Resources and Insights

Bringing together a management team from 13 different countries

Do you work in an organisation where managers are based in different parts of the country, or indeed the world? Or do your teams sometimes work remotely and miss interaction with their peers?

I used to work in just such an organisation, and in 2018 I was invited back as a consultant and coach to devise a management development programme which would support line managers in 13 countries in Africa and Asia to become more effective people managers.

Fast forward 12 months, and the programme has been such a success that we are about to embark on cohort 2 (with cohorts 3, 4 and 5 being talked about as I type!) My client’s organisation now has a group of managers who report an increase in coaching skills to motivate their teams, who take time to manage effectively and who are confident giving feedback.

One participant told us: I have become a more attentive listener, not jumping into conclusions before hearing the whole story. I also endeavour to build trust at the onset of relationships and show genuine concern and care. I have also used the experience to have more meaningful career and self-improvement discussions with my line reports.

So what? We know that employees who feel listened to, who have the space to ask for help with their current role and support to grow into the next one, are more engaged at work, and engaged team members stick around. Teams where there is an underlying foundation of trust perform better. They are able to challenge each other and feel safe doing so, and that leads to better decision making and a focus on results.

It is much harder to build trust when we don’t see our team mates every day, so employers and line managers need to create spaces for teams to do just that.

How did we do it?

We started with a learning needs analysis which asked for input from managers, leaders and the HR colleagues who support these managers. That helped us focus on the skills which were needed most. It was also important for the programme to reflect the organisation’s values and its approaches in its wider work with communities, so that by developing these specific set of skills managers would be leading their teams in a truly values-led way.

This led to a blended programme of five participatory webinars, supported by participants practicing their coaching skills using real challenges, with a coaching buddy alongside. Webinars borrowed much from ‘action learning’ in that participants were encouraged to share how they’d put learning into practice and what had happened, and to share challenges for the whole group to learn from. Each webinar took a topic, for example building trust within a team, or structuring a coaching conversation, and introduced some theory and tools for discussion.

Using Zoom we were able to breakout into smaller groups so everyone had the chance to contribute. Participants also shared wider reading using the organisation’s collaboration platform, within a private group just for the managers in this programme. We also encouraged participants to keep a learning log, which they used to evidence putting the learning into practice. This was a condition of  receiving certification from the organisation of having completed the programme. As the programme ended, together with the Organisational Development Manager, we reviewed learning logs, offering further reading or suggestions for continued learning and for future cohorts we are looking to follow the programme with coaching support, to further build on participants learning.

What did the managers say? 

I just loved the way everything was set-up and the way discussions were facilitated. The reading material in the form of quick, summarised pdfs were very helpful to get a sense of what and how things are to be done. Also, one of the best parts was Jennifer responding to all the queries and reflections of each participants in a very positive manner and not making the participants feel unheard or unattended.

The quality was excellent. I really liked the open approach, how group work and buddying was organised.

The organisation’s Organisational Development Manager, who championed the programme internally says:

I really enjoyed working with Jen, as we co-designed the programme from start through to delivery and evaluation. Jen used her coaching skills in a number of ways throughout: in the programme design stage, helping us define our needs, expected outcomes, while keeping ownership of the course and its success. Then, during the webinars, she effectively balanced between supportive and challenging, to create a safe environment for line managers to learn. It’s been a delight working with Jen, and I’ve been able to rely on her facilitator expertise, while keeping the work fun!

And what was the impact for the organisation?

As part of our evaluation we spoke not only to participants but also to their line managers and line reports. We heard some fantastic stories of managers who had embraced their learning. One director told us: I’ve seen a remarkable improvement over 6 months in the way (the participant) manages her team and in her ability to understand and listen to them.

I design and deliver management and leadership development programmes for small to medium organisations which work towards your goals, values and specific learning needs. I blend my own suite of bite size online modules with online and face to face workshops in a way that meets your needs. Drop me an email at [email protected] to talk about what your managers need in order to deliver even more effectively through their teams.


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