Organizations depend upon capable leader-ship to guide them through unprecedented changes. Yet, there is ample evidence in the news and in recent research reports that even some of the best and most venerable organizations are failing to adapt to change, implement their strategic plans successfully or prepare for a more uncertain future. We believe the turmoil we are currently observing has something to do with leadership, and that if we don’t change our current approach to leadership development, we will see even more of the same.
As well-known companies disappear or are taken over (think of Lucent, Chrysler, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, Merrill Lynch) and new forces like the economies of China and India rise, surveys of CEOs show that they believe the one factor that will determine their fate is the quality of their leadership talent. Yet many top executives bemoan the lack of leadership bench strength in their companies and wonder what will happen once the baby-boomer generation of leaders finally steps aside.
Chapter 1. Leadership strategy
1.1. Defining a leadership strategy
In order to understand what a leadership strategy is, we first have to be clear about what we mean by leadership. The Center for Creative Leadership has been studying leaders and leadership for nearly 40 years and has recently come to an important conclusion: leadership begins with individuals in leadership positions, but it doesn’t end there. The ability of an organization to accomplish its goals does not depend solely on the force of will of a single great leader, or even upon the effectiveness of the organization’s chain of command. These things are important, but don’t in and of themselves help us understand why some organizations succeed where others fail.
Instead, research has shown, we must understand leadership culture, as defined by the collective actions of formal and informal leaders acting together to influence organizational success. It is not simply the number or quality of individual leaders that determines organizational success, but the ability of formal and informal leaders to pull together in the support of organizational goals that ultimately makes the difference. Thus, when we speak about leadership here, it is both the leaders themselves and the relationships among them to which we refer. At various times, the idea that leadership is greater than the individual leader has been referred to as interdependent, boundary less, collective or connected leadership.
In more robust definitions, leadership includes both formal and informal leaders. Observations of actual organizations in action are rarely as neat and tidy as their organization charts would suggest.
Communication, influence and collaboration are occurring up, down and across the organization, almost as if the organization chart didn’t exist, as revealed by the work of various people on mapping informal networks within organizations.
To ignore this reality in any discussion of leadership is to miss the point of what is really going on and what must be understood and managed if strategies are to be implemented successfully.
1.2. The determinants of a leadership strategy
‘Thus, when we describe the leadership of an organization, at a minimum we should consider:
A The quantity of leaders needed, as indicated by current and projected formal leadership positions depicted on an organization chart (number, level, location, function, business unit, reporting relationships, etc.)
B The qualities desired in selection (demo-graphics, diversity, background, experience level)
C The skills and behavior that are needed to implement the business strategy and create the desired culture (skills, competencies, knowledge base)
D The collective leadership capabilities of leaders acting together in groups and across boundaries to implement strategies, solve problems, respond to threats, adapt to change, support innovation, etc.
E The desired leadership culture, including the leadership practices in use, such as collaboration across boundaries, engagement of employees, accepting responsibility for outcomes, creating opportunities for others to lead, developing other leaders, learning how to learn, etc.’
In much of the work on talent and leadership bench strength, the focus has been on only the first two of these ways of describing an organization’s leadership. By leaving out connected leadership and leadership culture, we have overlooked what makes leadership come alive in organizations and the factors that often determine whether strategies and plans will actually be achieved.
A good leadership strategy takes all of these factors into account. Simply having all of the leadership positions on the organization chart filled will not produce the leader-ship that is required to implement strategies, adapt to change, support innovation or other important organizational agendas. It is not just having the right number of bodies, it is what those bodies do and how they relate to one another that matters.
A leadership strategy makes explicit how many leaders we need, of what kind, where, with what skills, and behaving in what fashion individually and collectively to achieve the total success we seek.
Very few organizations have an explicit leadership strategy. Is it any wonder that without one, CEOs find that they don’t have the leadership talent they require?
1.3. The leadership – business relationship
Like business strategies, leadership strategies are based on a thorough analysis of the current situation and an informed view of the future. The strategy then provides a series of recommendations to close the gap between the current situation and desired future. Once the leadership strategy is known, a leadership development strategy can be formulated to produce the desired future state, and implications for talent management processes can be identified. When the strategy is implemented, business results will provide feedback on how well the leadership strategy is working and help shape what new business strategies can be considered with the leadership talent that has been developed.
