Building Better Managers for a Worthy Cause
Helping leaders be more effective in their roles is a strategic goal for Hach, a global water quality organization. Along with making water analysis better for their customers, they believe training people leaders in Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) is essential to drive organizational success. Headquartered in Loveland, Colorado, Hach’s mission is “Ensuring water quality for people around the world.” As an operating company of Danaher Corporation, Hach was introduced to the concepts of SLII when Danaher wanted to develop a consistent leadership language throughout their organization.
“Our president, Kevin Klau, made a bold statement when he announced that SLII training would be delivered to all managers in the company,” explains Carli Whitfield-Stoller, Sr. Manager, Global Learning and Development. “At first, the thought of launching the training to managers throughout the globe seemed at least a little daunting. However, we’ve been able to train 98 percent of our leaders through our strategy of partnering with business and HR partners in facilitation.”
In addition to the L&D team, Hach partnered with business and HR leaders through the train-the-trainer process. The partnership allowed the organization to build bandwidth and reach in trained facilitators who could deliver the two-day SLII training workshop in multiple languages around the globe. Rolling out the training was just the beginning. Sustainment of the learning and immediate use of newly acquired language, tools and, SLII leadership skills back on the job are the true measurements of success for Hach.
Sustainment is the Key
“We have a sustainment program developed to ensure leaders are adopting and implementing their new skills,” says Whitfield-Stoller. “People leaders and individual contributors are invited to attend a session of teaching SLII to others (now Situational Self Leadership). The workshop provides reinforcement for the leaders and gives their teams the opportunity to learn about the Situational Leadership content. We knew it would be difficult for leaders to go back to the job and start using this new leadership language effectively if their teams weren’t familiar with the terms, tools, or model. We utilized a 90-minute virtual session (found in the Master Phase challenges) to share SLII basics. We integrated a virtual “Scattergram” activity to enable people leaders and their associates to start having better conversations using the language and skillset of SLII.”
Three to six months after training, people leaders had the opportunity to get together for a SLII Reflect and Refresh session. “We had a little fun with learning and played a Jeopardy SLII trivia-style game to refresh learning and to offer the opportunity to share their leadership experiences of using new SLII skills back on the job. Leaders get to hear about successes and have the chance to discuss challenges with their colleagues. The Refresh and Reflect sessions provided powerful learning moments for our leaders,” says Whitfield-Stoller.
Other sustainment tools include a learning checklist that keeps managers up to speed and on track with applying their new skills. “Also, every couple of months we sent an SLII Challenge to the leaders,” explains Whitfield-Stoller. “We asked them to try a leadership feedback session, use the development level dashboard, or take the assessment again to see how their flexibility and effectiveness are improving. The sustainment technique keeps the SLII content in front of our leaders and gives them an opportunity to continue to improve their skills. We’ve aligned our leadership anchors with SLII so associates understand what we value and how we deliver.” Hach makes these resources available on a shared platform so all associates have access to on-demand learning.
Leaders at Hach play a critical role in the rollout and sustainment of SLII training. “Our senior leaders kick off workshops by sharing their experiences with using SLII,” says Whitfield-Stoller. “They talk about what life was like as a leader before and after SLII. Having a front-line leader hear these messages from a senior leader is impactful and drives relevance.” Hach filmed the president of the company sharing his SLII experience, journey, and expectations. Facilitators utilize this video when Sr. Leaders can’t attend the training session in person. “When leaders listen to our president speak about SLII, they truly understand the importance of this training program.”
A Success Story
Hach has many SLII success stories. One of the most interesting involves sales managers and their teams. The company was preparing to launch a new solution that would drive efficiencies for customers. This was an innovative move for Hach but a challenge for those that would be learning a new approach with customers. Armed with SLII knowledge, functional leaders planned to use their SLII skills to help their teams embrace the new solution and flourish in their new task. The functional leaders and Leadership and Development created a collaborative solution to help teams align and use SLII language to manage the change.
“We started with a Teaching Others SLII webinar,” explained Whitfield-Stoller. “Giving the teams an introduction to the development levels and the appropriate leadership style to offer at each level. We then invited leaders to share how using the skills had made a positive difference in their work environment. The associates heard real examples from colleagues and other leaders about how they used the SLII model and tools to ask for the leadership style needed on the new task as they moved through the development levels. To further support development, leaders provided functional training so the group knew how to position the new solution—they took it a step further and developed a strategy for moving people through the development levels to get to D4 as quickly as possible. Remember, SLII is a partnership—a collaboration—so the leaders partnered with their teams to define what a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be for the new task, and what help associates achieve their goal.”
Teams identified metrics that were shared on an easy-to-use dashboard so teams could see how they were progressing from D1 to D4. They could easily confirm where they had a growth opportunity and were also able to celebrate development success along the way.
Continuing the Learning
Leaders at Hach identify opportunities to reinforce SLII learning. In a recent all-leaders meeting, we shared a unique activity to simulate the experience of their end users while incorporating the skills of SLII. In explaining the activity, “Our end users are families who sometimes walk more than eight hours a day to get clean water. We divided our leaders into groups we identified as families and gave them the goal of getting enough clean water for drinking, cooking, and sanitation. Each member of the family had a different task, and they had to determine the different development levels for each task to be successful. The families had to deal with everyday struggles like getting food and caring for the family members, and even unexpected challenges like robbers who would steal their water buckets. Leaders were able to experience the trials their end users go through while using SLII skills to ensure success.”
“When we debriefed the activity, each leader wrote a promise to themselves on a piece of white paper and a promise to their teams on a piece of blue paper. We created a mosaic of the Hach logo using the notes. It was a very compelling exercise.”
Call to Action
Everyone at Hach takes SLII training seriously. Whitfield-Stoller shares some learnings of her own.
- As you develop your leaders, encourage them to develop others by making it easy for them to share the language and the model.
- Make it more than just a training program—connect SLII to associate’s daily work. Integrate it into your strategy and performance objectives.
- Drive and sustain results by measuring improvements and communicating them back to your team. Don’t keep information to yourself. Recognize and reward people for their successes.
Most recently, Hach has introduced Blanchard’s Self Leadership program to individual achievers. “Although we are just beginning to roll out this program, I can already see what a powerful combination it is to offer SLII to managers and Self Leadership to direct reports. People don’t just take the Self Leadership class, they feel it. And as a talent developer, it is amazing to see how life changing this program can be for our associates. Watching our talent begin to understand the concept of their points of power is energizing.”
Whitfield-Stoller can see the positive influence SLII and Self Leadership have on the overall success of the company. “At Hach, when we are building better leaders, we are building better teams. When we are building better teams, we can achieve our strategy. And when we achieve our strategy, we deliver on our mission of ensuring water quality for people around the world.”
What an honorable mission—and Hach’s commitment to the learning that enables their talent to achieve it is as noble as the mission itself.