Sally GunnellAn Olympic champion has given business leaders advice on how to strike gold in their professional careers.

Sally Gunnell, who won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, spoke at a special workshop held to mark the conclusion of two of Teesside University’s key leadership development programmes.

Sally, who was the only female 400m hurdler in history to win both the Olympic and World titles and also break the world record, spoke at the University’s Darlington campus to members of the Leading for Growth programme and Leadership Forge alumni about the importance of setting goals and having a positive mental attitude.

Leading for Growth is a four month leadership development programme designed specifically for small businesses.

It takes into account the needs of small business owner-managers or decision-makers and addresses the challenges they encounter and helps them recognise and effectively deal with issues that impact upon their business.

The Leadership Forge alumni network offers participants from previous leadership development programmes the opportunity to develop business contacts and share knowledge, as well as a series of masterclasses and workshops by inspiring speakers to provide continuous skills development.

At the Festival of Leadership event held to mark the end of the current programmes, Sally Gunnell spoke about her career and the targets she set for herself and the obstacles she overcame to ensure that she became the best in the world at her sport.

Laura Woods, Director of The Forge, Teesside University’s business hub, said: “Sally’s talk was inspirational, and many of her experiences are as applicable in the world of business as they are in international athletics.

“When we set out to develop our leadership programmes, we wanted to create courses that catered for the needs of small businesses.

“It has been a really rewarding programme for everybody and it was brilliant to be able to celebrate it with them.”

Russell Holmes, from engineering firm John Boyd Associates in Billingham, took part in the Leading for Growth programme. He said: “The programme has helped pull the team together and given them a more strategic understanding of our strengths and weaknesses.

“We’ve been able to go back and look at the business and see that it’s ripe for growth.”

Pete Daykin, from Newcastle-based digital marketing agency Daykin and Storey, is a member of the Leadership Forge Alumni network. He said: “The programme has helped us get new information and enabled us to think on a bigger level.

“It’s been great to get different perspectives on business, and sharing experiences with other people on the alumni programme has been genuinely beneficial.

“When you run your own business, it can be difficult to access formal education. So to have university academics giving you advice and ideas which we can use has also been very useful.”

A new programme of leadership development courses and events has been developed by The Forge. For more information call Claire Cook on 01325-529650.