Figure 1.1. Leadership-business relationship
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
1.4. Key factors of the leadership – business relationship
The leadership strategy should be driven by the business strategy and specify:
A. Quantity: How many leaders will be needed over the next 5’10 years, taking into account growth needs and projected turnover
3. at what level
B. Qualities: The characteristics individual leaders and leaders overall should possess when selected or retained, such as:
d. culture of origin
2. Internal promotions versus external hires
3. Diversity, targeted diversity
C. Skills/behaviors: The specific skills, behaviors, knowledge, competencies or abilities leaders need by function, level, location or unit to implement the business strategy
1. generic behavioral competencies that apply to all leaders in the organization
2. specific behavioral competencies by level or function
3. generic skills and knowledge required by all leaders in the organization
4. skills or knowledge required by level or function
5. skills, knowledge or capabilities by location
6. language capabilities
D. Collective capabilities: The capabilities that are required of leaders when acting together, such as:
1. providing direction, demonstrating alignment and generating commitment as a collective leadership team
2. solving problems or making improvements efficiently and effectively that require collaboration across internal or external boundaries
3. engaging employees in decision making and to gain their active support in implementing planned cross-functional actions
4. jointly formulating strategies and executing them in a coordinated fashion
5. Implementing successful innovation requiring cross-functional collaboration
6. adapting to change in a cohesive and coherent manner
7. working together to grow the business in new markets
8. ensuring compliance/transparency requiring a consistent set of values, beliefs and actions across the enterprise
9. being responsive to customers in ways that demand cross-unit coordination
10. developing talent on behalf of the enterprise, rather than for individual units
E. Leadership culture: The key attributes of the culture created by leaders through the way in which they lead
1. degree of dependence, independence or interdependence among leaders
2. key values that are reinforced through the collective behavior and actions of leaders
3. the leadership style exhibited by the majority of leaders (control-oriented, laissez faire, participative)
4. the leadership practices that are both important and shared across the enterprise (engaging employees, accepting responsibility, embracing opportunities to make improvements, being customer focused and so forth)
Chapter 2. Types of leaders and leadership styles
Different types of leadership styles exist in work environments. Advantages and disadvantages exist within each leadership style. The culture and goals of an organization determine which leadership style fits the firm best. Some companies offer several leadership styles within the organization, dependent upon the necessary tasks to complete and departmental needs.
2.1. The five types of leadership
A laissez-faire leader lacks direct supervision of employees and fails to provide regular feedback to those under his supervision. Highly experienced and trained employees requiring little supervision fall under the laissez-faire leadership style. However, not all employees possess those characteristics. This leadership style hinders the production of employees needing supervision. The laissez-faire style produces no leadership or supervision efforts from managers, which can lead to poor production, lack of control and increasing costs.
The autocratic leadership style allows managers to make decisions alone without the input of others. Managers possess total authority and impose their will on employees. No one challenges the decisions of autocratic leaders. Countries such as Cuba and North Korea operate under the autocratic leadership style. This leadership style benefits employees who require close supervision. Creative employees who thrive in group functions detest this leadership style.
Often called the democratic leadership style, participative leadership values the input of team members and peers, but the responsibility of making the final decision rests with the participative leader. Participative leadership boosts employee morale because employees make contributions to the decision-making process. It causes them to feel as if their opinions matter. When a company needs to make changes within the organization, the participative leadership style helps employees accept changes easily because they play a role in the process. This style meets challenges when companies need to make a decision in a short period.
Managers using the transactional leadership style receive certain tasks to perform and provide rewards or punishments to team members based on performance results. Managers and team members set predetermined goals together, and employees agree to follow the direction and leadership of the manager to accomplish those goals. The manager possesses power to review results and train or correct employees when team members fail to meet goals. Employees receive rewards, such as bonuses, when they accomplish goals.
The transformational leadership style depends on high levels of communication from management to meet goals. Leaders motivate employees and enhance productivity and efficiency through communication and high visibility. This style of leadership requires the involvement of management to meet goals. Leaders focus on the big picture within an organization and delegate smaller tasks to the team to accomplish goals.
2.2. The relationship between the manager and the subordinate
In the 2.1 figure, the management styles are presented, through the relationship between the manager and the subordinate. There are three types of leadership styles:
F Authoritarian style
‘ Refuses any suggestion from subordinates;
‘ He is concerned with achieving tasks;
‘ He believes in organising details;
‘ He triggers the unexpressed resistance and apathy of the subordinates;
‘ He reduces the possibility of subordinates to improve their skills;
‘ In his absence, the group’s results are falling.
G Democratic style
‘ Ensures that team members participate to the process;
‘ The group’s results do not depend on his presence.
H Permissive style
‘ Avoids any interference in the group’s organising and functioning;
‘ Emphasizes on spontaneous leading and organising.
Figure 2.1: The manager-subordinate relationship
2.3. The attitude towards responsibility
From this point of view, here are the following managerial styles:
1. The repulsive style. Repulsive managers are defined by:
‘ refusal to be promoted according to management statistics;
‘ exaggerated respect shown towards other’s independence;
‘ inferiority and self-doubt complexes;
‘ the avoidance of responsibilities;
‘ rapid decision-making and rapid reduction of uncertainty.
