Case Studies

Clients we've worked with

aldi

Case study

Building leadership strength

Aldi

Space2BE worked with Aldi to create a leadership culture in its corporate office that was fit for the UK’s fastest growing supermarket.

Aldi has successfully shaken up the UK supermarket sector in recent years, winning hundreds and thousands of new customers every year. Like any fast-growing business, it needed strong and capable leaders throughout the organisation, with the skills and motivation to drive the business forward.

Three years ago, Space2BE was asked to develop a pilot leadership programme for Aldi’s Corporate Office, which included a 360-degree feedback tool that would fit well into Aldi’s existing culture. Five managers and directors would initially take part in the programme, with a view to extending it further if successful.

“We had recruited a brand new team of leaders,” explained Danny Gibson, Corporate Logistics Director at the supermarket chain. “And while they were very experienced in their own profession they didn’t have any experience of Aldi, or in their new role. We wanted to bring this new team together quickly, and asked Space2BE for help.”

It was the first experience of executive coaching for Danny, his team, and for Aldi UK. “We had been exploring all sorts of ways of keeping the heart of Aldi’s culture while also getting people to the appropriate level in the organisation as quickly as possible,” says Danny. “I knew Space2BE’s work and because it was so new to us I wanted to work with people I knew I could trust.”

Karen Griffin, Managing Director of Space2BE explained how they had put together a bespoke programme of integrated learning which took account of the participants’ starting points and desired goals, Aldi’s unique culture and its well-established management system: “The programme included the facilitation of an extensive brief, a managed coach match process, 1:1 executive coaching for each participant of between four and six sessions each, leading-edge support materials, use of a market leading 360 degree feedback tool with clear instructions, webinars, leadership skills training when required, optional use of psychometrics, quality check points, an opportunity for team learning and before and after measures of capabilities”.

Karen also highlighted how hard the chosen coaches worked behind the scenes to get up to speed with the Aldi ways of working, while staying connected to each other so they could share organisational insights, “make meaning from these” and further enhance the quality of the coaching. These additional ‘organisational’ (not people) learning moments were then shared with the Aldi stakeholders for further reflection.

Danny, who experienced the programme himself, went on to say:

“I’d never had executive coaching before – and it was very successful. The coaching experience has been both revealing and challenging but critically has improved me as both a leader and a colleague. … The benefits for my team were both tangible and intangible. The overall programme created new ways of thinking and behaving within the team, which is always pleasing, however, it also impacted an already highly motivated team to be even more engaged with the business and work on continuous improvement ideas…. As an organisation we had very limited experience of 360-degree feedback, but the Space2BE team helped us understand the process.”

Measurable results

Those participating in the programme showed a total improvement of over 200% in their perceived ratings of capability, with individual perceived improvements of between 17% and 300%!

One participant said that the programme had given him “a greater understanding of where I was going wrong. I now feel much more confident in my ability to take control and manage my team to a more positive outcome.” Another explained that it showed the benefits of using “a ‘pull’, rather than a ‘push’ style of leadership.” The pilot programme was subsequently extended to 13 more directors.

“My team really embraced the whole process,” said Danny. “One of the team has already been promoted, which is an indication of how successful the programme has been. It didn’t feel as though we were being pushed down a certain route. Space2BE has a very personal approach. I’d be very happy indeed to use them again.”

Happily, the word has spread and Space2BE’s work with Aldi has continued across other departments with similar successes. Karen speaks on behalf of the Aldi coaches: “We love working with the Aldi team – talented individuals; a unique and successful culture and a business that is going places. Danny’s leadership with this initiative has certainly paid off both for his own team, and indirectly with the development of others across the business”.

