

In this interview, we meet Angela, a Learning and Development Manager. Read our Women in Leadership Interview Series to meet the other interviewees.

Having graduated with a Law Degree, Angela commenced her working career as a Graduate trainee with ASDA. It was here, where she was given the opportunity to cover a secondment for a Training Officer role. She has not looked back, following a career in various training and development roles.

Post ASDA, Angela worked as a Regional Training Officer for Co-operative Retail Services, supporting food stores across the country. This led to a central training role, developing training programmes and resources and successfully gaining Investors in People.

Following the merger of the UKs two largest retail co-operatives, she continued a central role in the shared service centre, unifying training provision across the newly formed Co-operative Group. After a number of years as the Training Manager for the Co-operative Funeral Service, Angela elected to become a freelance training consultant. She maintained a relationship with Co-ops whilst also working with Further Education colleges and their corporate clients.

After ten years working with the Co-operative College as a Key Associate, she was asked to head up the Learning and Development function. Nine years later and she’s still enjoying the variety of the work and the rewards her role brings.

Angela, thank you for taking part in our Women in Leadership series. Tell us, what are the skills that you have that make you well suited to your role?

To me, interpersonal and leadership skills are really important. This includes good communication, critical thinking, creativity, emotional maturity and adaptability. ​ Having the right ‘skill set’ is also imperative to getting the job done. Currently this includes a knowledge of current teaching and learning best practice and co-operative expertise. The two sets of skills go hand in hand, however connecting with the people has always been vital to my role.

And what does leadership look like for you?

I have always believed that leadership is about bringing others along with you. It is important to understand a range of leadership styles and techniques, and to select the right one for the time, place and situation.

Can you share one leadership lesson you have learned in your career?

You do not have to be a manager to be a good leader. A good leader is someone who can energise and inspire others.

Who inspires you, and why?

I am inspired on a daily basis by people I know and people I don’t know. Something as small as a courteous gesture or a fleeting observation can make a huge impact upon what I do and say.

How do you balance work and life responsibilities? Do you have any practical tips?

I have not always been good at this, but I have learned to draw clear boundaries between work time and personal time. This doesn’t mean I only work set hours or days of the week, or do not think about work outside of the ‘office’. I am still flexible and adaptable but have taught myself that down time and relaxation (whatever form it takes) is essential and makes me more focused and productive in the long term. My one tip would be to have a work phone that you can turn off (controversial)!?

Describe yourself in three words

Thoughtful, considerate, and conscientious.

Have you ever suffered with ‘imposter syndrome’? What does it mean to you?

Unfortunately, like many people, I have felt the effects of imposter syndrome on more than one occasion. Imposter syndrome means a fear of being found out as a fraud, despite evidence that you are doing your job well. For me, the environment in which I was working or key players at the time contributed to the situation. It is helpful from time to time to step back and remind ourselves of our successes; even if it isn’t the most natural thing for us to do.

What challenges have you faced in your leadership career, and what tips do you have for how to overcome them?

As a leader I always feel the need to work alongside others to achieve success together. I have experienced situations where my own values are different from others in the team, which has led to potential conflict.

Considering things from other people’s perspective, talking things through and looking for constructive solutions has helped in overcoming such challenges. I would always say – be true to yourself and what you believe in.

What does gender balance in the workplace mean to you?

Gender balance is about have a representative balance between male and female colleagues who have earned their right to have the role they do.

Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for aspiring female leaders? Or just for leaders in general if you prefer.

My advice to all aspiring leaders is to go for what you believe in; reflect upon what you are doing and why you are doing it; and never turn down an opportunity to learn something new.

Do you have anything else that you would like to include in the interview?

I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts and hope I may inspire aspiring women leaders to go for what they believe in, and enjoy it.

How to find Angela online

Angela Colebrook, Learning and Development Manager

Co-operative College, Manchester

Twitter   or  Twitter




Read our Women in Leadership Interview Series to meet the other interviewees.

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  1. Ali Hargreaves

    Totally agree with your leadership style Angela. No wonder you’re successful!

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