2. The dominant style. It is characterised by:
‘ a strong desire for promotion;
‘ the person with this style is energetic and dynamic;
‘ a tension and conflicts climate;
‘ these managers have a high opinion of themselves;
‘ they impose their opinion in the decision-making process;
‘ blaming others for failures;
‘ little chance to correct or improve themselves through learning.
3. The indifferent style. It is defined by:
‘ the lack of interest in promotion;
‘ real prospect of success;
‘ a person with high levels of conscientiousness and realism.
2.4. Consideration for self and partners alike
The position of the five management styles is shown in figure 2.2 in the self-consideration/consideration for partners plan.
The leader, who has a much better opinion about himself than the one of his collaborators, will adopt a dominant style, of imposing his will, to adopt individual decisions. The leader, who has a special consideration towards the group, but less toward himself, will try to adapt to the group, giving it the opportunity to assert them. The ideal leader, from this perspective, adopts a sincere cooperating attitude with the group which integrates him in its work. A balanced leader is inclined toward compromise, with an average efficiency.
Figure 2.2: The manager consideration graphic
2.5. The decision area and the volume of information
In figure 2.3, there are presented the management styles through the number of decisions that have been taken and the volume of information when making those decisions. Obviously, the relationship between those two is reverse proportional, which means that management styles will be in the form of a hyperbole. The surface of the rectangle given by the most important characteristic suggests efficiency, which is why a balanced manager is considered to be the most efficient one.
The incoherent managerial style corresponds to leaders that make decisions with a small volume of information, while, in opposition, the fearful style corresponds to leaders that make decisions very hard, after a long period of information gathering and, many times, in the last moment.
The problem is with the decision itself that must be taken. Sometimes, the willing to risk manager is preferred. The speculative type of manager is incompetent; the hesitant and fearful types lead to bad results for the company.
Figure 2.3: Decision area-volume of information relationship
2.6. Behaviour and attitude
In the 2.4 figure there are presented the main types of managers, through the autocratic-democratic tendency and the attitude towards the team members, under the aspect of MacGregor theories (X or Y) . The following types have emerged out of this:
AX – consistently authoritarian is the authoritarian leadership style that accepts the X theory, pessimistic about people;
DX ‘ democratic is the style that, accepting the X theory, collaborates with team members;
AY – authoritarian is the leader that accepts the Y theory, but does not consults people;
DY – ideal is the leader that has a good opinion about people and collaborates with them in the leading process;
AD/XY – balanced is the leader who combines authority with democracy, in a context where people are not considered identical, neither in the pessimistic model nor in the optimistic one, but each with its strengths and weaknesses, each with its own traits. This type of leader knows to which team member to be authoritarian and to which to behave democratic, which one to consult and which one to dominate.
Figure 2.4: The attitude-behaviour relationship
2.7. The interest towards people, results and efficiency
Figure 2.5 shows the appreciation of management styles in a 3D environment, to each point of this space attaching a particular style. The main characteristic styles are:
1. The altruistic style ‘ presents interest only to people; creates cordial relations; this manager is incapable; not fastidious; he does not resolve conflicts and only calms the spirits; he is ineffective.
2. The elusive (lapsed) style ‘ he shows no interest for any of the three directions; he negatively affects the group; he is convenient; he does not want to have displeasures; ineffective.
3. The autocratic style ‘ the manager presents interest for results and performance; he does not trust people; he does not consult with other people; he ends conflicts; he imposes a soldierly discipline; not effective.
4. The hesitant style ‘ presents interest in the results and human relations; he makes under pressure decisions; he avoids long-term problem solving; he make compromises; he creates a climate of uncertainty; ineffective.
5. The promoter style ‘ he is concerned about dealing with people and their efficiency; he trusts everyone; he stimulates human relationships and the qualities of his subordinates; he is cooperating; he considers his subordinates’ work as something natural; he seizes the moment; effective.
6. The bureaucrat style ‘ he is concerned about efficiency; he follows the orders, regulations, rules, considering them as something natural; he does not have ideas; he does not influence the decision-making process; he has no confidence in long-term projects; it is a difficult style, but an effective one.
7. The persistent autocratic style ‘ he is concerned of results and efficiency; he has confidence in itself and his methods; he makes people listen to him; he is up to date with all news; he does not know how to get the most from his subordinates; he is effective.
8. The result style ‘ he is concerned about all the discussed issues; he organizes the work of his staff; he sets high standards; he creates a favorable climate; he delegates responsibility to subordinates who feel responsible for both successes and failures.
Figure 2.5: The efficiency-results-human relations relationship
2.8. Professional value and how it manifests in human relations
Below, there are presented the traits of leaders through 3 coordinates: professional value, relationships with upper management and relationships with subordinates. These 3 characteristics are independent to one another, generating a 3D model of leadership types.
