Duke Energy

Leading the Duke Energy Way

A senior leader at Duke Energy approached Stephanie Bush, director of learning and development, with a request for building leadership skills in his division. Already familiar with Situational Leadership® II (SLII®), Stephanie decided to pilot the program with this leader’s management group to see if it met their needs.

“I knew our leaders wanted to be able to have impactful coaching conversations with their team members. They needed to be able to set goals, hold people accountable, and provide a leadership style to match their employees’ needs. That is exactly what SLII provides,” she explains.

The feedback from the pilot sessions was so positive that SLII was added to the curriculum for the Duke Energy Leadership Academy which was created to support “Leading the Duke Energy Way” by aligning to the business strategy and leadership imperatives. The Duke Energy Leadership Academy contains specific offerings for each employee level, from individual contributors to front-line leaders, mid-level leaders, and senior leaders. Situational Leadership® II is offered to all people leaders in the organization.

“We want all leaders to use a consistent model and language, so it was important to include SLII in the curriculum for front-line, mid-level, and senior leaders,” explains Bush. It will be a phased approach for us to get there over time.”

This is an enterprise-wide solution for all people leaders across Duke Energy (Carolinas, the Midwest, and Florida) but most offerings are in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Duke Energy is headquartered. With over 4,000 people leaders who need to be trained, they got creative about supporting the classes. They have a few very skilled Corporate Learning & Development facilitators who were certified to train SLII, but they knew a few facilitators couldn’t support the volume for a scalable solution. So they invested in other business leaders getting certified.

“The L&D facilitators drive the program, but we provided opportunities for business leaders to co-facilitate with them.  The participants gain from this experience while the business leaders have an opportunity to give back to others,” Bush explains.

Three Phases of Learning

The Duke Energy Leadership Academy is not just about training events. To begin the process, facilitators conduct a webinar with the managers of the people leaders who will be trained to share the program deliverables, expectations, and to further understand their role to support their leader in the program. Then trainers have a kick-off call with the participants to set expectations and to provide their pre-work before the face-to-face training.

“We are making an investment in our leaders with this training and we want to do all we can up front to make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. The participants are there to learn and the managers are there to support them through their development,” continues Bush.

The second phase is the actual face-to-face classroom training. This is where participants learn the skills of SLII and practice them in an interactive setting. But the learning doesn’t stop when the participant leaves the classroom.

The third phase was developed to sustain the learning and change behaviors back on the job. Each participant is asked to share their learnings with their leader and direct reports immediately after training. Duke Energy also uses the materials available on Blanchard Exchange by placing it on their own learning portal.

“We share support materials, and then have participants come together in a virtual environment to share success stories and ask questions for deeper learning. We ask them about challenges they are facing, so that we can support them back on the job so they apply their skills.”

Measured Results

Situational Leadership® II is a core program for the Duke Energy Leadership Academy—they track enrollment, graduation, effectiveness, and impact across the organization. Results are taken seriously and shared through scorecards and an L&D Dashboard. Since the program launched in late 2016, here are the results from the 408 graduates. All of the below scored 100 percent:

  • Stated that the facilitators demonstrated expertise in the subject matter
  • Are comfortable using their new skills
  • Said the learning is in alignment with Duke Energy Leadership Imperatives

Additionally, SLII objectives are measured and the results from graduates to date are:

  • 96 percent are comfortable with diagnosing the development level of employees
  • 100 percent are increasing the frequency and quality of conversations about performance and development
  • 96 percent are comfortable being flexible with their leadership style
  • 96 percent are comfortable choosing the appropriate leadership style for the situation

These impressive numbers are the result of a well-developed and well-executed plan.

“SLII is a sound program that is proven to build leadership skills, but I believe it is critical to also build in pre- and post-activities to reinforce the skills learned. You have to set the participants up for success by preparing them for the learning and have an accountability plan for using their new skills after training. Finally, make sure you keep reinforcing the learning with follow-up application workshops,” Bush says.

One of the best reinforcement tools Duke Energy created is a professional video developed in-house that shows testimonials from past participants. They didn’t use a script, but simply asked leaders to share how they are using SLII with their teams. The video is showcased on their learning portal.

“We don’t have to convince people to attend the training—they want to learn these new skills so that they can readily use them with their teams. The brief video has created a real buzz about the program.”

One Last Tip

Bush advises people who are starting training to be thoughtful about aligning the training to their leadership initiatives and corporate strategies. Having senior-level buy-in is critical to rolling out a successful comprehensive program. And including all levels of leadership in the training builds bench strength and ensures consistency throughout all levels.

“Our job is to build leaders—to transform them and build their leadership capabilities—and SLII helps us do that by providing a common framework,” says Bush.

Duke Energy is one of the largest electric power holding companies in the United States, supplying and delivering electricity to approximately 7.4 million customers. Their purpose is to “Power the lives of customers and the vitality of communities.” With the Duke Energy Leadership Academy and SLII, they are also providing power to their leaders by teaching them to Lead the Duke Energy Way.

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