Choosing the real me – OSS Academy

Melanie Raftery – Area Retail Sales Manager – Portmeirion Group

We caught up with Melanie after she attended the 90th OSS Academy. We wanted to find out the impact the programme had on her and her business. Here’s what she had to say:

I have worked in retail for the last 8 years, mostly in back office admin and Epos support management roles. I have always excelled at what I do due to my very strong work ethic, a can do positive attitude and problem solving techniques. Traits I think developed due to my dyslexia. In line with this I have always been very ambitious and wanted to further my career.

Just before I came to the Academy (in August 2019) I was given a great opportunity, as I was offered the Retail Area Sales position that had become vacant within the Portmeirion Group. The big question for me was, do I want to do it, not can I do it. Growing up with dyslexia I had gone through childhood been told I wasn’t good enough, instead of letting this beat me, I tackled it head on. I worked harder and smarter than anyone else in the room and I proved at every obstacle in my way that I was indeed the RIGHT PERSON. So I had no doubt I could do it. But should I do it? Is it really what I want to do?

OSS Academy 2019
OSS Academy is a transformational retail leadership development programme for experienced managers in retail operations & head office functions, store & field management roles & managers of leading independents.

The answer by the time a left the Academy not only did I want to do it, I was so excited to get going! By the time I had driven home I had department statuary and I knew excitedly how I want to lead my team.

Has my approach changed since the Academy? Yes massively. I have always been fearlessly independent and capable. This meant that although capable working in a team it wasn’t my preference. I guess you could call me a bit of a control freak. The Academy taught me that having a great team around you that you can invest time in can have so many benefits and rewards. It was a real pleasure having people who were there for you and who were in your corner working to one common goal, and because you cared they cared.

The biggest learning curve for me was from the emotional impact that the Academy had on me. Much like Paul Anderson-Walsh (from The Centre for Inclusive Leadership) I have had a tricky upbringing. I had two paths I could follow. The one laid out for me where I had no hope of improving myself or my prospects or one that meant I would have to work very hard for myself on myself.

OSS Academy 2019 - Paul Anderson-Walsh
Paul Anderson-Walsh speaking at the 90th OSS Academy

I choose the latter. I sat and listened to Paul and how he had turned his life around for himself and his family. I will never forget his words. “I could let the past mistakes of others effect my life, or I could change the course of history for me and my family”. Everything he said made perfect sense to me. The thing I didn’t understand at the time was why on Earth is this man telling us such personal information about himself to a room full of business people, this is not therapy its business.

After much reflection and conversations with one of my team members in Oxford. It became so very clear. I think I had spent so long becoming the best version of myself and being very happy about that, that I had forgotten to share the other side of me with others. I also now know that my bad experiences can be used to help others and be a source of inspiration. I don’t have to keep proving myself, it’s ok to be human and have emotions, in fact people are far more likely to respond to the warmth that brings with it.

The impact to me and the business? I feel almost at peace with myself, I always knew who I was and my good and bad points, but I am happy to share them and I no longer feel the need to be so robotic.

I loved how the Academy was a safe place to learn with a feel of family, but it was fast paced and competitive that produced fantastic results. It optimised team work.

Since I have been back and taken over the retail department I have made sure that all my behaviours reflect this and that the teams know what we can achieve and how we can achieve it.

I’ve also chaired my first managers meeting, and I was told it was motivating and inspiring and that the team felt part of something amazing and special.

Thanks to the programme I have built some lovely internal relationships within other departments which will help retail move forward.

Plus, I’ve started to mentor people coming though the retail team who want to further their career. The Academy taught me how to develop and empower people.

Finally, two of my shops last week hit record breaking sales, I was asked how I had managed it……… I simply made them believe …. THEY ARE THE RIGHT PERSON!

There are no words that can describe what the Academy as done for me and my team.

For more information about OSS Academy

If you’d like to develop your transformational leadership skills and discover how the Academy can help you and your team please contact Terry Lees on 07595 928721 or