We may highlight the following types of managers:
‘ Valuable, who know how to behave with subordinates;
‘ Valuable, but lacking in style;
‘ Mediocre, who know how to behave;
‘ Mediocre, who don’t know how to behave;
‘ Valuable, independent of upper management;
‘ Valuable, at the disposal of upper management;
‘ Incompetent, dependent of his boss etc.
Figure 2.6: Relationship with subordinates, upper management and professional value
2.9. The effective manifestation of the leader position
2.9.1. The key factors that influence the effectiveness of manifesting the leader position
When the leader position is actually manifesting, there are no exact recipes with a rigorous nature that may be established. However, specialists offer sets of rules that may help getting more accurate results.
Philip Sadler considers that the key factors of the managerial talent consist of the following:
1. Endowment with a clear sense of direction and purpose. Strategic thinking is an essential element of effective leader. Leaders who think about tomorrow, today they can deliver results for a while, but certainly will be overwhelmed in the near future.
2. Developing and approaching talent. People are born with a luggage of qualities, but these qualities can remain unused if they are not exploited for the organization.
3. Understanding his culture. An effective leader must create a clear link between his actions and the philosophy and the culture of the individual and the company altogether
4. Identifying future talent requirements. Managerial talent must be cultivated, maintained and linked to the context in which it occurs, with its permanent changes.
5. Developing requirements and strategies selection. Strategy development skills and choosing the most appropriate one in the given situation are some indispensable qualities of a good manager.
6. Identifying high potential. Knowing man’s nature as intelligent beings with capabilities and possibilities for obtaining performance is a hallmark of an effective leader. He must be able to discern people and use them to their true value.
7. Retention of talent. An effective leader knows him well, knows his strengths and weaknesses and uses them in order to obtain optimal results.
8. Clarity and ensuring objectives. Clear formulation of problems, but also ensuring their achievement must constantly concern for leaders. Confusing formulations, poorly defined and failure to meet the objectives are flaws that lead to poor outcomes in the leader’s work.
9. Motivating and developing talent. Talented people who are treated the same as the mediocre ones, who are not required to become performant, will have a low efficiency and will implicitly reduce the organization’s performance.
10. Talent evaluation. Performance evaluation is a current issue in the management of companies, the increased concern in this area being justified by the intrinsic relationship between motivations, performance and rewards. The difficulty of quantifying talents does not justify the superficial approach to this problem, with a particular impact in the overall outcome of organizations.
2.9.2. Recommendations for an effective manifestation of the leadership role
The following recommendations may help a leader to manifest an effective activity:
1. Defeat through decision. If you promise something, keep your word. Managers who fail to keep their word lose respect of their employees.
2. Train your employees. Poorly trained employees are not able to achieve performance. A good manager is one who surrounds himself with very well trained collaborators.
3. Respect your employees. To attract the respect and loyalty of your employees, you must respect them in turn; create them a sense of being important for the company and its tasks.
4. Provide resources to the employees. Without the necessary resources, workers cannot achieve the desired results, but in addition, they work under pressure, stress, which further reduces their performance.
5. Show your employees that you trust them. A manager showing that he believes in the skills and qualities of the employees encourages them to achieve performance.
6. Be a good example. A manager who requires from his employees effort and results, but he himself shows no effort, he may achieve results, but not at the level of the potential and goals. Employees see their leader a model of conduct and they are tempted to behave like him.
7. Come with realistic, but challenging objectives. When goals are unrealistic, employees become discouraged and work climate may suffer from this. If these targets are under the team’s capacity, there is the danger in which the leader may fall in the eyes of employees and even lose authority.
8. Be honest and convincing. An honest manager induces loyalty and commitment among employees in order to work hard for achieving the company’s goals.
9. Monitor the progress of important tasks. The manager must observe the way in which the tasks are achieved by the employees. He must consider his subordinates differently, in regard to each one’s potential and performances.
2.10. The leadership development strategy
The leadership development strategy must be formulated to support the leadership strategy. The leadership development strategy should specify the actions that must be taken to retain, develop or acquire the leaders and the leadership skills required by the business strategy and will cover the topics listed below.
New leaders must be socialized into the company and leadership culture and must be made aware of the expectations and developmental requirements that come with each promotion.
Individual and organizational assessments
Assessments are used to help individuals gain self-awareness, but also to provide information that allows the organization to identify talent that is a good fit with available positions. On the organizational level, assessments determine how the organization and its leaders are performing, or the impact of development activities on business results.
Individual development plans
These are plans that leaders make for their development over a period of time. The best plans are comprehensive, covering work as well as program activities, and are discussed by the individual leader with their HR representative and manager.
Required/core learning experiences
Certain learning experiences are required to hold a position or accept a leadership role at a particular level in the organization.
Elective learning opportunities
These are internal or external courses or experiences that are made available to leaders on a voluntary basis. Tuition reimbursement for courses is often provided by organizations to encourage leaders to take advantage of elective learning opportunities.