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water” by Rabindranath Tagore

Case study

Bringing best practice in to candidate assessment

Clifton Asset

Space2BE worked with Clifton Asset to help them design and deliver an excellent assessment day for senior advisor positions

Clifton has offered specialist financial services to business and individuals throughout the UK, since 1986. Core specialist fields include business funding, wealth management, auto-enrolment, exit strategies, employee benefits and individual and corporate protection. Building relationships with business owners has allowed Clifton to develop business finance, business strategy and individual wealth management solutions that are relevant, appropriate and successful. The Clifton Group continues to expand, with an increasing public awareness of the alternative business finance benefits and is a founding member of the alternativebusinessfunding.co.uk alliance. Clifton employs over 100 staff based in its head office in Bristol and has recently been awarded the Gold Award for Investors in Customers.

Rob Gilbert, Associate Director of Clifton Asset explains the project. “Our business is growing fast and to help us continue to deliver this sustained growth we need to hire outstanding sales consultants. In the past we have used an ad-hoc approach consisting of mostly interviews with some psychometrics. This has produced varying outcomes. We realised that the cost of getting the recruitment piece wrong was high and wanted to hear what we could do that would enhance our long term success rate of new hires.
Space2BE worked closely with a team of 3 of us to design a bespoke sales assessment day that fits with our culture and how we wanted to be perceived by potential candidates. In addition to the process, they designed all of the supporting documentation for the whole of the recruitment process. It was important for us to know that our process was legally correct and was best practice. The assessment team was extended and a full briefing process took place, which was important as we wanted to ensure we were all assessing candidates fairly and consistently on the day. Some of us received some competency-based interview training to support the process. Space2BE led and supported the event and facilitated the wash up session at the end where we calibrated our scoring and decisions on candidates and agreed next steps.”

What about the results?

“We have made some great appointments from those selected on the day. Whilst the day was fun and educational for our internal team it also presented our company really well to potential employees. It also helped us progress our thinking on what makes a great sales consultant and it has encouraged ownership of good talent decisions going forward”

What do you see as next steps?

“We will roll out the process for the next round of recruitment and consider how we can include the event proactively as we build an ongoing external pipeline of great sales consultants ready for out increasing needs over time. Space2BE were highly supportive, knowledgeable and personable which fits well with our culture and we will continue to use them for our people needs going forward”

solihull

Case study

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council

Local Authorities around the country are going through significant strategic, operational and cultural change. Solihull MBC is no exception – a major restructuring and a new focus on effective leadership and high-performing teamwork have been on the agenda to help it meet challenging efficiency targets.

The Environmental Services division of Solihull MBC is one of the busiest, responsible for (among other things) refuse collection and recycling across the Borough. Space2BE has been working with the Authority and Alan Brown, now Head of Environmental Services, for a number of years.

Space2BE was first brought in to work with Alan, who had worked in local government since leaving school, and over the following 30 years had steadily worked his way up through the ranks. “I’d been highlighted for executive coaching as part of my development plan,” says Alan. “I’d got to the point where I had a lot of operational knowledge but needed to develop my strategic thinking. I had a list of things that I wanted to improve, and my line managers had also identified some things that they felt I needed support with.”

From the coaches presented, Alan selected Karen Griffin to work with him and an eight-session programme with work for Alan to do in between was agreed with his line managers. The idea of coaching was entirely new to him: “I went into it with no preconceived ideas of what to expect from executive coaching, but I found the whole processes enormously helpful. Karen really pushed me and I needed that support – without it I might have lost my way a bit.” He explains that before the coaching, he was probably too focused on his own job and immediate environment. “I wasn’t really thinking about what the impact my work had on the wider business:
If I do this, where will it be felt?”

The coaching sessions, gave him a new perspective. “It’s really helpful to be able to have a conversation with someone who isn’t part of your day-to-day work. Karen was able to give me good advice on how to deal in a practical way with problems I was coming up against in the office, and it was great to be able to go through situations without a deadline and with someone that I didn’t feel under pressure to impress. By the end of the sessions with Karen I felt I was able to see the bigger picture around my immediate job. I had a better perspective – a helicopter view of the business, if you like – which was exactly what I wanted.”

The coach’s view

“Alan completely underplays his role here,” says Karen.. “While it’s always lovely to receive such compliments about our work, my view is that we as coaches are purely facilitators of learning and I have to say that Alan was one of the most committed coachees I have ever worked with. Given his objectives, I varied my style during sessions from facilitative to directive as sometimes he needed to learn about leadership and strategy and Alan soaked up new knowledge like a sponge. In between sessions he then immediately ran with it and applied everything he was learning about himself and leadership to his own role. This meant that he was embedding the learning which is a critical part of the journey.”

Getting the upper hand

Just as the coaching sessions were coming to an end, Solihull MBC completed a stage of its restructuring process that meant that the opportunity arose for Alan to apply for a promotion.

Alan was able to use his new knowledge, confidence and skill to great effect in the interview process, which he felt gave him the upper hand. Space2BE also supported him with some adhoc advice about how to approach the assessment centre: “That’s the ethos of Space2BE – they believe in supporting their clients even once the formal arrangement is over.”

Alan was promoted to Head of Environmental Services, effectively transforming his role from an operational position to a corporate one.

Karen remembers being “thrilled” when he got promoted. “When you’ve worked with a coachee and you believe they have potential beyond their current role it’s always really pleasing to hear that a promotion has been given,” she says. “Alan deserved it and to my knowledge has made significant performance improvements in the teams that he leads”

Building a new team

The ongoing restructuring at Solihull MBC meant that Alan found himself in charge of a new team, many of whom had not worked together before. With budgets being trimmed across the Authority, it was essential that his team quickly became as efficient as possible. “Not every area of the department was working as it should, and my aim was to get everyone working to as high a level as possible,” Says Alan.

Realising that he needed to build a strong team atmosphere, Space2BE were called in again to carry out one-to-one coaching within Alan’s management team to help them develop their own leadership skills. They were also asked to design and deliver bespoke leadership team training to improve the skills of the leadership team and drive high performance behaviours across the rest of the team. So far there have been six of these half-day sessions, covering topics such as influencing others, coaching for performance and leading change.

“Karen and her team talked about behaviours and the impact your behaviour has on others,” says Alan. “The results were excellent; the department was doing fine before, but now they are seen as one of the highest-performing teams in the Authority. I don’t believe this would have happened without the external intervention of Space2BE”

Merging cultures

Since then, Alan’s responsibilities have grown still further. He was also asked to temporarily head the Planning & Public Protection department as well as his own, at a time when the Environmental Services department has grown still further with the signing of a long-term agreement with the private contractor Amey plc. “When I initially took over this department I had 40 staff,” says Alan. “When you take the contractor staff into account as well, I know have responsibility for around 300.”

The agreement with Amey meant that employees from two very different organisational cultures had to work alongside each other. Aware that this wasn’t going to be easy, Alan asked once again for help from Space2BE to encourage everyone to work together and to bring together the management styles and ways of working.

Amey’s staff now sit alongside Authority-employed staff and, as Alan says, “You’d never know that they were employed by different organisations. They work together brilliantly, sharing everything and working out problems together. It’s all about trust and that’s something that has to be built.”

Excellent results

Alan describes his department as somewhat ‘swan like’. “Smooth and serene in appearance but working away furiously underneath.” And the results are clear; over the past two years £3.5m has been trimmed from the budget annually but the resident satisfaction rate over that time has rocketed. “Local authorities are under massive pressure but we’ve improved the quality of our services and have saved money at the same time,” says Alan.

He adds that he would “definitely recommend” Space2BE. “I don’t think I would have had that confidence in my own abilities without their help. The tools and skills that I learned have helped me steer the ship to where it is today.”

Case study

Sigma rockets to success through high performing team building

Sigma Components

Sigma Components (Sigma) is a leading manufacturer of precision engineered aerospace products, with manufacturing facilities across the UK and China. It also offers customers a range of value-added services including global supply chain management, new product introduction and product lifecycle management.

Being a fast growing medium sized business, Chief Executive, Mark Johnson, had a sense that the organization needed greater coherence from the leadership team to support a high performing culture.

Diagnostic & programme set up

Space2BE started the process with a half-day diagnostic session, where it became clear that the team were hard-working, ambitious, loyal and target focused and were constantly balancing its efforts between the priorities of productivity versus quality, training and continuous improvement. This is a well-known story in manufacturing.

Drawing on three team development diagnostic tools the core emergent challenges related to: communication, conflict, lack of support, trust and relationships. The team recognised that they were not yet ‘high performing’ and were motivated to improve for the greater good of the company.

Space2BE proposed an integrated project identifying Sigma’s business challenge as requiring a ‘holistic high performing culture’. Essentially, the project would involve:

  • One on one conversations with each team member to drill down into the issues and appetite for being part of the journey
  • High Performing Team Workshops with tailored to the total team needs and  designed to achieve cognitive and emotional shift
  • One on one coaching for those that felt they would benefit from it
  • Sharing of emergent Organisation Development reflections during the design and delivery processes i.e. feeding into a better understanding of their culture, experience, change and required people strategy to support Sigma’s agenda
  • Cascading the HPT ethos to all teams
  • Formulating methods for embedding & sustaining new behaviour

Project deliverables, ways of working and a reward mechanism were created. The reward for this project was structured differently to any other that Space2BE had done in the past as it included core payments plus special ‘bonus’ elements attached to outcomes. These outcomes were to be recognised by feedback ratings from each of the leadership team members at project milestones.

We set to work. Our journey to travel was designed using the Space2BE HPT process. With Sigma, we jointly agreed to theme the work “Good to Great” Jim Collins, 2001) because it fitted perfectly with Sigma’s desired strategic direction.

The Sigma Way – an easily understood strategy

Clearly Sigma’s success to date had been based on well thought out strategic analysis and tactics, however, as is typical with medium sized fast paced businesses, it had never been captured in a way that made sense to all throughout the business. This was our starting point. Space2BE created an aligned onepage strategy document, which could be shared with the Board, customers and employees, together with an underpinning RACI plan detailing each strategic goal and how it would be delivered.

Excitingly, ‘The Sigma Way’ was born – later to become known as the key strategic tool across the group.

The Space2BE HPT process

We were now able to co-create a definition of a high performing team within that context. From this we developed the gap and created the plan for addressing it. The longest and most challenging stage was then developing ‘the magic’ as depicted by our HPT model. This was where the ‘real’ work was to start.

Three full day team HPT sessions were designed and delivered over a 9-month process, which took the team on a journey of developing new thinking, new selfawareness and renewed motivation for being ‘one team’ instead of operating with a silo mentality. Towards the end these sessions included ‘straight talk team coaching’ sessions where open discussion around any aspect of the HPT process was encouraged.

Prior to this workshop a 360-degree feedback process was undertaken and 1:1 feedback sessions were given. Each leader was then given a series of 1:1 executive coaching sessions to work on their personal change goals within the context of now being a ‘high performing team’ member. As we all know, 360-degree feedback can be a tough experience and as this was the first time these leaders had done this, great care was taken in setting the process up and managing the feedback conversations. On occasion, three-way coaching sessions were organised to help improve the relationship and ways of working.  The participants of these demonstrated courage, openness and commitment to change.

Striving to help Sigma ‘self-manage’ their high performing focus, in between the team workshops, leaders were asked to complete ‘embedding activities’ with their own teams often communicated by email ‘nudge documents’ – reminders, ideas and tools. I think this was one of the programme elements they struggled with the most.

A year into the process Sigma held a management conference at Cranfield which afforded us the opportunity to engage 60 managers from across the globe in the launch of ‘the Sigma Way’, the principles of ‘good to great’ and each individual strategic pillar. Each leadership team member led a section and shared their experience of the HPT process. The openness and vulnerability demonstrated by some of the general managers was deeply felt by everyone in the room and fair to say, this was a ‘first’. A greater sense of ‘connectedness’ ensued. It felt like a pinnacle moment for this team.

“The management conference was superb and a fantastic launch, we now need to communicate as planned to every employee what ‘The Sigma Way’ is”

At the end of the programme we designed and delivered a bespoke ‘Leadership Development Day’ which gave participants an opportunity to explore what ‘great leadership’ looks like at Sigma given the context of the Sigma Way Strategy and drawing on principles from ‘Good to Great’. The outcome was a Sigma Leadership Brand.

Evaluation

Overall huge progress had been made. Mark Johnson’s (CEO) own reflection on the programme …

“We all know that the performance of a business is directly linked to the
performance of its people… Through spending time working together on the issues associated with HPT, we were able to build mutual understanding, develop trust and to get our leadership team focused on the ‘bigger picture’. It takes time, but local ‘silo’-based local attitudes are disappearing and trust continues to build, allowing people to expand their local performance, that feeds into the greater success of the whole Group.”

Specifically, the first two HPT workshops were deemed a success by 88.9% of the team who felt they provided clarity on what a high performing team should look like within their business, provided tools to help them understand each other better and commented that trust and openness was increasing. Importantly for some, the coaching support around the edges was critical to shifting the dynamic of this team to ‘great’.

The later evaluations revealed some of the challenge in any change journey. People were in different places. Some loved the executive coaching components…

“I have developed my self-awareness considerably, it was something I
hadn’t previously considered as really important. I am more aligned to the HPT collective objectives and how I interact with the HPT post the coaching sessions. My coaching skills have also been developed significantly with some good working examples deployed, also the awareness of coaching requirements within my management team and the importance of giving them good honest feedback. Finally, using team participation and involvement to find the best solutions – stop and listen“

Others less so…

“It’s difficult to change very much after 38 years in work”

Lack of follow-up between sessions was an issue. The hard to break habits of focusing on the so called ‘day job’ were proving hard to break. Traditionally they say it takes 7 years to shift a culture, in this era, how many companies have this amount of time to do that?

The improvement of communication was deemed to be good 71.4% of them believe that communication has been improved ‘to a large extent’ amongst the leadership team.

The ‘Trust’ scores varied throughout the programme. Approximately half the team felt that it had improved significantly.

Their own reflections on why this was so are reflective of most teams in my experience:

Where ‘completely’ was not selected in the above two questions about communication and trust, which of the following reasons reflect you views?

Answer Choices Responses
We need more time – it takes a long time to improve trust. 71.43%
Not everyone is at the same stage of self-awareness and development. 71.43%
We need more time together as a team. 71.43%
Under pressure we keep reverting to type. 57.14%
The HPT programme needed to be different. 0.00%

A team member commented:

“Change is painful. It also requires enormous resilience and consistency from leadership.”

Reflecting on the journey Sigma has been on, Mark added:-

“In the same way that Success is a journey, not a destination, this is the same with Sigma… We are never complacent about our performance, but we now have a better understanding of each other and are developing the trust needed to enable us all to grow as individuals and as a high performing team.”

Cascading to other sites

Some months later we cascaded the process at one of their larger UK manufacturing sites based in Farnborough. This culminated with an inspiring and fun change workshop using storytelling techniques… helping the team leaders ‘let go of the old’, ‘embrace the now’ and ‘co-create the future’. A different experience for everyone in the room and one that received extremely high reviews.

“The session was very engaging and reignited a fire within me to keep
doing the right thing, and trying to make a difference, within the business”

Continuing the focus

Our learning and recommendations to Sigma for moving forward included the overriding message “to continue the work” and specifically several process improvement suggestions. One that stands out for me is the need to appoint
some internal sponsors to ensure that the ‘in between session’ actions and behaviours are delivered. The transfer of learning and capability for ‘selfcoaching’ and ‘monitoring’ would ideally be the next step as this fantastic organisation sustains its ‘greatness’ and continues to raise the bar for its customers.