Accelerance and our client, Old Mutual Wealth, were awarded the 2017 Silver Award in the Executive Development category in this year’s Excellence in Practice Awards by the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). The Excellence in Practice Awards recognise outstanding and impactful Leadership and Development interventions between partner organisations. We are proud of the strong and collaborative partnership we forged with Old Mutual Wealth, which enabled us to diagnose, design and deliver a leadership programme, entitled, “Enabling Positive Futures,” which delivered the high-impact change in leadership effectiveness we were aiming for.

Read the 2017 EIP Case Study on EPF

We think the “Enabling Positive Futures Programme” is a powerful example of the impact organisations can achieve through what we call “Trust-based Partnerships” that address what is real and urgent by challenging assumptions, identifying what needs to change, and are open to developing innovative learning solutions that drive significant and measurable improvements in leadership effectiveness and organisational performance.

What did the Trust-based Partnership achieve for Old Mutual Wealth?

  • 90% of the programme alumni stated that, because of attending the programme, they were collaborating more with peers, providing more effective and constructive feedback to their teams, and felt that the programme had been valuable to their careers.
  • 75% of the participants’ stakeholders stated, via an end-of-programme 360-degree feedback process, that the participants had become more effective as leaders, had improved their focus on clients, and that the activity of their teams were more tightly aligned to the execution of the OMW strategy.

Not a bad outcome from our partnership with Old Mutual Wealth…

So, what does it take to create a “Trust-based Partnership” between organisations that can deliver results with this level impact, and which significantly improves leadership effectiveness across the organisation?

As a corollary, why do so many “partnerships” fail to reach their potential and deliver the impact they promised?

The answer is, “Because it’s harder than it looks!”

In addition, not every organisation we encounter is open to developing a Trust-based Partnership with us – or anyone else. Some want to maintain a “transactional” relationship and are simply looking for a development solutions to a “clearly defined” developmental challenge – or at least they think so… Our experience suggests that these organisations are leaving a lot of value on the table by pursuing this relationship strategy with their leadership development suppliers.

A Thought Experiment

At this point, I’d like to offer a simple thought experiment regarding the development of an executive or leadership development initiative. Consider the following:

  • How many resources has your organisation invested over the years to establish and articulate its leadership culture through competency models, talent management assessments, promotion criteria, and the performance management systems?
  • Why has your organisation made this investment and what is it aiming to achieve?
  • Do you believe that there is no real difference in the quality and effectiveness of your organisation’s leaders compared to those of your competitors, i.e. you can slap any competent leader into the organisation and it will work?
  • How strong is the belief in your organisation that these leadership principles, and the associated measuring initiatives, deliver significant competitive advantage over the long run and drive business success?

So, if your organisation has made a significant investment in identifying these “leadership drivers” of competitive advantage and strongly believe they promote business success, then:

  • Why would you not want a partner whose desire is to understand why these leadership principles – and not others – are so important to your organisation’s success and how they differentiate your organisation from your competitors?
  • Why wouldn’t you want a Partner to gain deep insights into your operating context to identify what’s most valuable to your leaders in terms of their development?
  • Why wouldn’t you want a Partner willing to invest in the relationship, learn about your organisation and work collaboratively to create innovative and impactful developmental solutions?
  • Why would you accept the same developmental product or solution as your competition and how would that “me too” solution provide competitive advantage?

 

The key ingredients for building a “Trust-based Partnership”

Unfortunately, we experience many organisations simply looking for the most cost effective and least resource intensive solution to developing their leaders. They see leadership development as a “standardized commodity.” Their developmental solutions are mostly focused on “knowledge and behavioural skill building,” and not on “strengthening the organisation’s leadership culture and mindset, which is why they don’t always fully appreciate what a 5 or 10% improvement in leadership effectiveness across an organisation means to business success or increased advantage in the marketplace.

Our desire is to work with organisations who see leadership and executive development as a critical path to business success and a source of competitive advantage. Organisations willing to make the investment in developing a relationship with Accelerance – or any other credible organisation – will be rewarded with the impact and results they seek.

Many organisations express a belief in these principles but their actions seldom match their words for a variety of reasons.

That’s why we look for four key attributes in the people and organisations we partner with because they are the key to building high-impact developmental interventions. These four attributes are:

  1. Willingness to invest in building relationship capital.
  2. Willingness to learn about themselves as an organisation.
  3. Willingness to provide access to the business and the executive who lead it.
  4. Willingness to challenge the developmental “status quo.”

 

Willingness to invest in building relationship capital

It takes time and effort to build any relationship. The relationship between organisations is no different. Many organisations pay lip service to establishing partnerships with their Leadership Development providers but often these partnerships are “One-Way.” They reduce the relationship to a transactional nature, i.e. “give us what we want because we know what we need.”

However, many organisations find themselves in dynamic and fast-pasted competitive environments. Others are attempting to reimagine their business models through strategic transformation and change initiatives.