Work assignments are often overlooked as an opportunity to help leaders develop specific competencies or practice key behaviors. To enhance the focus on learning from work assignments, it’s important to have specific goals, opportunities to receive feedback on progress and a coach or mentor with whom to discuss learning strategies.
There are multiple advantages to tying learning to project assignments. If the project assignments involve important work, learning from the project takes on relevance that may not exist as strongly in other learning environments. Team members can provide helpful feedback, and the relationships that are developed in projects with team members can facilitate future collaborative work. Managers who oversee projects get an expanded view of people who work on them as they tackle novelty and teamwork and perform under pressure. Support for learning during projects can also improve the quality of the work that is performed, which may be critical on key initiatives. When executives take an active role in projects related to strategic initiatives, there is an even more powerful opportunity to support learning and development from the top to the bottom of the organization. We call these efforts ‘action development’ because they hold the potential to develop leaders and the organization’s capabilities at the same time. Facilitated correctly, action development projects hold the key to creating leadership cultures that enable organizational adaptability and the leadership readiness needed to address ongoing issues and unforeseen challenges.
While the value of coaching and mentoring is widely appreciated, it is seldom realized in practice because those doing the coaching or mentoring are not adequately skilled or dedicated. Superficial coaching or mentoring is frustrating and may even damage relationships that are critical to career success. While coaching and mentoring are powerful tools, it’s important to invest fully in them before they are employed.
Team-based, cross-functional learning and relationship building
Many organizations cite the inability of their executives to work together on teams and across boundaries as a major obstacle to success. It stands to reason that the way to learn these things is by doing them, but not without the supports that make learning powerful: learning objectives, content inputs, assessment, observation and feedback.
Leadership meetings and events
Leadership meetings and events are sometimes overlooked as opportunities for people to learn, as well as to receive information. Given the high costs of assembling people these days, every effort should be made to leverage these meetings and events for multiple purposes, including learning.
Executive engagement in talent development
Many of the benefits desired from executive development will not occur unless senior executives buy into the process, support the investments being made and model the behaviors that are desired. The creation of a different leadership culture starts with those at the top stepping up and stepping forward to demonstrate their personal engagement and support for change.
Employee engagement activities
Once leaders are on board, it’s possible to engage employees in a meaningful way. Many employees are informal leaders, whose help is indispensable in achieving organizational objectives. Engaging them also helps leaders continue to develop, as they receive feedback on what does or doesn’t work as they attempt to create direction, alignment and commitment.
Leadership by level, function and location
The leadership development strategy should take into account differences in requirements by level, function and location. The notion of a leadership pipeline with identifiable turning points that call for higher and higher levels of leadership ability is widely accepted. The pipeline notion needs to be complemented with attention to the specific needs of learners in various functions and locations.
Development over time
Rather than the one-year outlook driven by budget cycles that is typical in most leadership development curricula, we suggest that the leadership development strategy should look out three to five years, from the perspectives of both the organization and individual executive. By matching the organizational changes that accompany strategy execution with what will happen to an executive during the same period of time, development strategies take on a more holistic perspective that includes work activities, action development projects, conferences, leadership meetings and events, community service, work assignments, board memberships, mentoring relationships and other learning opportunities in addition to programs. With this more holistic perspective, time, energy and resources for development can begin to shift to where the greatest potential for relevant learning and critical application lie’namely to supporting learning through work, through the implementation of strategies and through efforts to adapt to unplanned change.
Chapter 3. Leadership strategy applied in a multinational company – Webhelp
3.1. Company description
The organisation that represented the study object for this research is one of the most important client relationship management companies in Europe, Webhelp Romania.
Figure 3.1. Webhelp’s presentation
In a brief presentation, WH is an international call-center operator, born in France in June 2000. The central headquarters of the organization is in Paris, with other 6 centres throughout France, 5 locations in Morocco, 9 in the United Kingdom, 6 in Belgium, 1 for each in Algeria, South Africa and Madagascar and 4 in Romania. The company is also the first offshore call-center that obtained the 2000 version of the ISO 9001 certificate for the overall client services activities and production centres. Since its inception, WH has been an inovating actor on the client services market combining:
‘ the first network of offshore contact centres (over 3000 jobs);
‘ a specialised multi-channel approach, which proposes solutions for client relations via phone, chat, call back, SMS, e-mail, fax and courriers;
‘ multi-services offers (pre-sales, during the sales or post-sales periods, technical support) available in various languages.
Figure 3.2. Webhelp’s goals and initiatives
The organisation follows a unique combination of counsilment, integration and technology development, but also manages the multi-channel of client relations services via different languages. The WH Group has undertaken, since its creation, a sustainable development policy in all countries where it operates, especially through:
‘ promoting employment among people with disabilities
‘ avoiding sexual, racial or religious discrimination
‘ supporting numerous local humanitarian associations in Romania and Morocco
According to Inc., among the fastest growing organisations in Europe is Webhelp Romania. The company, recorded an increase of no less than 141% in the past three years. Official data show that the income of the company increased to 12.6 million euros in 2014, compared with the 5.2 million recorded in 2010.
