Developing a Leadership Pipeline

Business Challenge

A large privately held insurance and customer service company was growing quickly and lacked the leadership pipeline needed to fuel that growth. Annual double-digit growth in both sales and revenues and the addition of hundreds of new employees was straining current leadership capability. Although they’d made many excellent external hires, their leadership as a whole was stuck in an individual contributor mindset and threatened to derail their growth objectives.

To address this, they realized they needed to start finding and developing leaders who could lead teams and divisions as the company continued to grow. They engaged The RBL Group to help strengthen their leadership pipeline and create an ongoing development program that would equip top leaders with essential leadership skills.

Solution

While the company understood it had a gap, they wanted to be strategic in addressing it. They asked The RBL Group to help articulate a clear business case for leadership development and to define a set of core leadership competencies that reflected the company’s unique brand.

With help from RBL consultants, the company used a competency model that combined the Leadership Code with their differentiating competencies to design a leadership development program. It incorporated both standard and custom content tailored to fit the company's needs with a focus on team building and emotional intelligence. They planned for the program to run over 6-8 months and include 3 in-person training sessions, independent project work, 360 and MENTOR psychometric assessments, coaching, and individual development plans.

With the strength of the business case and its connection to the growth strategy, the company’s senior leaders were extremely involved with the implementation of the program. Each in-person session included a presentation and Q&A session with one of the senior leaders, and at the end of the program, the CEO and chairman of the board would take a few hours to talk about leadership in the company, take questions, and have dinner with the participants. 

Over time, the leadership development program evolved and the company refreshed their competency model and adjusted the content of the programs to fit changing needs. In total, 10 leadership cohorts went through the program. 

Results

The program achieved the results it was designed to address and more. Over the course of seven years, more than 250 leaders participated, strengthening the company’s leadership capability and successfully enabling aggressive growth. 

The leadership pipeline grew from “fragile” to robust as internal promotions to upper-level leadership roles increased dramatically over the seven years the program was in place. 

In addition, the overall leadership culture transformed from leaders who relied on their own strengths and skills to deliver results to leaders that knew how to engage, develop, and work through others, increasing impact and the results that can be achieved. The program had a heavy emphasis on engaging and developing direct reports in both the program content and in the focus of coaching conversations. The program was a key consideration in the company receiving national recognition for its engaged workforce for the last four years. 

As another sign of success, during the timeframe that the program ran, the company continued to have significant and profitable growth—a key goal of the program. The strategy shifts that enabled that growth were significantly supported by the foundation that the program provided. At the individual level, the program built individual capability both generally as transformational leadership and specifically in change management skills, another key component of the program. At the organizational level, the agility model taught in the program became the common language of the organization as a whole and was adopted and rolled out across the company. 

The leadership development program was so well received that it was eventually expanded to include lower-level leaders and delivered outside of the US in Japan, Singapore, London, and Hong Kong.