Client Spotlight: Human, Connected & Cosmopolitan01.Jan.2012
A venerable financial institution that has always prided itself on the quality of its customer relationships is reinventing itself for the 21st century. Here Rachel Short outlines how YSC has worked with a global private bank to make relationships pivotal to success.
Background – tradition and change
It all started with great relationships, between two organisations but also between two people. The organisation was responding, like all financial services providers, to global economic turbulence. However, other strategic changes were also afoot. As one of the UK’s most venerable private banks and with a heritage of integrity, probity and discretion – it was approaching change on just about every front. There was a new leadership team, a new strategy, a new structure, and new brand values. Most critically, it had plans to implement a new deal for clients which would rely on differentiated service based on really understanding the needs of different customer groups.
YSC had been the bank’s preferred partner for executive assessment for a number of years, but clearly fresh thinking was needed to help the bank’s leadership team succeed in delivering its ambitious change agenda. The spark came from an innovative and far-sighted Head of Leadership and Talent – someone with whom I have had a strong professional relationship for many years, based on our passion for leadership development and a shared tendency to speak our minds.
The leadership need – intelligent relationships
Previous leadership development activity at the bank had been successful in giving senior leaders a theoretical understanding and knowledge of methodologies for implementing change. Now the need was to convert this knowledge into confident and inspirational leadership on the ground. Our key client contact is well connected within the bank and outside of it. Her extensive research identified clear development needs for the bank’s leaders:
– strategy-critical focus
– adapting to a fast-changing, dynamic environment
– getting more out of people in mission-critical roles
– building the next generation of cultural leaders
– clear purpose in line with the bank’s refreshed values.
Her solution was an integrated approach to leadership development with a focus on intelligent relationships. This was also a key plank in the business strategy around engaging its customers.
The programme – speaking the truth
Our client took a pioneering approach by engaging YSC as a thought leader in the psychology of relationships. It wasn’t how YSC had previously been positioned in the organisation, so there was a bit of work to do to help broaden perceptions. The initial programme YSC devised – with a core focus on managing and improving the quality of connection and communication with what is important to people – succeeded in prompting personal change for those participants who took part in the pilot, which started to win over some of the doubters.
Based on the pilot, YSC designed three one-day workshops for global roll-out with a three-monthly follow-up to track personal change. This took place between June 2011 and November 2011 and involved 209 senior leaders taking part. Each workshop was bespoke and based on an eclectic mix of YSC’s and independent cutting-edge research. YSC and our client’s Head of Leadership & Talent worked in genuine partnership throughout, sharing ideas and co-creating the content to meet the needs of the audience.
The key factor underpinning the programme was building more confident leadership through better quality relationships – with self, colleagues, clients and the organisation. The focus was on replacing ingrained patterns of belief and habit with new, unfamiliar ways of being. YSC developed a completely tailored approach for the bank with an emphasis on softer, more subtle and sophisticated ways of helping people lead through challenging times in order to combat their own and others’ fatigue around change.
A big focus was on the psychology of communication: what attracts people to listen and what keeps them listening?
Other exercises included ‘deathbed conversations’, encouraging people to articulate their real feelings about change, and finding ways of saying what they need to say rather than what they feel safe saying. Indeed, a common theme throughout the programme was around helping people deepen a sense of connection in their relationships through the quality of their interactions and so enable them to really speak the truth (an issue that many organisations struggle with).
The outcome – starting to make the change
Like all great relationships, it’s been a journey. The success of the project has seen a culture shift which has confident leadership and honest conversations as its core. Inevitably, not everyone ‘enjoyed’ the experience! Sometimes people struggled to articulate the positive rather than the negative, and some had difficulties speaking so frankly in front of colleagues. Feedback overall was positive with delegate comments that included:
“Great workshop, with real long term development ideas as well as some quick wins on improving my communication.”
“I feel able to resolve issues quicker and more satisfactorily for all parties concerned.”
“I am going away with plenty of ideas and a clear case for putting them into action.”
“A really useful course for people who are future leaders of the business.”
What we learned – Gandhi was right
Many organisations are running on empty in terms of change fatigue. This programme was partly about getting people to recognise that Gandhi was right – individuals need to be the change they want to see in the world. The little things count – people have the power to make incremental change within organisations through building more intelligent human relationships. As the bank’s Head of Leadership & Talent concluded: