Leadership Development at a Large Retailer

Business Challenge

In 2010, the RBL Group began working with the senior leadership team of one of America’s largest retailers on issues around leadership, leadership brand, and leadership development. After a period of rapid growth and change, the company recognized that while it had dramatically increased in size, it had not kept apace in the development of its leadership capabilities.

Following the six-step RBL Leadership Architecture, we first identified the business case for leadership and determined that for less than the cost of yet another store, the company could create and execute a leadership academy for its top leaders, significantly increasing both its internal bench strength and improving the engagement of its more than 250,000 employees.


Using assessments, interviews, focus groups and applying RBL’s expertise on leadership brand and our research on the Leadership Code, we were able to co-create a leadership academy that we piloted with a group of very senior leaders in 2011.

Consisting of three, three-day sessions with two senior RBL facilitators, individual 360’s, executive coaching, and action learning projects, the 16 week academy pilot was a resounding success. With the unanimous support of the initial group of participants, the program was adopted and expanded in both 2012 and 2013. There have now been seven cohort groups of approximately 20 people each that have been through the leadership academy with plans for several more cohorts in 2014 based on significant demand and requests for additional seats.

In addition to significant individual achievements, 20 action learning projects addressing everything from digital strategies, store remodels and corporate social responsibility have significantly altered the company’s thinking and planning on critical issues. The capstone event of the academy, the action learning presentations are held in the company board room and are adjudicated by senior leaders including the CEO, CFO, COO, CHRO and others.

To fully round-out the academy experience, participants also spend time together in social events after long days of training and coaching. Everything from cooking dinner together to participating with an improvisational comedy company deepen the relationships that are formed in leadership academy.


Participants agree that while the academy experience is demanding, it is also highly rewarding and has increased their competency and capabilities while also building great camaraderie amongst participants. The breakdown of silo walls and an increase in collaboration are visible outcomes of the leadership academy.

Yearly engagement surveys in the company also suggest the effect improved leadership is having throughout the company. The 2011 survey showed 31% engagement, that number jumped to 37% in 2012 and in the most recent survey had climbed to 51%.