Webhelp has 15 years of experience in the market of Romania and has over 1,700 employees and company officials have announced their willingness to expand the team, which means that the company will reach 2,000 employees by the end of this year.
WH has offices in Bucharest, Gala??i and Ploie??ti.
Besides rigor and professionalism, Webhelp Romania has learned to adapt to challenges coming from customers, labor market and technological or internal due to the company’s growth. Webhelp Romania’s CEO stresses that there was no business model implemented here, but Webhelp chose that, from Romania, a model to be applied in other countries. “Our main advantage is that, by our way of doing things, we managed to maintain our identity as a group and, at the same time, creating a common spirit in all 34 locations in seven countries where we are present (Romania, France, Morocco, Algeria, Belgium, Madagascar and United Kingdom)”, she said.
Workers in Western European countries admitted that they do not consider their work in a call center as something for the future and are not willing to use their free time to pursue professional training that would make them better in this niche.
On the other hand, Romanian workers consider that being hired in a multinational company is an opportunity for professional development and want to pursue a career in this line of work. Also, they are willing to follow training for skills improvement in customer relations, even if it takes their free time as well.
Figure 3.3.Webhelp’s co-founders and CEOs.
Webhelp is a company with responsability, applying to some of the most important European laws and norms:
‘ Normal ISO 9001: Strictness in execution. The guarantee of transparency and efficacy for the client ordering.
‘ Label LRS Social involvement: Satisfied partners. The guarantee of a responsible social environment for the employee.
‘ Norm NF EN15838: Satisfied customer. Management of the client relation guaranteeing the excellence of the services.
‘ Label PCI DSS: The guarantee of security for the phone transaction.
3.1.1. Webhelp’s three main reasons
1. Many prospects for development
Webhelp is growing and always looking for talent. Through its policy of internal promotion, 100% of its staff is from the house, which reflects its desire to recognize the commitment, potential and skills of its employees.
2. Opportunities to develop individual skills
Training is an integral part of the Human Resources strategy of the WH Group: over 10% of payroll is dedicated to it. Through Webhelp University, the company contributes to the daily development of its staff by offering rich, varied and specific training programs throughout each employee’s career.
3. Working conditions and unrivaled benefits
In a stimulating work environment, Webhelp is distinguished by the good working conditions offered to the employees. Therefore, its offices are situated near city centers with easy access to transports and universities.
3.1.2. Webhelp’s 5 principles
WH was based and founded by following, implementing and correlating 5 values or principles, through which it became one of the most important client relations multinational company in Europe. These 5 values reflect the company’s attitude, its employees included, and resume the spirit of their actions.
1. Commitment (our know-how) ‘ Keep our promises flawless toward our clients and colleagues. This value was implemented very well into the heart and mind of each employee, that undertake to defend WH in itself and to promote it;
2. Unity (our force) ‘ Put the common long-term success before our ego and self-interest. All of them work cooperatively with the various entities in the service of the public interest and the common success of the group and its client;
3. Recognition (our boosters) ‘ Respect the contribution, value and success of everyone around us. All the managers respect their colleagues, appreciate their performance, seek to promote diversity and develop the talents and skills
4. Exemplarity (our attitude) ‘ By our attitude and integrity, lead by example at all times. They all strive to lead by example through their behavior and ethics;
5. WAHOU (our secret) ‘ Create the pleasant surprise to the people with whom we work. Everyone gets involved in creating the surprise effect, allowing the development and a good working atmosphere.
3.1.3. Recruitment process
1. Study of application
All nominations that we receive are reviewed by our recruitment team:
‘ Step 1: A first selection is performed on CV;
‘ Step 2: The applicant is contacted for his pre-selection;
‘ Step 3: Once approved, the candidate is invited to attend our premises to pass the tests.
Figure 3.4. Steps for job application at Webhelp
2. Conducting interviews
In the individual interview level, each candidate is received by a recruitment officer to validate his skills, motivation and suitability for their profile with our opportunities.
3. Contract preparation
‘ The applicant must provide the necessary documents to prepare his contract
‘ At the same time he must pass a medical examination to validate their ability to work
‘ Finally, he is invited to open a bank account
Figure 3.5. Contract preparation at Webhelp
4. Signing the contract
Finally, the candidate receives the contract for signature. A copy of the contract is awarded to him. The candidate is then programmed for the process of integration and paid training.
Figure 3.6. Steps for integration at Webhelp
Diversity increases the performance of each employee. Besides diplomas, WH recruits people with different talents. The more they are different, the more they are complementary and mutually enriching. By opening up the company’s group to profiles and personalities coming from different backgrounds, it allows anyone to find a place here.
