An Example of Leadership Success: Creating Bench Strength

Want to go fast, go alone. Want to go far, go as a team. This sixth blog is dedicated to a leader’s determination to develop the bench strength of her team. Pat’s effort led to an organization-wide change in management strategies and tactics that shifted from exception management to a coaching approach where developing critical behaviors became leadership’s purpose. 

Pat is a senior leader in a transportation business that serves communities across the United States. As you can imagine, the vehicle operators spend most of their time driving. This makes it hard for leaders to observe the necessary behaviors to keep themselves, their customers, and the community safe. This barrier led to the organization over-focusing on finding undesired behaviors. This included audit processes and investments in technology designed to identify errors in performance. Seeing this approach was not producing the results the organization wanted, they invested in ADI’s Safety Leadership Process. What makes this example of leadership success unique was Pat’s purposeful development of process champions. 

As the implementation of the process began with limited internal resources, Pat quickly realized that it was going to be challenging to support the change efforts of every leader in the organization. Pat, with the help of ADI, began developing local and regional champions to help give leaders the support they needed to create change. Champions functioned as additional coaches and mentors during the first several months of implementing the Safety Leadership Process. They would be responsible for providing systematic follow-up to every leader trained to ensure the early changes in a leader’s behavior were positively reinforced and that barriers for the development of good leadership skills were removed. To develop these champions, Pat engaged in the following leadership behaviors:

Selected the right people. Pat knew having the right people as champions was going to be critical. Champions needed to be energetic, likeable, and early adopters in taking on new activities and processes. Pat developed a list of key attributes she was looking for in her champions. Once she had the champion criteria developed, Pat conducted interviews and hosted auditions to select the absolute best candidates to take on this new role.  In doing so, Pat now had a team of people with the characteristics and desire to become a champion of the Safety Leadership Process.

Provided advanced training and coaching. After the team was selected, Pat worked with ADI to provide more advanced training in the Safety Leadership Process. These trainings gave the champions additional knowledge and practice, further developing their coaching skills to prepare them for helping other leaders. To support the champion behaviors, monthly coaching calls were scheduled to discuss coaching efforts and address barriers. These calls were an ongoing activity in which Pat helped support the champions. One important activity during these sessions was champions purposefully sharing the success they have had and the steps they took to achieve that success. Success was defined as any coaching efforts that created a positive change in a leader’s leadership abilities—big or small. The champions were asked to have those examples ready to discuss as part of best practice sharing. 

Provided the time and support needed to coach. Other important actions taken by Pat focused on creating opportunities for the champions to be successful. Pat freed up the champions’ time and arranged for the resources the champions needed to coach. This included the temporary removal of other duties and providing aid (e.g., additional help for other duties) and resources such as travel budgets. This gave the champions the ability to take on the additional role without sacrificing work quality or overwhelming them. By doing so, Pat prevented the too common do-more-work-with-fewer-resources requirement that organizations typically add to people’s workloads.

The implementation of these critical behaviors by Pat created a team of champions who helped push a leadership change initiative organization wide. The additional training and support for the champions meant leaders got the support they needed to improve. This not only improved leadership skills of the leaders but led to improved safety results and culture. Pat saw a significant shift in what people looked for and talked about when it came to leading their people. Through Pat’s planning and hard work, the organization saw lasting change. Any leader or organization that wants to create sustained change in their organization should consider emulating these critical behaviors. 

Posted by Bryan Shelton

Bryan applies his knowledge and expertise in strategic planning to help organizations align employee performance with company goals. Bryan helps clients create improvement across a variety of business metrics including company growth, profitability, customer service, vision alignment, leadership development, and culture change. He also helps clients implement process improvement initiatives, improve sales results and using performance-pay systems to help drive company results. His behavior-based approaches and applications have supported clients’ improvement initiatives, leadership development, and the design and implementation of performance pay systems.