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How We Did It: Mid-Level Leadership Development Program

The Need

Having just gone through a merger, a global client needed to create one company culture and approach to leadership. They started by building a development program for their mid-level leaders.

The Solution

In partnership with DDI, the company designed and implemented a global, enterprise-wide, mid-level leadership development program built on the business drivers and competencies needed for success. 

The Result

The program was so successful it cascaded into the creation of programs for frontline and senior-level leaders. In total, over 1,000 leaders have been developed, resulting in much stronger bench strength across the pipeline. 

It's almost like a badge of honor to go through this program because it's widely known that the leaders coming out of it have been given accelerated development and have shown to be stronger performers, taking on expanded roles.

Patrick Connell, Consulting Manager - US Operations, DDI

In this How We Did It video, Patrick Connell, consulting manager, explains how DDI worked with one organization to create a global mid-level leadership development program.

After a large-scale merger, the organization faced the need to urgently transform. They needed to create one company culture and approach to leadership development and selection. And creating a consistent leadership development program at the mid-level was quickly seen as the most urgent priority. 

Learn how the organization partnered with DDI to craft a multi-component learning journey at the mid-level and why the program was so integral to the organization's transformation post-merger. 

Learn about DDI's solutions for mid-level managers.

Transcript:

Beth Almes:                        

Hi, everyone. Today, we have an exciting story about a client who started in a weird place. They started at the mid-level with their leadership development, and then, grew it from there. I have Patrick Connell here to tell a story today about his work with a client that really took an innovative approach to their development. Hi, Patrick.

Patrick Connell:                 

Hey, Beth.

Beth Almes: 

Tell us a little bit about this client.

Patrick Connell:                 

Yeah, this was actually a really interesting client to be involved with. They had a pretty urgent need. They had just gone through a pretty large-scale merger with another company. And there was a big push after the merger to really create that one company culture and a one company approach to development, and selection, and so forth. 

And so, our client contact at the time had been connected to one of the legacy companies that have been acquired. And her ask was help me figure out how to create an enterprise-wide leadership development journey or program for our mid-level leaders globally. I knew how to do this in my legacy world. I don't know how to do this in this new world post-merger. And so we were happy to help with that and to really just come alongside and help her think through how that could look like.

One of the first things we did was let's get really clear on what's important from a business perspective with the new company that's now been created. And that really translates to what were the strategic priorities, but also, how does that really translate to what's driving the business or business drivers? And so, our client was thankfully really able to clearly articulate that to us. And we were able to map that to our library of business drivers that have been created and that are linked to our competency models as well. 

So, it was getting that insight from her around what's driving the business, mapping those to a set of four business drivers, that were most critical for where the company was headed, and then, how those are aligned to critical leadership competencies that are needed to execute those drivers. And so, that was the really important, exciting first step, understanding what those drivers were.

And then, once we had that information, we were able to pull it together and design a multi-month, multi-component learning journey, again, designed at their mid-level leaders that would be rolled out globally and recommend the content, and courses, and activities that would align to the competencies that were most critical for that particular client. 

And we really worked hand in hand. We came to them with a point of view and the design, but we did really craft it together because there were things that they were going to also include in that journey that was not DDI content, which is perfectly fine. And the exciting part was how do we really bring that together? And so, it was an exciting way to meet a client where they were in the middle of a transformation, and where we were able to bring our insight around the business drivers in the competencies and how that drives what content's really critical, but how to make it work in their context, and also, how to make it scalable across the globe.

Beth Almes:                        

What made them decide to start with their mid-level leaders? Was there anything unique about that group and their needs?

Patrick Connell:                 

That was definitely a pain point they were aware of. That had been a little bit of a neglected group. They had started, done some work at the top and some work at the bottom, but it was all in pockets, but they had feedback from areas like their engagement survey, that the mid-level was definitely an area that they needed to focus and one that really hadn't had as much attention up and to this point. 

So, our client had a really intentional strategy around let's start at the mid-level, and then, we'll be able to cascade this work up and down, and to get to those other levels as well. But try to go where the pain was, for lack of better words.

Beth Almes:                        

Sure. What was different and innovative about their approach to developing their mid-level leaders?

Patrick Connell:                 

I think the fact that they were in the midst of a transformation. They were really merging to, I'd say, cultures that weren't complete night and day. But they were some definite differences there and say that we're going to have to align cultures and get people behind an enterprise approach. And their business model was shifting in addition to that. 

So, part of the acquisition was to be able to approach the market in a new way, go after new markets that they hadn't previously considered, and think about how technology was going to be a bigger part of their strategy. So, all that was combined into this approach around, we need to do something different and it's got to meet the needs of this new organization, not meet the needs of what was important in the past.

Beth Almes:                        

What was feedback from participants like?

Patrick Connell:                 

Really positive. I'd say this client was very focused on gathering the participants' voice at each point throughout the journey. And we got very good feedback in terms of the experience, the relevance, the practicality, and the right touch points because there was not just formal leadership development content that was part of this journey. There were also assessments that were baked in on the front end to get them some insights about their personality and their leadership behaviors so they had that coming into the program. They were paired with the DDI coach to help bring those insights to life.

And I think that was probably the program we got the most feedback around in terms of the value because they just... That level of leaders have not had that type of touch before, in the past. And it helped the journey feel very personalized for them as well. And this will be the third year of running this program. And they've actually won some external awards for it as well, which has been really gratifying and just couples along with the feedback and the business impact that they were hearing from managers too, around the benefits of the program.

Beth Almes:                        

Really nice. You mentioned that they wanted to cascade their program both up and down the chain. How did that come to life?

Patrick Connell:                 

They really went back to the business drivers as almost that Rosetta Stone. So, they were able to say, "We know these business drivers are critical and applicable, no matter what level we're talking about. They're just, the way we develop against these are going to look a little bit different depending on the level." So, they were able to take that blueprint, if you will, and then, scale it down to the frontline. 

And then, again, identify, based on our library of competencies, what are the most critical competencies at the frontline that aligned to those business drivers? And then, what content could they use through their license with us to be able to plug and play content into a journey that was similar in format, and structure, and design to the mid-level, but just tailored to address the needs of their frontline population.

And then, similarly, they did the same at the senior levels. So, scaling up the blueprint again, this time at more senior levels, focusing on the competencies that are more critical for strategic leaders, and then, designing a journey that's around those as well. So, we were closest probably in the mid-level piece, but there was a connection across all three.

Beth Almes:                        

What kind of development did they put in place for the senior level?

Patrick Connell:                 

They did a more robust assessment on the front end with personality inventories and some interview-based assessment. They then had more executive-level activities that were focusing on those higher-level competencies, like strategic thinking, and networking, and translating strategy into results. And then, they also built in a lot of peer interaction as part of the journey as well. And so, our content served as one aspect they used in that journey. And then, they also brought in content from other places, some of it internally, to help fill some gaps as well.

Beth Almes:                        

What were the results of the overall development program?

Patrick Connell:                 

It gained traction really well. So, like I said, this is the third year that they're running through individuals, and they've touched over a thousand leaders, at this point, with the program. The other two levels also got traction as well, and those are still being facilitated also globally. 

And there's been feedback really internally around... It's almost like a badge of honor to go through the program because they know that people coming out of it have been given accelerated development, and have shown to be stronger performers, taking on expanded roles. So, it's been aligned, in some ways, with their succession and management program as well, to get people building the bench at the mid level, but then, also thinking about the senior levels.

Beth Almes:                        

That's a great story about how they built that strong pipeline and how you were by their side in doing that. Thanks for sharing, Patrick.

Patrick Connell:                 

Sure thing.