A2 Developing the Right Leaders for Your Business and People

Good morning L+Ders…the #cipdldshow is finally here.

My first session today is Case Study session in A2 with Beverly Aylott Head of Learning at AbbVie Ltd, and Shauna O’Handley Head of Talent Value Proposition & Performance, Misys Financial Software (@f3peep) sharing their experience of sustaining performance through changing times by focusing on core leadership values.

Ruth from CIPD starts by welcoming us to the conference and encouraging a 2 minute chat with the person next to you…the networking has begun, and the room is buzzing. Everyone is ready to learn something. Let’s go!


First to speak is Beverly Aylott, and she’s asking us ‘how do we develop leaders in a VUCA world?’ We answer from the room, and Beverly wants to know if we notice it? do we feel this world? Pressure and demand for leaders today to inspire and challenge. Beverly has worked with the NHS, Guide Dogs for the Blind and a global pharmaco company, and wants to share the differences and similarities, focusing on the key themes that hold true throughout all sectors and organisation.

The 3 programmes:

  1. Guide Dogs for the Blind leadership development programme

Beverly started at the top and developed the senior leaders first, then worked they way down. they focused a lot of celebration and appreciation to communicate achievement. A challenge was the disconnect between senior leader and those they manager, so they were put Learning Action Teams (LATs) together.

LAT = Learning Action Teams. Groups of 3, for 30minutes per person and you chose (and ask) for what you need: the answers? coaching? action  learning set.


  1. NHS Trust Imperial College

Beverly believes that in order to create a successful leadership programme it needs to be aligned enough to the current culture so that it’s acceptable, and disruptive enough to push and challenge people towards changing this. This fine balance is key. The aim was to connect the different professional silos, e.g. nurses, doctors, health care assistance – they need to collaborate well. So these group combines on the programme cohorts and worked together in a learning setting.

The combination of learning groups and the design is important, e.g. putting certain groups and people together for positive reasons (different management levels, different departments). This doesn’t need to be shared, this a part of good design and your responsibility as an L+D professional.

  1. pharmaceutical company (not named)

The leader journey has not modules or programme, is self-lead, and based on communities. Some have decided on 360 feedback, some want to run feedback centres, some are blogging, some are holding chat-groups. It is fully participant driven. The aim is empowerment. “if you want a group of leaders who are empowered, down tell them how to develop themselves”

All are very different, and the leadership development programmes look very different. Yet Beverly asks us to notice that there are similarities that lead her to conclude with the following 10 key themes:

  • Make it behavioural not functional – this functional stuff isn’t leadership stuff
  • Strengths based – there is no competency framework, look at what people are passionate about
  • Process over content – give people the skills to learn for themselves
  • Sustainability – not a one-off, create a culture where people learn for themselves, want to do so, and continue to do so
  • Active senior sponsorship – get senior managers to take part
  • Support challenge for participants – enable people to leave their comfort zone, ask difficult questions
  • Bespoke to the context – make sure it fits
  • Mixed roles and disciplines – build networking during the programme
  • Experiential and learner-lead – empowering, personal responsibility
  • Learning Communities, peer networks and Learning Action Teams


Questions from the floor…

Q: What made you choose this approach rather than competency based?

A: Beverly encourages us to be strengths based and draw upon what people are good at so leadership development is desirable and self-instigated. that if you tap into your natural energies it will create  much better environment for everyone. For me this is about harnessing intrinsic motivation and building self-efficacy.

Q: Are the right leaders for the business always the right business for the people?

A: Beverly emphasises the difference between good management, and leadership, suggesting that we do need the business to be managed well and people in leadership roles should pay attention to their leadership skills, approach, and impact.

Q: what types of leaders do we need for Generation Y?

A: in summary… everyone has different needs from the manager and looks for different things in a leader. Adaptability is a key skill for using strengths effectively as a leader.

Q: what if leaders don’t self-evaluate and don’t think this learning is for them?

A: Beverly believes this relates to our role as L+D professionals: to create a environment where people learn for themselves, and be motivational influencers. Nothing Beverly has created has ever been mandatory – the would contradict the process of someone developing themselves. You cant force someone to develop something they don’t want to develop. e.g. when someone asked Beverly, ‘can you put this person on a course because they need to do X’? her answer is to coach the coach, and enable the manager to have the right conversation with X, so that they want to come on the course.

Final message… if people feel valued, they feel more engaged. People have feedback how good it has been to have time and space to invest in themselves.


Next Shauan O’Handley sharing a Misys case study: the challenge was, 5000 people spread globally and significant business growth. Everyone was working towards a different idea of what they thought good was.

The first step was to ensure everyone had a common understanding “the same drumbeat”  and invest in people and a shared understanding of what and who we are because “our intellectual property walks on two legs”.

Shaun followed the idea of Simon Sineck and built the shared narrative, starting with WHY, the HOW, the making sure the WHAT was clear and consistently understood. The story defines who Misys are as a organisation. Every part of what they do is now underpinned by this story One Misys, the CEO would say that the people strategy is our business strategy!

“The millennial and how we meet there needs is huge” – Shauna questions how can we make it exciting for this generation. Most importantly – create meaning:

In elaborating on the image above..

Ask: what’s your purpose? why are you here? Start with this WHY and have the conversation with the people you lead to understand what this is

Similar to Beverly, Shauna was keen to empower leaders to empower people – to own their problems and find their own solutions. It’s easy to always give the answer when someone is asking the question, but a more coaching approach and support others to develop.

Shauna encourages us not to lean on the senior leaders for all the ideas, but recognise that we have a wealth of talent and skill within the organisation.

Here’s the programme…
Connect – Me as a Leader

Innovate – Me and my Organisation

Expand – Me and my Team

It’s behavioural, and learner-lead. People map their own plan and journey to ensure they can meet the aims of their role, and the organisation. The over aim is personal effectiveness, and Shauna says this starts with understand self via EQI and personal effectiveness assessments and developing this self-awareness.

Most important piece of learning to share from Shauna: never underestimate how people can develop their own development, and prioritise this to be effective!

Questions from the floor…

Q: what impact has the meaning making has on the organisation?

A: Shauna describes that is done via constant conversations with people, and creating the space and agenda for these conversations, with feedback to enable people to develop and grow. Letting people know when they have done something well “that’s huge for millennials”. Shauna recommends that we use developmental questions, ask people what they think, what they want, and actually being interested in the answers – and I’ll add here …expect the answers to be useful and helpful and of value

Q: how important is coaching as a leadership tool?

A: Shauna is very passionate about this…”it changes peoples lives”, builds trust, builds relationships. She encourages coaching conversations (as above)

For more reading Shauna’s approaches are guided by the philosophies of Simon Sineck and Dan Pink.
[This blog was written live in session at the CIPD Learning and Development Show 2016, Olympia, London on Wednesday 10th May. My intention is to capture a faithful summary of the session highlights, but my own bias and views may also feature within this blog. Please excuse any typos, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation on Twitter with me @Jo_Coaches and the blog-squad #cipdldshow]

2 thoughts on “A2 Developing the Right Leaders for Your Business and People

  1. Pingback: The Rough Guide to the CIPD L&D Show 2016 – jonathanmarshall70

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