Whatever the education, background or experience is, starting from the student to the graduate or even an experienced person, it will give a chance to everyone to express their potential and talent in the orgatnisation’s business lines.
During these job interviews, Webhelp’s recruitment department handles each person’s orientation and spots each individual’s profile to fit a certain activity that would be most appropriate, in order to give a helping hand for a better integration and for drawing a career plan from the very first steps in this company.
3.1.5. Integration path
WH provides with an efficient methodology to initiate new-comers in the client relations profession.
Figure 3.7. Integration path
3.1.6. Build a career
Webhelp proposes a true professional path. It recrutes anyone because it believes in each individual’s evolution. Whatever the aspirations or potential are, each candidate will find with it a large panel of professions (production or support functions) that will enable them to rise to new responsibilities.
How to rise in a personal career
WH’s job offers are published, and if a candidate corresponds to its criteria, he/she can apply. The retained candidates will be distributed to the Assessment Center. It is a special process that includes role playing realized by several evaluators that enable the company to underline each one’s abilities. At the end of these tests, if a person has the potential, that same person will be promoted or will benefit from an individual development plan for a future promotion.
Figure 3.8. Hierarchy and leadership levels at Webhelp
3.1.7. Social responsibility
‘ Recruitment, onboarding, career tracking, integration of the disabled, retraining and retention
‘ Working Conditions
‘ Barometer and social dialogue
‘ Training: plan and ratios
‘ Surveillance, electronic monitoring and privacy
‘ Social responsibility for both the employer and its employees
Webhelp, since July 2012, is a signatory of the Global Compact of the United Nations and put it into concrete action in line with its CSR policy conveying social, ethical and environmental values.
The Social Responsibility label (LRS) awards Webhelp’s historical social commitment, which includes an active policy in terms of sustainable development and respect for individuals in all countries.
Figure 3.9. Webhelp’s social responsibilities
3.2. Webhelp’s leadership strategy
The following will exhibit, with the help of personal experience, that Webhelp’s chosen leadership strategy and also, one of the most successful, is the strategic leadership, an approach that turned out to help the company to reach the present height and importance on the European market.
Strategic leadership doesn’t grow easily in most organizations. Statistics show that fewer than 10% of leaders exhibit strategic skills, a woefully inadequate number considering the demands on organizations today. Strategic skills aren’t needed only in times of growth. During tough times, when resources are tight, it is even more important to ensure those resources are focused in the right areas.
Leaders throughout organizations face tremendous pressures to make short-term numbers and show immediate wins. Operational leadership rules the day. This can lead to a lack of focus’as one executive recently put it, ‘We’re running fast in many different directions.’ Additionally, leaders who excel at meeting short-term targets and solving functional problems may feel paralyzed and unsure when the challenges in front of them are far reaching and complex’a situation we’ve seen consistently in these recession years.
How do we lead in ways that position a business for the future while meeting current demands? It does require a different set of skills from operational leadership. Strategic leadership requires us to think, act and influence others in ways that promote the enduring success of the organization.
Steps of the strategic leadership
First, strategic thinking is grounded at Webhelp in a strong understanding of the complex relationship between the organization and its environment. It requires taking a broad view, involving the right people, with important information and perspectives, asking probing questions and facilitating conversations. Strategic thinkers then identify connections, patterns and key issues.
Next, strategic acting takes place here by involving decision-taking actions that is consistent with the strategic direction of the organization’despite all ambiguity, complexity and chaos. A common statement in our company is that a strategic plan is only a plan while an organization’s actual strategies lie in the decisions and choices that people make. This translates into the fact that even though our organisation/project started from a well-thought and developed plan, that plan or strategy is very much dependant to choices made by the whole management department (lower, middle and upper) that molds to the results obtained through time.
Throughout WH, strategic leaders act in ways that manage the tension between success in daily tasks and success in the long term. They facilitate other’s strategic actions, too, by providing a balance of direction and autonomy, of learning from actions and rewarding appropriate risk-taking.
Finally, strategic influencing is about building commitment to the organization’s strategic direction by inviting others into the strategic process, forging relationships inside and outside the organization, and navigating the political landscape.
To effectively influence others, leaders must understand the impact that they have on them. They should also understand the needs, styles and motivations of others. In WH, being a leader comes close to being a psychologist meaning that a leader must be close to people, to understand what happens to those people and also giving them advice and encourage them to pass difficult situations from both professional and personal life.
Ultimately, strategic leadership is both an organizational and a personal process, and it is one that today’s businesses cannot afford to ignore. The job of strategy is not limited to a few top executives. Strategic leaders are needed throughout our organizations if they are to adapt, innovate and succeed well into the future.
Strategic leadership refers to the creation of an overall sense of purpose and direction which guide integrated strategy formulation and implementation in organizations.