The leaders of these organisations are facing “Adaptive Challenges” associated with the dynamic change they must navigate to be successful. They understand and accept what needs to change or transform, but do not know exactly how to do it, which requires the organisation and the leaders to focus on learning, experimentation, and failure to move forward.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to address strategic or transformational business challenges from a leadership development perspective if there is limited dialogue and scarce quantities of relationship capital. Organisations that make the investment in strengthening the relationship with their provider create a collaborative dialogue, built on trust, which helps both parties challenge themselves and each other to raise the “Level of Play” and open the door to new ideas, innovative solutions, and increased value delivery.

 

Willingness to learn about themselves as an organisation

In the world of leadership development, self-awareness is considered a key to improving leadership effectiveness. We know from experience that organisations that are willing to learn about themselves gain the most from a discovery process driven by a “dynamic and sustained” exploratory dialogue.

The ability, and openness, to explore a set of fundamental questions such as, “Why do we do this and how could we do it better?” opens the door to important insights as to “What needs to change and how do we change it.”

Organisations that do not open themselves up to critical and constructive analysis are more likely to keep pursuing the same developmental goals, using variations of the techniques they are comfortable with, and expect a different outcome.

Isn’t that a version of Einstein’s definition of insanity?

Only organisations that understand and accept why choices, which were made in an earlier and different context, may no longer be working – will be open to exploring a set of new choices for the current context that will make a sustained and positive impact.

 

Willingness to provide access to the business and the executives who lead it.

At the end of the day, any successful development intervention must be effective within a specific business context. To be valued by the organisation and the target participants, the developmental intervention must be grounded in the drivers of individual and organisational business success. It also must address the organisational and personal obstacles to achieving success within the current context.

The individuals who have the greatest understanding of those challenges, and the current context, are the leaders of the business – either the target participants or their management.

So, it’s critical for the partner organisation to be given access to these individuals to understand their top priorities and concerns for the business as well as discover their concerns regarding the issues that will inhibit success. It is only by engaging in these conversations with senior executives and operational leaders that the partner organisation can gain the insights required to design and develop the highest impact developmental solutions.

We understand that many organisations want to “protect” their senior leaders and executives from frivolous conversations with external consultants. That is why it is critical to vet the organisation and people you want to partner with. They need to be credible and experienced in dealing with the leadership and business challenges that your leadership are facing.

If you are not sure the people in the partner organisation are up to the task then you have probably chosen the wrong partner and may not get the impact you are looking for.

 

Willingness to challenge the developmental “status quo”

Once the partnership has explored the business and leadership challenges in the current context, identified the top business and developmental priorities, and understands what needs to change and why – it’s time to begin the process of developing the most efficient, effective, and impactful developmental solution.

All organisations have a business culture. The same applies to the development philosophies and norms that organisations tend to use over the years. In most organisations, certain learning methodologies are well accepted and others are not. For example, case studies may be used across many developmental initiatives but others, such as 360-degree feedback, may be less welcome.

Once again, earlier business contexts and choices play a significant role in determining “how things are done around here” because culture, corporate or developmental, take time to develop. So, it can be inherently difficult to explore solutions that challenge the prevailing culture and developmental “comfort zones.”

Organisations that accept a simple premise that, “New challenges require New solutions” are much more likely to leverage innovative approaches, which have not been in the organisation’s developmental playbook; new approaches that deliver the change and impact the organisation is seeking through the partnership.

It’s important to note that there will usually be resistance to challenging the status quo because – well, it’s the status quo…

People’s identity and careers can be tied up in a specific developmental philosophy or executive decision makers may not want to take the risk of doing something that goes against the organisation’s developmental norms.

These resistance points, and others like them, are effectively mitigated via “trust-based partnerships.”

Why?

Well, it’s due to the following:

  1. The relationship capital has been built, trust is high, and the credibility of the partnership has been firmly established.
  2. The partner organisations have challenged their assumptions to discover the real drivers of success.
  3. Senior business leadership has been an integral part of the conversation and accept that new challenges require new solutions.

 

Establishing a trust-based partnership is not for every organisation

Making the effort to establish a “Trust-based Partnership” with Accelerance, or any Leadership Development provider, may not be worthwhile for many organisations due to their legacy cultures around the development of leaders in their organisations. These organisations are more likely to work with credible suppliers who offer high-quality, but often standardized, leadership and management developmental solutions.

However, organisations that are in dynamic, fast-paced and competitive environments, or are undergoing significant business transformations, may be better served by establishing a “Trust-based Partnership” with their provider. A partnership that can openly ask the tough questions required to understand what it will take to develop the agile and adaptive leaders needed to successfully navigate these ambiguous and dynamic environments.

In addition, organisations that place a premium on the importance of increasing leadership effectiveness as a driver of business performance are also well positioned to benefit from establishing a “Trust-based Partnership.”

Is your organisation facing these types of challenges? Do you think a Trust-based Partnership can help your organisation achieve success? Then ask yourself these four key questions:

  1. Is your organisation or you willing to invest in building relationship capital with your selected partner?
  2. Is your organisation willing to learn about itself as an organisation?
  3. Is your organisation willing to provide access to the business and the executive who lead it?
  4. Is your organisation willing to challenge the developmental “status quo?”

If you are ready – then we at Accelerance are here to help you achieve the success you seek.