Case Studies

STRATEGIC PLANNING

A financial institution with approximately $2 billion in assets needed to conduct their annual Board strategic planning retreat. Some of the specific challenges or goals they wanted to address were the following:

  • A lack of clarity regarding the organization’s target customer and target market
  • Disagreement among Board and Executive team members regarding where marketing funds should be spent to grow the organization
  • A lack of clarity regarding the top strategic goals for the organization
  • A vision that was outdated and no longer a motivator for either the Board, members of the Executive team or employees
  • Board members who had a strong desire to discuss small operational details rather than focus on the bigger strategic issues that guided the direction of the organization

 

Methodology:

  • One-on-one interviews were conducted with each member of the Board and Executive team to determine the organization’s strengths, opportunities and goals for the strategic planning retreat
  • Results of the assessment were communicated to both the Board and the Executive team
  • Three strategic planning sessions were held with the executive team to clarify the vision, target customer, target market and the most important strategic goals that needed to be accomplished to achieve the vision
  • A strategic planning session was held with the Board to gain their input and ensure alignment with the vision, target customer, target markets and top strategic goals
  • The operational planning session was held with the executive and middle management team where each department head presented the highlights of what major tactical actions they would take to achieve the major strategic goals

 

Outcomes:

  • The strategic plan was given full approval by the Board
  • Board members felt positive about both the process and the outcome
  • Both Board and Executive team members had a clear picture of what discussion topics are strategic and what topics are operational
  • The Executive team and Board were in alignment on the vision, target customer, target market and major strategic goals
  • The Executive team was able to create an operational plan where both budgets and actions were all in alignment with the strategic plan
  • Strategic Planning allowed this financial institution to maximize the benefits of their annual retreat and create a successful strategic plan focused on achieving the vision outlined for the organization.
LEADERSHIP TRAINING

A financial services client wanted help with rebuilding morale in a department that had approximately 120 team members. Some of the specific symptoms confirming the low morale included:

  • Significant lack of cross-departmental communication and teamwork between managers, supervisors, and employees
  • Employee Engagement scores were in the lowest quartile…and getting lower
  • Turnover was twice the average for the organization and industry. Team members were working hard to move to other areas of the organization
  • Grievances were filed over the organization’s ethics hotline regarding the way employees were treated

 

Methodology:

Peter Barron Stark Companies partnered with this department to build an even stronger team, improve the relationships between managers and their employees, and increase productivity. The following were the actions that were taken:

  • Conducted an assessment that included one-on-one interviews with the vice president, managers and employees
  • Presented the assessment findings and recommendations to the management team
  • Each manager and supervisor was provided with the Employee Opinion Survey data for their area of influence and responsibility
  • Clarified and crystallized the department vision and top strategic goals
  • Communicated the vision and top strategic goals to all managers, supervisors and employees
  • Provided leadership skills training to all members of the management team in the following topics:
  • Leadership…If You Want to be a Leader, You Need Followers
  • The Changing Role of the Supervisor
  • Relationship Strategies…Building an Even Stronger Team
  • Effective Communication
  • Effectively Leading Organizational Change
  • Coaching and Counseling for Improved Performance
  • Conducting an Effective Performance Evaluation
  • Motivating the Team Without Money
  • Each manager and supervisor developed a Leadership Action Plan based on the skills they had learned in training
  • Each manager scheduled weekly meetings with their team to review goals, priorities and any problems that needed to be overcome


Outcomes:

  • On a follow-up Employee Opinion Survey, results for this department improved from the lowest quartile to the highest performing department in the division
  • For 12 of the 14 managers and supervisors who represent this department, their Employee Opinion Survey results significantly improved by an average of 13 percentage points
  • For 12 of the 14 managers and supervisors who represent this department, turnover decreased from an average of 23.0 percent to an average of 8.4 percent
  • In a follow-up management team assessment, the teamwork and communication between managers and supervisors significantly improved
  • Based on the results of the survey and a lack of commitment to improving as a leader and building a stronger team, two managers were removed from their leadership positions
  • Leadership Training was utilized to successfully rebuild department morale, significantly reduce employee turnover, and increase effective communication.
EMPLOYEE OPINION SURVEY (EOS)

A major consulting firm conducted their annual Employee Opinion Survey. Throughout the organization, scores related to cross-departmental communication were low. Only about half the employees responding to the survey agreed that communication flowed effectively throughout the organization. In follow-up focus groups after the survey results were presented, specific concerns stated by both leaders and team members included:

  •  In the past year, workload had been heavy and staffing lean in many areas within the firm
  • Teams were pressed to meet their own deadlines, and had little time to focus on requests coming from outside their department
  • In some cases, the incentive plan seemed to be pitting department against department rather than rewarding collective efforts throughout the firm
  • Different teams within the firm worked with different clients, had different goals, and were often physically separated from other departments
  • Some stereotypes existed about which departments were responsive, and which departments were not showing evidence of being team players
  • Some members of the management team were less accountable for getting information they received at management meetings to their employees

 

Methodology:

Peter Barron Stark Companies partnered with the senior leadership team to help this firm build a stronger team, improve communication between managers, and improve communication between managers and employees. The following were the actions taken:

  • Assisted in communicating the Employee Opinion Survey results to all managers and employees
  • Once the results were communicated, managers were trained on how to create a successful action plan and provided access to The Manager’s Toolkit, our online action planning resource
  • Each manager was required to develop one follow-up communication action plan in addition to their department actions
  • Assisted managers in lower rated areas with their action planning session and finalizing their plan
  • Conducted an assessment that included one-on-one interviews with the senior management team and a cross-representative sample of managers and employees to gain additional insights regarding the communication scores
  • Presented the assessment findings and recommendations to the senior leadership and mid-level management teams, and facilitated a meeting to brainstorm actions to address employee concerns
  • Clarified and crystallized the firm’s top three strategic communication goals
  • Communicated the communication goals to all employees
  • Coached senior leadership to hold all managers accountable for their own communication scores
  • At each management team meeting, communication was discussed. Actions taken to improve communication were shared, and communication challenges were addressed
  • Individual departments were encouraged to review their action plan and share updates with their team on a quarterly basis

 

Outcome:

When the next Employee Opinion Survey was conducted with all employees, the improvement was significant. Scores for company-wide communication flowing effectively throughout the organization improved by 25 percentage points. Communication from upper management to employees also showed an improvement of 11.4 percentage points. Finally, scores regarding internal communication between departments scored an 80% favorable response.

