In today's competitive marketplace, in order to become high-performance players, employees need to possess a full range of skills. For many clients, Guttman has custom-designed programs that focus on a number of key individual and team skills.
A financial services firm
Several years ago, senior management at a Northeastern financial services firm conducted an employee-engagement survey. Responses revealed that the level below officer—directors and senior directors—was being underserved by the firm’s development programs. These individuals, the future leaders of the company, were not being prepared to take over the reins. Heeding the wake-up call, top management called in Guttman to custom-design a multifaceted capability development program for the next generation of leaders.
Guttman began by identifying the key skills needed at officer level and the areas in which directors were deficient. We then created a capability development program to close the gaps. Based on data gathered in personal interviews of officers and directors, our consultants concluded that the firm needed to focus on five capabilities: influencing, conflict management, strategic thinking, problem solving/decision making, and developing team members. We designed a comprehensive capability development program, which the company called “Leadership Excellence” and which was presented in five modules, one month apart, in which each capability was introduced; on-job application was carried out between each module and results were presented the next time participants met. In the final module, participants made presentations to senior management around compelling business issues they were beginning to solve with their new skills.
Eventually, Guttman consultants delivered the program to nearly 250 directors and senior directors over a four-year period. Six months after each five-module program, the company held focus groups with participants: Were they using the skills? Answer: Definitely. At the same time, their colleagues and supervisors were asked if participants’ behavior had changed since going through the program. Answer: Definitely. The same questions were asked of both groups one year later and the same responses were received. Participants gave the program the highest rating of all those ever run by the firm; there was a year-long waiting list to attend; and at least one to two participants in each program were promoted within a year after attending.
A global pharmaceutical company
A global pharmaceutical company’s U.S. business had been growing organically for a number of years. Dealing with rapid growth hadn’t left senior management much time to consider how results were being achieved. Now, as the company faced increasing pressure to maintain its profitability, attract the best talent, and keep the drug pipeline full, the top team realized that it was time to step back and take a longer view: identify the most efficient, effective way of working together, which everyone could follow, and institutionalize it across the company.
Beginning with the premise that, “What got us here won’t get us where we need to go,” the Management Committee engaged Guttman to help employees shed old, ineffective behaviors and institutionalize new, more productive ways of working together. The culture had been one where everyone was very nice; no one said no or pushed back. Conflict was avoided. Many people had been promoted to leadership positions because of their technical or functional expertise, but they were lacking the leadership skills they needed to shift the culture.
We began by offering capability development programs in seven areas, then homed in on the four that seemed to be most critical:
- Influencing skills, including active listening and assertion: How do you get others to do what you are convinced needs to happen? How do you build commitment vs. compliance? How do you assert your point of view without either ignoring others’ ideas or allowing them to bully you into agreement.
- Conflict management skills: How do you work through issues in a way that accelerates relationships and results in stronger outputs. What stories are you currently holding onto that are keeping you mired in unproductive conflict? How can you transform that conflict into a positive force for you, your colleagues, and the company?
- Developing High-Performance Leaders: Because teams are instrumental in accomplishing the company's goals, participants in the program needed to learn how to develop the individuals on their teams. How could they assess each person’s strengths and needs? How could they vary their leadership behavior to best fit each player’s needs?
- How to Lead Your Team: Creating a high-performing team involves more than interacting effectively with individuals, so this program focused on working with the team as a whole. How do you improve your capabilities as a leader of a team? How do you structure the team for high performance from Day One? What vehicles can you create to keep your team moving forward?
Guttman has been conducting this suite of capability development programs at the company for several years. As a result, there is now a consistent way of operating throughout the organization. Employees now hold not only themselves, but also their peers and their leaders, accountable for results. There is much more transparency and receptivity to others’ points of view. Conflict is handled above board and swiftly. These changes have been woven into the culture, resulting in a more effective, more efficient workplace and a degree of conscious competence that did not exist previously.