Deregulation in the energy industry and the market conditions it created prompted this Midwestern utility to launch a fundamental reengineering of its business. The company would now commit to a team-based culture, transforming the century old, hierarchical, and autocratic leadership into a modern, matrixed, team-based culture. Now managers and supervisors would adopt a coaching and relationship-oriented approach to leadership while giving more decision-making authority to first-line workers. Tim Weitzel & Associates (formerly known as Dynamic Learning Systems) was contracted to provide the coaching, education, and training required to help with change management. We were also asked to assist the skills development manager in designing the company's leadership development curriculum. We were given responsibility for six curriculum components. Our success led to involvement in a variety of change initiatives throughout the company at first-line, middle management, and executive levels. They included:
Change Management. The Senior Vice President of a division at this company presented the following challenge (in brief): “Our mid-level managers and first-line people are voicing a lot of dissatisfaction with the senior leadership team (a group of eight people at the general manager level). Their ‘complaints’ vary in focus from individual leadership skills to coordination between business units and alignment of the division. I want to create an environment where we can get everything out on the table now and for future issues.”
Here's how we intervened:
- 1. We conducted individual interviews and focus groups to determine the issues.
- 2. We developed two customized surveys: one measured the effectiveness of the leadership team; the second, a 360-feedback instrument, measured individual leadership competencies against a model created from the captured interview and focus group information.
- 3. We administered the surveys, collected the data, and planned the two-phase intervention.
- 4. Phase 1: we developed individual leadership using the 360-feedback information. Each leader participated in an individualized coaching process. This process involved having each leader meet with each of their direct reports to discuss the summarized 360 information, the expected changes in their leadership approach, and the creation of working agreements.
- 5. Phase 2: we analyzed the survey information relating to the overall effectiveness of the entire leadership team. We designed a whole-systems change planning process. The entire division worked together to explore the survey information and make improvement plans.
- 6. Finally: We conducted a second survey to measure progress. We found that employees were much more satisfied with the level of leadership present in the new system, and that a new culture of openness and candor had become prevalent.
Leader Coaching. At this company, a high-level manager wanted to improve his ability to lead his department using a more collaborative, partnership-oriented leadership approach. Our intervention process was as follows:
- 1. We conducted individual interviews with the manager's direct reports, one peer, and his boss. We used the information from these interviews to develop a 360-degree feedback instrument.
- 2. We designed the customized 360-degree feedback instrument to capture more specific and measurable information from the manager's direct reports, peers, and boss about their perspective on his abilities regarding five key competency areas.
- 3. We used the results from this survey to design an intervention to help the manager close key performance gaps that had kept him from creating his desired culture. The intervention included one-on-one coaching sessions between Tim Weitzel and Associates and the manager; professionally facilitated dialogue sessions with the manager and his direct reports (themselves managers) to discuss issues relevant to this cultural development project; and periodic reassessment with the 360 feedback instrument to monitor and measure progress. Through his own determination and commitment, and with our help, this manager changed both his approach to work (and its accompanying reputation) from hard-nosed, aggressive, and destructive to one of genuine collaboration.
A Financial Services Software and Data Management Company
We were engaged to help this company identify and create the behaviors and competencies required to produce key results and transform into a high-performance culture. We were then engaged to develop leaders and staff who would excel in the people skills and performance-oriented aspects of these models. The goal was to break down divisional, departmental, team, and interpersonal barriers to communication as well as to foster a more energetic, self-directed, and motivated workforce. This intervention drew on multiple tools developed by Tim Weitzel & Associates with special emphasis on education and training at all levels of the organization. This project is ongoing, and an evaluation assessment has not yet been completed.
A Trucking Company
The manager of training and organizational development of a large trucking company determined that their training curriculum lacked basic leadership and supervisory people skills training for the first three levels of management (approximately 1500 managers). One of the primary objectives was to enhance their performance management in a way that created high trust and openness. We were engaged to design a program to meet this development need. With a colleague from Center for Organization Effectiveness in Madison, Wisconsin we designed and delivered a four-day leadership development program for these managers over a period of a several years. It was the most well-received and successful leadership development program at that time, and led to a second engagement to develop a similar program for first-line employees.