 

The SVP commented that the continued focus on communication was really hard work, but the resulting improvement in cross-departmental communication, productivity, and improved morale was well worth the effort. The Employee Opinion Survey identified the communication challenges, allowing them to focus on specific areas of concern. Because the survey was conducted on a regularly basis, the problem was identified and handled in the early stages. Had they not conducted the survey, the issue would have lingered longer, eroding both the work environment and the service provided. With persistence and commitment to the survey and action planning process, they were able to create an environment where employees love to come to work. In addition, they were awarded the Peter Barron Stark Companies’ Award for Workplace Excellence.

TEAM BUILDING

A major healthcare chain conducted their annual engagement survey. One department at the regional office scored significantly lower under the leadership of a new director. Specific concerns stated by both leaders and team members included:

  • Significant decline in morale
  • Lack of cross-departmental teamwork between managers
  • Employees unhappy with being held accountable to new standards, and feeling they were being treated unfairly
  • A lot of gossip among employees and a lack of focus on the strategic direction of the department
  • Director and managers were all frustrated that employees seemed to be fighting against doing the right thing and getting the job done

 

Methodology:

Peter Barron Stark Companies partnered with this department to build a stronger team, improve the relationships between managers and their employees, and increase productivity. The following were the actions that were taken:

  • Conducted an assessment that included one-on-one interviews with the director, managers and employees
  • Presented the assessment findings and recommendations to both the management team and all employees
  • Provided executive coaching support to the director and members of the management team
  • Clarified and crystallized the department’s vision and top strategic goals
  • Communicated the vision and top strategic goals to all employees
  • Communicated to all employees each month the status of accomplishing the department goals
  • Managers ensured that each employee was clear on his or her goals and how they were aligned to the goals of the department and organization
  • Conducted team building sessions with the management team
  • Conducted a Relationship Strategies seminar for all employees with a focus on building a stronger team
  • Provided leadership skills training to all members of the management team
  • Coached management to provide formal and individual recognition to employees who were meeting or exceeding goals
  • Coached, counseled and trained employees who were not meeting performance standards.

 

Outcome:

One year from the start of this project, another engagement survey was conducted. This time, the department went from worst to first in their division. Productivity had also significantly increased. The Vice President and Director both acknowledged that this process was hard work, but the results have been well worth the effort. This department now functions as a cohesive and productive team focused on achieving its strategic goals.

EXECUTIVE COACHING

A financial services executive had a stellar reputation for his technical skills and ability to produce outstanding results, quarter after quarter. In fact, his boss called him the “mailman” because he always delivered. Although his boss loved him, his direct reports and peers did not like working with or for him. This executive was described as:

  • Moody
  • Egotistical: unwilling to admit he might be wrong or others were right; felt others needed to change to adapt to him
  • Having an abrupt, abrasive and condescending communication style
  • Spending most of his time speaking and very little of his time listening and asking questions
  • So focused on his and his own team’s results that he was willing to throw others in the company under the bus
  • Unappreciative of other’s contributions

HR felt that the executive should be let go. The CEO did not want to fire this executive, but the number of complaints brought to HR about how this executive treated people was making it too difficult to ignore the problem any longer.

 

Methodology:

Peter Barron Stark Companies, Inc. was engaged to provide executive coaching to help this leader build stronger relationships in which his peers and direct reports were motivated to follow him.

One-on-one interviews were conducted with the executive, the executive’s boss, and a random sample of peers and direct reports. Based on the goals of the executive and the feedback collected from the boss, peers, direct reports and human resource representatives, a preliminary action plan was developed. While the leader was working on the immediate agreed upon actions, a customized Leadership Development Assessment (360) was created and administered to his boss, peers, direct reports and a cross-section of internal customers. The purpose of this 360 was to gain quantifiable data on approximately 75 leadership competencies. From the results, the executive was able to see his greatest strengths as a leader and also was able to identify his three greatest opportunities for improvement in the competencies of:

  • Communication Style: Receiving Information – Listening, asking questions and acting appropriately on the information he receives
  • Communication Style: Providing Information – Speaking in a style that is caring, calm, positive and respectful
  • Motivating and Appreciating People – Genuinely valuing other’s contributions to the team and organization

 

Outcome:

With a well-developed action plan, monthly coaching sessions, weekly phone calls, and email support, this executive took on a positive attitude about learning and change. In the first 90 days of coaching, both members of the HR team and the leader’s boss stated they had seen dramatic changes in this executive’s leadership style. One year from the beginning of the engagement, Peter Barron Stark Companies returned for a second set of one-on-one interviews. Although the executive stated that the change was uncomfortable and difficult, he is committed to the long-term benefits he is experiencing as a leader. As for the people who were interviewed, they now felt very positive about the relationship and, according to the direct reports, no longer wanted out of his area of influence.

Executive Coaching prevented this company from undergoing a costly and disruptive change in the executive position. This resulted in the retention of a high-performing executive able to effectively lead a team of engaged, motivated, and happy employees.

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