Leading to Succeed at M&S

by | Dec 3, 2014 | Articles

Lead to Succeed,  Marks & Spencer’s flagship leadership development programme, is featured in Kogan Page’s Learning & Development book. 

Launched in 2009 and still going strong today, Lead to Succeed is run in partnership with Cirrus. The programme develops senior leaders to drive the business forward in a highly competitive marketplace.

Tanith Dodge, Director of HR, M&S

“Cirrus has helped us to build more connected leadership across our organisation by developing the capability of leaders in line with the values and attributes at the heart of the M&S brand.  Forming these meaningful connections has galvanised leaders to lead change and has also resulted in increased productivity and cost savings.”

Tanith Dodge, Director of HR, M&S

 

The Background

Marks & Spencer (M&S) is an international multi-channel retailer, operating in over 50 territories worldwide and employing almost 82,000 people.

In 2009, M&S launched an ambitious transformation programme designed to deliver a step change in how the organisation operated in response to the changing needs of customers and the challenges of the economic downturn. At the heart of the transformation were the M&S values of quality, value, service, innovation and trust.

The Challenge

As part of the transformation programme, M&S wanted to build the capability of its senior leaders. The organisation wanted to create fresh impetus and to galvanise its leaders to drive the business forward in the market. To achieve this, M&S decided to develop a challenging and innovative leadership development programme which would encourage collaborative working, a sharper focus on the customer, and clearer accountability.

The Solution

The resulting programme, Lead to Succeed, is closely aligned to the organisation’s strategic objectives, and targets the development of the 350 most senior M&S leaders. It is designed to provide challenging learning opportunities, to develop leadership capability, and to aid succession. The programme was launched in February 2009 and is still going strong today as new leaders become part of the top 350.

As part of the programme, M&S defined its own ‘leadership brand’, drawing on the core attributes of effective leaders outlined in the book Head, Heart, and Guts: how the world’s best companies develop complete leaders by David Dotlich, Peter Cairo and Stephen Rhinesmith. The authors argue that ‘whole’ leaders combine head, heart, and guts – head to set strategy, heart to connect with the world, and guts to make instinctive and intuitive decisions based on clear values.

In addition, the M&S leadership brand has its own unique distinguishing attributes of driving innovation, achieving quality and building trust.

Programme Outline

This modular programme combines face to face learning, business simulations with professional role-players, feedback from pre-course assessments and buddy review. In preparation, participants complete a 360 degree assessment and profiling questionnaires.  Ongoing coaching ensures that individuals define their own goals in line with the organisation’s strategic objectives and provides support to help individuals embed learning and achieve goals.

The first module helps participants understand the principles and advantages of great leadership to both the individual and the organisation. It raises awareness of leadership styles and preferences and develops communication and influencing skills. In addition, participants develop strategies to encourage effective decision-making. By the end of the first module, each participant has created an individual leadership development plan which they continue to build on and review throughout the programme.

The second module develops the understanding and skills to lead teams, manage team dynamics and drive team development. Participants learn how to increase collaboration within and between teams to drive organisational performance.  This module also focuses on developing creativity and innovation in others, leading change, building relationships and coaching.

The third module helps participants to understand the organisation as a dynamic system and to develop strategies to operate successfully in a complex, changing and competitive environment. They learn about organisational culture, the role leaders play, how they can influence the organisation and how the organisation can influence them. Central to this learning is a focus on customers and the need for participants to align themselves and their activities with business priorities.

The fourth and final module provides participants with opportunities to identify and review key learnings from the programme. Participants make a presentation to members of the M&S executive committee on business impact, which helps to demonstrate return on investment. Together, participants share experiences of successful learning implementation and celebrate the completion of the programme. Each individual participant leaves with a clear vision for his or her future focus as a leader.

The Benefits

Lead to Succeed is considered a flagship programme by M&S and a key component in its people strategy.

The programme has resulted in sustainable success. It has strengthened the capability of senior leaders to lead change. In addition, millions of pounds worth of financial benefits have been identified as a result of the programme – a combination of increases in productivity, reduced external recruitment costs, and cost savings.

Significant behavioural change has been noted, and the organisation has witnessed considerable change in the way that participants tackle challenges. Evaluation shows leaders embody the M&S leadership brand values and act as role models. The programme receives consistently high ratings from participants. 93 per cent have increased their personal impact as a leader, 73 per cent have coached others to improve performance, and a similar percentage say their attitudes have positively changed about something or someone.

Lead to Succeed brings together people from the commercial and operational areas of the business. The majority of delegates agree that one of the greatest benefits is the creation of new and meaningful working relationships and connections across the organisation.

The programme has focused the attention of leaders on what theyspecifically can do to move the business forward and to drive shareholder value. It encourages them to focus on their own accountabilities and that of their teams. The programme gives them a number of tools to support them in developing their teams to deliver high performance. The delegates also spend time focusing on leading change and supporting their teams though change, this has led to much more proactive thinking about change management and increasing levels of activity around change planning.

There are many opportunities during the programme for leaders to build the skills and confidence to challenge others in order to improve performance.  For example, the final module of the programme gives participants the opportunity to give feedback to senior executives, and discuss what support they need to take their proposals forward. This has resulted in some robust, challenging and creative conversations about how things work now and how they need to work in the future. These type of conversations did not happen on a regular basis prior to the programme. This has supported a number of delegates to challenge more in the workplace, giving them the confidence and skills to do this more effectively. This has also encouraged leaders to take control of situations to ensure they get the outcomes they believe are right. Many participants have shared examples of situations where they have taken a different approach in a challenging situation, and explained this has resulted in a successful outcome.

Throughout the programme, delegates support each other’s development through one to one buddy relationships. This enables them to build their skills and confidence as a coach through real time practice. Many participants have continued these relationships after completing the programme.

Overall, this programme is a tremendously successful example of how changing leadership behaviour and building capability in line with organisational values and goals can lead to long-term, sustainable change.

L&D book

This case study appears in Learning and Development by Rebecca Page-Tickell, published by Kogan Page.

 

News
Business
Agility
Coaching

Download our paper and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Download thereport and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Download the report and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Download the guide and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Download the reports and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Download the guide and subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and insights from Cirrus delivered to your inbox

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This