Lockwood Publishing Ltd are a game developer and the award-winning creators of Avakin Life – a massively multiplayer online game (MMO).

The turning point for the company was in 2019 when Avakin began to gain real traction, bringing in half a million daily users. So with a great challenge ahead and in the middle of a big expansion to help meet the new demands of the business, Lockwood turned to Zeal to help them through this transition seamlessly. The company – which had 30 employees just several months earlier – had more than tripled in size when they approached us.

The problems at the time were manifold. Young managers being promoted into positions without any substantial background in leadership or people-management. Teams and departments spread across different geographical locations (within and outside the UK) not communicating effectively. A lack of a structured progression, or an appropriate employee appraisal or performance review process. Figuring out how to work better as a larger team and manage conflict effectively. The studio creating new roles and opening its doors to talent across the industry yet risking not being able to retain this talent or maintain employee satisfaction, without the proper preparation. Improving operational effectiveness by ensuring meetings are ran and managed appropriately.

These were just a few of the obstacles along the way – and with the company continuing on the same fast-moving growth trajectory, new leaders needed to be given the framework, tools and training they need, in order to contribute to the continuing rapid expansion.

What we did

To kickstart the project and get a fuller understanding of the scope and size of the challenge, a number of initial conversations were held with members of the HR team, senior executives and board members. Through these Zeal were able to create a recommended plan of action, meanwhile stakeholders from Lockwood identified new leaders whom they would put forward for the training.

Subsequently, Zeal made contact with each of the 25 leaders on the list to gather their perspectives on the key issues, understand what skill gaps need to be filled, and discuss some real-life examples of situations that leaders find challenging. The common themes that emerged from these conversations fed into the design of the training – a Leadership Development programme comprising 5 separate modules; each tackling a different element of leadership.

  1. Leadership Fundamentals – here we discussed the notion of ‘supportive leadership’ and the importance of this from the individual right up to the organisational level. Topics such as identifying and playing to your strengths as a leader, creating a safe culture, and building a strong team were also explored.
  2. Meeting Management – this session highlighted the problems associated with ‘bad’ meetings and how we can turn them into productive ones. Key challenges that were addressed included the logistical side of meetings, managing group dynamics, attendee engagement, and various steps that psychology tells us we ought to take before, during and after meetings to make sure they have an impact.
  3. Change Management – as part of this module, we introduced delegates to psychological theories and models revolving around change implementation. We covered topics such as how to foster openness to change, with a special focus on why some employees resist it and ways to deal with resistance to change as a leader.
  4. Feedback – this module centred around the importance of feedback and various principles, steps and key guidance leaders would benefit from following when delivering positive or negative news. Challenges such as how to deal with adverse reactions, knowing the right language to use so as to not evoke negative emotions in others, and setting up the right physical and psychological environment were explored.
  5. Performance Management – the focus here was placed on factors that determine job performance, how have fruitful conversations around it, embedding a learning culture, and creating a shared vision that that a team would be inspired to work towards.

In the main, each module was a half-day session that was followed by a two-week break during which delegates were given the opportunity to reinforce and consolidate their learning through on-the-job practice and post-coursework activities.

To ensure the group size is optimal for good levels of interaction, engagement and learning, and to fit in with the workplace demands faced by Lockwood’s leaders, the group was split into two cohorts, and delivery was offered both face to face and virtually via Teams.

Sessions were kept dynamic and action-packed, with delegates being exposed to a range of group activities, polls, videos, scenarios, quizzes, games and other interactivities, intended to facilitate their learning and development. A variety of tools and handouts were also introduced and were made use of during and outside of the sessions.


Evaluation data was collected at various points throughout the programme, namely: prior to the programme’s commencement; following each of the 5 modules; and upon completion of the whole training.

The results revealed two major findings: a) delegates knowledge and understanding of each of the five key topics areas had increased significantly, and b) the same effect was observed in relation to their confidence and perceived ability to handle challenges associated with any of these areas, evidencing the value of the programme. Meanwhile, the interim evaluations demonstrated the programme was very positively received and highly applicable to their jobs.

The success of the training is also evident in how Lockwood continued its evolution. Many commented on how much smoother meetings have been running ever since the training. Others implemented the principles taught during the modules in their day-to-day practice. Managers were better equipped to identify, support and nurture talent, and prepare them to lead additional smaller teams. The company successfully continued its growth to approximately 300 employees – 10 times the original size.

Moreover, the benefit of Zeal’s training was acknowledged and resulted in two additional training packages being requested by Lockwood. These were to focus on a different set of topics and be delivered to two other staff groups within the organisation.

As part of the evaluation surveys some delegates expressed their honest views on the training:

“Very thorough. Pleased it is backed up by research and studies.”

“Great training. Engaging presenters and content was very useful.”

“I feel I have heard a lot that will alter how I or my team will interact. The trainers are very nice and confident in their delivery.”

At Zeal, we believe in strengthening people and organisations. Through our understanding of the science of human behaviour and experience of the workplace, we help organisations strengthen their people, teams and leaders to create healthier, happier and more productive workplaces.
What makes us different is we’re psychologists with business in mind. We are passionate about the use of psychology in the workplace, and aim to enhance individual and organisational health, well-being and performance.
Contact us for more information about our practical tools and the bespoke services we can offer to your organisation, or alternatively email us at support@zealsolutions.co.uk or call us on T: 01159 932 324.

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