Ensuring Talent for the Future with Leadership Development that Drives Performance

The Work

In a time of significant change, a company’s executive team acknowledged a critical need to ensure strong leadership for the future. They committed to a plan to lay the foundation for a new performance culture and new ranks of promising leaders. The result in six months was a group of leaders ready to advance into senior leadership roles, 25% of whom were promoted immediately.

The development of a leadership framework to articulate and clarify desired competencies identified six priority areas of development for the company, four of which involved leadership. JMW was hired because of a track record for impacting people’s behaviors and approaches to their day-to-day work as leaders. The distinction made by the executives who selected JMW was expressed as a need to shift the way people act and behave, which they saw as a key JMW area of expertise, versus having participants “learning about leadership” in a more theoretical, less actionable way.

In the context of a larger “talent agenda” put in place by the organization, the company identified a group of managers with the potential and aspiration to advance into senior leadership roles. These 24 individuals were enrolled in a Breakthrough Leadership Program designed by JMW to help build the company’s talent pipeline.

The Breakthrough Leadership Program was an intervention that focused on developing leadership behaviors and capabilities, as well as making a dramatic impact with learnings that would “live in the job.” In other words, the principles and approaches covered in the program would have direct relevance to the leaders’ real-time challenges and objectives and translate to tools and skills they could begin to implement immediately.

The curriculum consisted of 3 four-day sessions over six months, with one-on-one coaching during and after sessions. Each participant also committed to and pursued a “breakthrough project” focused on objectives relevant to their day-to-day responsibilities and overarching commitments, reinforcing the program’s “learning in action” approach.

A survey of participants showed that the vast majority rated their readiness for promotion in the organization as “high” or “extremely high.” Overwhelmingly, they reported:

  • An increase in self-awareness and confidence
  • A shift in seeing greater leadership possibilities for themselves and having a greater impact on others
  • Benefits from collaboration and relationship-building across functional and organizational boundaries

Breakthrough Projects
In keeping with the objectives of the program, several participants’ breakthrough projects succeeded in delivering results beyond incremental improvement. For example:

  • One participant took on doubling sales growth from £25 million to £50 million within three years. After one year, he was on track to deliver the result and was promoted to a more senior position.
  • Another participant took on a further costs reduction (over and above an already ambitious cost reduction target) of £8 million, and achieved that result within the fiscal year.

A Step Change in Perspective
The leadership development effort proved to be leverage for a step change in approach and performance.

  • Participants expressed a significant shift in their willingness to commit to an objective in advance of knowing exactly how they would achieve it. As one participant put it: “I am more willing to take on projects and tasks which will stretch me and that I don’t have all the answers to.”
  • The vast majority of graduates also said they believe they are now making a much larger contribution to the business as a direct result of the program. As one graduate said:

I am fundamentally in the same role, but I do believe I am making a greater contribution and am better placed within my team to take on new roles and challenges.

A New Leadership Pipeline
The executive team’s objective of securing new leadership talent for the future was achieved.

The success of the effort led the company to invest in subsequent Breakthrough Leadership Programs for managers with the potential and aspiration to advance into senior leadership roles.

  • Overall executive team succession coverage increased by 20%
  • 70% of participants have now moved into senior roles
  • 25% of participants were promoted by the completion of the program or immediately thereafter
Case study PDF available upon request.  Please contact Jamie Tiska.