06th September 2018
CASE STUDY: The most targeted Leadership Development Program we’ve seen
Our team have recently concluded an 18-month Leadership Development Program with a client that we feel has set a new benchmark in developing capability, culture and alignment in an ASX 100 company. This case study outlines the aspects of the program that we feel made a significant difference. It’s a study in how to create a meaningful, engaging development journey, critical to the company’s ambitious plans.
A need to rapidly transform an ASX 100 company
Our client is an ASX 100 Industrial business, recently emerging from a major corporate restructuring. Coming off two years of reestablishing its credibility with investors and staff, the new CEO and newly assembled executive team set themselves an ambitious plan: to earn the right to grow by proving their business model and capability. They set themselves an 18 to 24 month period to rapidly transform their business. This was to be achieved by improving yields from existing businesses, developing an aligned senior management group and creating new capabilities that could be leveraged into new assets under development and potential acquisition targets.
A committed and visionary Executive Team
When we first started engaging with the client, it was clear that the CEO and the executive team were ambitious and focused. We initially worked with them to establish trust, deeper alignment and new protocols for how they would operate. They then developed their vision for the organisation’s transformation, but unlike many other clients, they deeply believed in the power and potential their top 40 executives could have. They felt the key to their future success was this cohort, which included the eight on the Executive Team. They asked us to design and develop an 18-24 month Leadership Development Program that would engage and align this group. They needed to equip the group with the skills and capabilities required to lead the business into the future.
The critical team of 40
Rather than focus just on the Executive Team, or a select few people, the program’s intent was to regard this 40 strong group as needing to win together, harnessing their collective strength and contributions. The program had to be designed and facilitated in a way that would clearly communicate the importance of the 40. Each person was to play their part in shaping the organisation’s success. Membership of this team came with obligations in participation, behaviour and support. This in itself was a novel and inspiring approach. To paraphrase the CEO: “The fastest way to develop a new culture and ways of working is to have as many influential leaders take up the mantle as possible. Why limit us to 8 key leaders when we can have 40?”
The What, the Who and the How
An initial early step in the program was to develop and communicate a clear strategy – the What. Next, establish the 40 as the critical cohort – the Who. And finally, to develop and communicate the essential frameworks for success – the How. With our assistance on ‘the How’, they established an operating model and a new set of leadership behaviors to replace the old. Known as “How We Work Together”, these were a simple set of five Principles, with five desired Behaviours supporting each. Inherent in these were new and challenging ways of working and leading; themes centered on collaboration, innovation, focus and performance.
Setting the approach in motion
These principles set the framework for the leadership approach and style required to support the ambitious strategy and business goals. To reinforce the intent, the eight Executive Team members underwent 360 feedback on the new behaviours first. The remaining 32 then went through an individual assessment process, including the 360 survey to establish a current picture of performance, strengths and gaps. There was no doubting the commitment and intent of the new ways of operating as a leader in this company. At this point, some of the 40 exited the cohort, and new people stepped in to fill the gaps.
Capability building and knowledge development workshops
Having established the leadership behaviour expectations, the next step was to work with a sub-group of the 40 to design and develop a series of two-day workshops over the coming 12 months. Each one focused on one of the five leadership Principles. This is where the cohort of 40 came together as a group, working on developing new capabilities and knowledge acquisition to translate the Principle into actionable work. Interspersing learning with application, our facilitation set the team up to tackle business problems and projects in real time.
Solving real problems, doing real work
By bringing into the workshop sessions critical issues and projects that needed to be worked through, the team not only had the opportunity to practice the newly developing ways of working together, but were able to fast track the development of policies, approaches and solutions that were building blocks on the pathway to their strategic goals. We found this method of working to be an efficient, fast and decisive way of getting resolutions agreed and enacted. A process that could otherwise take months. By having the critical people in the room together, using new behaviours and techniques, and forcing decisions to be agreed, we not only started to see rapid progress on goals being made, but a palpable emergence of a tight, capable and collaborative team. By the end of the 18-month process, the team collectively felt they had earned the right to grow and were now equipped take on the emerging prospects on their close horizon.
Unwavering focus leading to rewards
We came to enjoy and admire not only the CEO and top team’s unwavering focus on the program and its intent, but their confidence in us to design facilitate and coach them along a journey that was new to all of us. As we transitioned the program into the hands of the 40-person cohort at the end, it was gratifying to see their hard work and focus paying off.
Supported by a board who had witnessed the capability transformation, the business was closing in on the critical phases of a $1 billion expansion project, when an international acquisition opportunity emerged. The board, investors, debt markets and the leadership team all had the confidence to lean in and execute the acquisition, assured that the preceding 18 month program of leadership development had equipped them to manage risks and handle challenges successfully. Their current exciting growth projects are now reward for their targeted leadership and capability-building work, and we’re proud to have assisted in their transformation program.