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Kalpna Woolf

  • Programme: High Performance People Skills for Leaders
  • Nationality: British
  • Job Post-programme: Visiting Professor University of the West of England

Professional experience

As Head of Production at BBC Bristol, Kalpna led 140 management staff and was responsible for generating an annual turnover of more than £60m. In 2013, Kalpna set up her own production company providing consultancy and media support, designed and wrote an MA in Creative Leadership in the Media, took up a Visiting Professorship at University of West of England, and won the Asian Women of Achievement Award for her work in the media. Kalpna attended the High Performance People Skills (HPPS) programme in December 2012.

Managing change

When I attended High Performance People Skills for Leaders (HPPS) I’d been at the BBC for 24 years. It was a time of great change at the organisation, and I wanted both to help my team – to keep them motivated – and to understand myself better as a leader in a high-pressure environment. I was a good manager, but I wanted to step up in terms of leadership. It was my own manager, herself a graduate of London Business School, who recommended HPPS.

Challenging, inspiring and learning together

The programme was intense, but very safe. It all felt rather collegiate, in a lovely setting near Regent’s Park. The faculty had so much experience, and the coaches were extremely skilled. I learned a huge amount from the other participants, too. Of course, there were challenging aspects, but these were also the most inspiring – talking through anonymous feedback from our work colleagues in small groups, for example. Though it wasn’t altogether easy dealing with personal issues in public, it was incredibly valuable.

I appreciated the way the days were structured, with lectures in the morning and coaching in small groups in the afternoons. Learning about management and leadership theories, such as decentering – basically, putting yourself in your manager’s place – was very useful. Then, in the afternoon you could feel the theory coming out in the coaching sessions and in the personal feedback from the group. By the end of the week we had all put together practical action plans, arming ourselves for the future. It was wonderful to learn alongside other successful leaders from around the world. Everybody came willing to learn and we all supported each other. This was vitally important – in some ways, above all else this was an emotional journey. To learn how to improve our people skills we needed to get to grips with our own issues and to understand ourselves. Strong bonds were forged, and I still keep in touch with my small group.

Confidence building

I’m definitely a different person since attending the programme. I returned far more confident, energised and full of ideas. More aware of the impact I make on others, I no longer shy away from receiving feedback – in fact, I positively welcome it. The programme helped me become clearer about what motivates and drives people, which in turn has helped me influence people to work more effectively – hopefully even to inspire them! I’ve modelled the superb coaching skills I experienced on HPPS in my own consultancy work, and every day I use the techniques I learned – not least, how to understand stress, how to use support networks and how to listen effectively – in the organisations I work with.


As a result of HPPS, I saw things very clearly. I was able to implement the things I had learned in order to leave a valuable legacy and a strong, energised team at the BBC. The programme taught me about transferable skills – in addition to my media expertise I have business skills, I can work in a team, coach people, mentor – and how to apply those skills in new and exciting ways within the industry.

Soon after completing the programme, I won the Asian Women of Achievement Award 2013 in the media category and gave a speech at a large event. These were amazing experiences and I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to put myself forward or to do these things before HPPS.

HPPS was very challenging, but it was a true privilege. I’ve changed a great deal since the programme and I know I’m a better manager, leader, motivator and person.