Results-Driven Leadership Training
Ingram Micro, a U.S.-based technology company operating globally, has the challenge of keeping pace in the ever-changing field of technology while operating in 52 countries and serving clients in 150 countries around the world. They strive to help employees achieve complex goals while encouraging them to be innovative and approach tasks differently so they can offer unique solutions.
Julie Brady-Crandall, senior manager of learning and development, had a clear understanding about what would help the company continue to be successful—and it started with strong leadership.
“I’ve held several roles in the company for the past 22 years, so I’ve attended many training programs,” says Brady-Crandall. “While it’s been great to be exposed to so many learning experiences, we’ve never really had a plan in place to help put the learning into practice. When I joined the learning and development department, I was determined to offer a sustainable training program instead of just hosting events. Training isn’t about activity—it’s about achieving results.”
Brady-Crandall realized that the most effective way to inspire better performance in all employees was to provide leadership training that could be rolled out and sustained globally. She first learned about Situational Leadership® II (SLII®) from a newly hired executive who’d had success with it at a prior company. “A new executive came into my office one day and said he wanted to provide SLII® training to his team. I wasn’t familiar with the program, so I asked him why he was requesting it. He told me the training provided a leadership language that was simple to understand and that it had totally transformed the leaders in his previous job. Obviously, I wanted to learn more.”
They scheduled an SLII® training program for the executive’s team and Brady-Crandall attended the class. She liked what she experienced but wanted to make sure the skills could be transferred back to the job easily.
“My salesperson at The Ken Blanchard Companies told me about the sustainability tools that are available through Blanchard Exchange: an online platform that contains articles, worksheets to help with goal-setting activities, conversation starters for planning meeting with staff members, and checklists for assessing the effectiveness of their communications. Then when I learned about the blended learning options, I knew this was the program I had been looking for,” Brady-Crandall says.
Rolling Out the Training
The ultimate goal in offering SLII® training was to create a sustainable leadership development program that would support a consistent level of leadership throughout the company. Ingram Micro didn’t want this to be just another program offered by the L&D department—they wanted leaders to drive the process and own the results of their teams. The company opted to have intact teams and their leaders go through the training together instead of having an open enrollment. They selected a delivery option that included a self-paced online portion so participants could learn about the content of SLII®. They allowed four weeks for everyone to complete the online training, then brought them together for a one-day classroom session focused on practicing the skills. “The practice portion of this training was unique. No other program I’ve seen has focused so completely on skill practice. The participants used real-work examples for the practice sessions, which enabled them to leave the classroom ready to use their new skills.”
After training, the leader of the department—who had been the executive sponsor of the program—played a significant role in sustaining the learning. Once a month for five months, leaders utilized an email campaign to challenge their staff to use their newly acquired skills. The challenges included having an alignment conversation with an employee, making sure one-on-one conversations were taking place regularly, and conducting development discussions. Each month the participants were asked to try a new skill in a real situation.
“I was thrilled that Blanchard already had the email campaign developed as part of the sustainability tools in the SLII® Playbook,” said Brady-Crandall. “All I had to do was customize it slightly for our business model. I just provided the emails and the leaders sent them to their teams. This high level of leader involvement has been the secret to keeping the learning alive in the company. The leaders are the anchor to the entire design. Participants might not respond to an email from the L&D department, but they’ll respond to an email from their boss.”
Another great tool of Blanchard Exchange is the ability to run reports to see how participants are using the tools to improve their skills. Brady-Crandall explains: “At the end of six months, I ran a report for every leader that showed them the completion rates of the exercises they had challenged their team to complete. As you can imagine, the results varied—and the reports provided information I could use to help support each leader as they improved their own skills. If a leader’s team wasn’t completing the tasks, I could work with that leader to see if they were struggling with the skills as well, or if they needed encouragement or maybe some refresher training. I asked leaders to diagnose themselves on the task of rolling out SLII®. Their answers led to deeper conversations about what they needed in order to be more committed to the plan. We were closing the knowing/doing gap.”
The sustainment tools of the training have become part of the fabric of Ingram Micro. As a next step, the company plans to offer 90-minute refresher courses to focus on specific conversations in the SLII® language. They will also bring teams together to share success stories and struggles they have had along the way. Both examples should provide powerful learnings and help build a network of support among the leaders. “We want leaders who are transforming their teams to help others who might need a little more coaching to become totally committed to the program,” says Brady-Crandall.
“Situational Leadership® II isn’t just a theoretical program. It is a time-tested, research-based program that teaches easily transferable leadership skills. But the real magic happens when you use the sustainability tools. Take advantage of all the material on the portal, use the challenges and the Playbook, and you will transform your leaders and inspire your teams to greater performance.”