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4D Leadership

4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development

Twenty years ago the accumulation of skills, knowledge and experience (‘horizontal development’) was sufficient for business success. Today, it’s not. 4D Leadership – Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development, offers a new approach of ‘vertical development’.

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Emotional engagement

Orlagh Hunt- Group HRD, FTSE 250

158d624.jpg-150x150In my first three years as an international HR director, I focused on performance management, linking performance and reward, performance levels and executive development.

When I moved into the Group role, I realised that although our employee opinion survey was showing lots of progress in areas such as clarity of business direction and links to performance, the one thing that hadn’t moved was emotional attachment or emotional engagement with the business.  To address that we put in place development interventions aimed at the front line and middle managers in 30 countries.

We also recognised that we needed to develop the executive team in the same way and that’s where Alan helped. We were coming out of a turnaround situation where a directive approach had been necessary and beneficial, but we needed to begin the shift to a less directive and more inclusive style of leadership.

That intervention started with work on our vision – what we were trying to do, what we wanted to be and what that all meant. The business had operated effectively, but we needed to understand the next phase of the journey. We needed to continue with our organic growth strategy, but we also had bigger ambitions and we needed to look at what was required to achieve them. That involved looking at how we worked as a team and how we led the rest of the business.

Some great work was done and Alan helped crystallise that what we needed was a more overt growth and customer oriented strategy. Working with Alan opened up the opportunity to have a different strategy and what that meant for the next phase of the business.

One of big things that Alan pushes is the need to be a team, which is a struggle for many top teams. In theory we worked together, but our old way of operating had been all about driving individual performance. That was how our performance management and people management processes were set up.  But to think bigger you need to have more collaboration and innovation and that requires different ways or working. Alan talks about fellowship and while I don’t think we ever quite reached that level, we certainly became much better working as a team which enabled us to drive the growth through innovation and collaboration.

Individually, for members of the executive team, it was very much about being open. We needed to stop the sense that you have to have all the answers just because you’re in a senior position. That means being open to including more people in decision-making. In a turnaround situation that kind of approach would cause instability, but the time was now right for that approach. Moving our leadership style on in that way was very important.

The new strategy set the new direction and then a regeneration of the executive team took place.  We moved to a more human and engaging leadership style that supported the organic growth phase and teed up opportunities for us to think differently about how ambitious our strategy could be. All of this happened over a nine-year period and the outcome has been that the organisation moved from failing to being well respected on the FTSE. Not only that, but the organisation has seen benefits in terms of significant levels of organic growth despite a difficult economic environment, world class levels of employee engagement (as measured by Gallup) and it achieved sixth place in The Sunday Times Best 100 Big Companies to work for scheme in 2012.


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