European and global companies increasingly see the first line leaders as key to building and sustaining employee engagement. They are investing significantly to develop the skills and approach of these leaders. An important challenge to be overcome, when seeking to generate a common leadership approach across Europe, is ensuring that the training experience is replicated for all participants in all languages and locations. Companies require consistency in the delivery of the training experience and in the behavior and values being modelled.
How do we provide consistency across locations and languages?
We apply a set of key principles and leverage our values. The key principles include
• Clarity about the common model.
• Local involvement in the program design.
• Trapping feedback and sharing it across the facilitator network.
• Create the conditions for success.
We use our values to -
• Foster a collaborative culture in the delivery team.
Clarity about the common model
It is important that the facilitators charged with the delivery in local language understand the company and business context as well as the Aim and Specific Objectives of the development program. This includes clarity about the priorities and emphasis so they can make informed choices when working with each group.
• A standard facilitator guide is very valuable including objectives, content, session structure, flow, key messages, important trigger questions and support materials and slides.
• Being clear about learning objectives so that even when the facilitator requires to adapt some aspects in response to a particular group she or he can still convey the red thread.
• Facilitator briefing. The more informed the facilitator is the better choices he or she can make. Every participant group is different and the facilitator requires being flexible to adapt to the needs of the particular group while staying within the frame and achieving the learning objectives. Thus it is important to have a briefing session with all the facilitators to walk through the program, what each session seeks to achieve, how the exercises and activities work, and how it should all fit together to provide the appropriate common experience for the participants. This should ideally be done face to face but can also be done through one or more on line meetings.
Local involvement in the program design and delivery
This takes two important forms:
• Engaging the local HR in the program design so their knowledge and experience informs the solution being developed.
• Partnering with the local HR in the program delivery planning and organization. This partnering is important. It ensures that the facilitators understand local company issues and needs and adapt the program to suit the local situation while delivering the common learning objectives. For example for one region where it was difficult to release the First Line Leaders for a whole day we adapted the delivery to half day modules on consecutive days. An important key is enough room for the facilitator to be flexible in enabling their personal and cultural style to play a role – which is essential to any cross cultural or cross location project.
The partnering also enables the local HR to understand more fully the content and approach in practice and therefore be able to provide guidance on opportunities and challenges that may present given their company experience and knowledge. Local HR can also integrate the training delivery into their local unit, or plant, people development strategy so it reinforces the objectives of that strategy.
Trapping feedback and sharing it across the facilitator network.
• Feedback on the how the content and exercises are received including alternative options for achieving particular learning objectives.
• Feedback on how to handle specific questions or requests.
• Unhindered flow of information. It was equally important to share developments at European level so the facilitators were continuously updated on the evolving global picture.
Transparent sharing of facilitator experiences of delivering the program with each group in different local languages is extremely helpful both for colleagues and the overall project.
• Sharing brings consistency, inspiration and cross fertilization.
• It facilitates close coordination, follow-up, including timely, ongoing and consistent support and guidance.
• Using standard feedback formats to be completed after each discrete module is a huge help for both the facilitators and for capturing feedback on the overall project progress.
• The benefit can be summed up in this quote from one facilitator: “We know everything about the project in all the countries – challenges, successes, difficulties – understanding of the bigger picture – transparent interaction with the client gives us a sense of ownership, responsibility, accountability – no one higher or lower.”
Create the conditions for success.
• Brief the participants in advance so they understand why they are attending the program and how they should use it to get the most value for their own development.
• Also valuable is some form of assessment up front to help increase self-awareness and provide a focus for the participants.
• Engage the managers of the participants. The manager has a key role to play in
- supporting self-assessment and appropriate personal development objectives,
- providing coaching and mentoring support,
- providing the opportunity and space for the participant to apply learning back on the job,
- following up and reviewing progress and achievements with the participant.
• In a recent project an important element was a manager briefing so that the managers were aware of what the learning opportunity included and had the opportunity to discuss and understand how they could support the development of their direct reports.
• Emphasize and encourage ongoing practical learning and application. Stimulate it in the program with role plays and case studies and encourage self-driven application and ongoing use.
• Experienced facilitators with a well-developed emotional intelligence to read each groups’ emotions and being able to adapt and adjust to their situation without losing sight of the overall objective. This requires highly professional, self-disciplined and self-motivated facilitators.
• Also what is good is crafting cases that are related to people’s day-to-day work. The ability to adapt the programme so that it reflects the reality of the people who are part of the programme. One recent piece of feedback one of our colleagues received illustrates this. "I could really link the role-plays with my day-to-day experience, I do have the exact same challenges”.
Our values as a professional training and consulting network are Growing, Caring, Sharing, Honesty and Fun. We tap into these to provide an important context for collaboratively working on large projects. This informs additional elements that are key to delivering effective and consistent learning experiences across a variety of locations and languages.
Foster a collaborative culture in the delivery team.
It is important to generate a collaborative and sharing culture in the delivery team. The steps to achieving this include:
• Previous knowledge of each other on the team helps. A long-standing connection and experience of cooperative working between the facilitators makes communication and sharing easier. For example it means we understand how we all work and there is trust between us. We have succeeded in building psychological safety and attachment where colleagues feel comfortable sharing, asking for help and providing suggestions and solutions.
• An important trigger for transparent sharing is modelling of transparency and trust by the project leader. Providing detailed and clear guidance and responses to questions builds confidence and trust. Sharing information transparently within the delivery team means that all are fully up to date and aware of the big picture and developments as well as their own local context.
• Relationship building opportunities. The clear briefing and explanation of key models, exercises and group activities provides a good opportunity for fostering the building of new relationships and the reinforcing of established ones. These relationships are important for giving the facilitators the confidence to share openly within the delivery team. This is where psychological safety is very important as it is easy to share what has gone well but quite challenging to share what has not gone well or failed to reach the desired outcome. These latter stories are important learning opportunities for the team and the overall project. Equally psychological safety is also important in facilitators reaching out for help when they are unsure of how to tackle a particular session or activity.
Throughout the focus has to be on the client and adapting to deliver what is needed to realize the objectives set by the client.