When Sabio and LeaderSpace first met, Sabio was entering a new phase of its development as an organisation. It was no longer a young start-up, focused purely on growing its capacity and market presence. It was an established brand looking to create sustainable long-term value in the face of a global economic downturn. To do so, Sabio’s Board believed they needed to create a greater sense of shared ownership throughout the organisation. They wanted their specialised middle-managers to work more collaboratively across departments to make delivering innovation and high quality customer service more efficient and cost effective. But the top team also recognised that creating a shift in their staff would require them to make a similar shift themselves.
We then spoke one-on-one to the other two members of the Executive Board and key middle-managers from across the business. Each individual also completed two questionnaires: one about their team and one about themselves. This gave us a wealth of data, which informed the design of bespoke interventions at all three levels: shareholder, Board and middle-managers.
The first of these was an event for the Board and selected middle managers, aimed at providing them with an opportunity to work collaboratively outside of their usual day-to-day activities. The middle managers focused on exploring their dynamic as a collective: their strengths, challenges, shared frustrations, uncertainty as to their purpose and who should be included in the ‘team’ – uncertainties that are almost always present when middle managers come together. The Board focused on their own interactions with this group: they set the scene for the work, provided additional clarity where needed and received feedback from their juniors, while giving the group space and privacy to find their own ways of working together. And work together they did, with the help of various business-focused activities that helped them generate recommendations for the Board: practical input on the key things they felt Sabio should preserve in its current ways of working, and the things it should change to be more effective.
We also worked on the interface between the four founding shareholders and the Executive Board. As with all of LeaderSpace’s work, peer feedback played a key role. Another critical component was helping the four shareholders find a means to address the conflicts arising from each of them occupying multiple roles with competing priorities and reporting lines. From two perspectives – as friends and founding shareholders – the four were equals. From another, as board members, three of them reported to the MD. This was reducing clarity around authority and accountability, which was impacting on operational and strategic decisions. It was also affecting the dynamics with the other two board members and how they were perceived by the rest of the business. Clarifying these various roles helped the shareholders create a clear three-year remit for the MD and hand him the necessary authority to deliver on that remit. They literally rewrote their shareholder agreements to reinforce the culture of accountability that’s critical for any high performing team. They then cascaded accountability by redesigning incentive structures for key staff.
In our client’s words… [+]
Paul Began, Technical Director, Sabio
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