This paper examines strategic leadership in the context of strategic decision-making and control of organizations. The objective of this study is to understand the nature of strategic leadership at Webhelp.
3.3. The location of the leadership strategy in Webhelp
Strategic leadership occurs in three key places within this organization:
1. At the top, where strategy for a number of business units is formulated over a given time period ‘ number of projects throughout WH in the present and new ones to come for the future;
2. In the middle, where top down strategy is translated into a business unit or regional strategy and goals are created ‘ leaders ensure the success of these projects by carefully assessing its strong and weak points without which new projects would not be implemented;
3. At a department level, where the business unit strategy goals are translated into a number of individual objectives which are executed ‘ each team is observed, managed and lead to the culmination of its existence through individual and group performance evaluations that will contribute to procedures and processes being respected and objectives to be accomplished.
At these three key levels, strategic leadership provides the scope and direction to help drive success for the team, project and Webhelp itself. A major part of this success is derived from effectively managing continuous change through improvements to both people and processes. For that reason, all executives and managers must have the tools necessary for strategy formulation and implementation, and they must be ready to use those tools at a moment’s notice. Managing in an environment of change and uncertainty requires strategic leaders to consistently maintain a sense of direction, while simultaneously building ownership of goals and objectives for action within the teams they are responsible for leading. This is applied in WH by leaders having coaching sessions with each subordinate to ensure process understanding, the level of knowledge and figure out what kind of person is the interlocutor in order to have an idea how to approach that person.
The fusion between an analytical point of view, utilized to build the processes for a successful strategy, and a human element, which allows managers and executives to build successful, motivated, performing teams is essential to strategic leadership success. This means that a leader’s goal for managing a team is to analyze details, facts and results to ensure that collaboration flourishes inside that group and that there are no blockers that will prevent the correlation between understanding the process and the team’s success.
Strategic leadership often fails because the right balance between these two perspectives is not struck. If there is a high concentration on the execution of the process and the outcome, often with disregard for the human dimension, in WH, a leader is seen to be a task master, and dispirited individuals will be unmotivated to perform, often ‘voting with their feet.’ If leaders are most concerned about the human dimensions at the expense of the process or the work ethic, work can take on the feeling of a ‘country club.’ A good place to go to work, but little clarity about what people are there to do.
So, successful strategic leadership, wherever you are in WH’s management department, must be a careful balance between analytics, process development and the human dimension.
3.4. Creating the leadership strategy
The first step in formulating the leadership strategy is to review the business strategy for implications for new leadership requirements. This analysis usually requires a team of experts composed of some people who know the business intimately and others who are familiar with processes for acquiring, retaining and developing leadership talent. In my experience, in WH this is applied through training sessions that may last 1 to 6 weeks. A big part of creating the strategy is brainstorming through which many ideas, details and thoughts are being put together in order to have the best solution for implementing success. Beginning with the business strategy, the first step is to identify the drivers of the strategy. Drivers are the key choices that leaders make about how to position WH to take advantage of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the marketplace. They are the things that make a strategy unique to one organization as compared to another and dictate where tradeoffs will be made between alternative investments of resources, time and energy. Drivers are few in number and help the company understand what it is absolutely essential for leaders and the collective leadership of the organization to accomplish.
Figure 3.10. Leadership strategy in relation to key factors of a company
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
The reason why identifying key drivers is important in constructing the leadership strategy is because difficult choices will ultimately need to be made about whether to invest money or not in some leaders and their development. Particularly as budgets for leadership headcount and development tighten not only in WH, but also in other big multinationals, it is more critical than ever to demonstrate a clear line of sight between investments in leadership and desired organizational outcomes, such as growth, profitability, talent retention and other metrics that are of key importance to top-level decision makers who control leadership development spending for each inside project in WH.
3.5. The main objective of a strategic leader
Analytic and process: Strategic leaders should always strive to be the designer of the ‘perfect strategy’ by interpreting the market and its needs, placing it in line with the strengths, core purpose and competence of the organization and its workforce. No strategy is complete unless it is executed and this implementation should be closely matched to or exceeds the strategy plan.
As WH is a service provider, leaders in this company have evolved to initiate create, develop and finish the best strategy for its team/project. But this does not always mean that it will get implemented as it must be confirmed and validated with the team or project’s client. However, regarding the analytical point of view, WH leaders always know what’s best for their particular process and most strategies get implemented as they are the right solution.
Human dimension: The constructed ‘perfect strategy’ should be owned by all pertinent people ‘ up, sideways and down the organization. Therefore, WH’s good strategic leaders collaborate in the construction of the strategy with all vital stakeholders and members of their teams. While the strategy is being constructed, owned and executed, leaders should ensure that all grow knowledge and skills in strategic thinking. This evolution towards a strategically consciously competent membership group will enable the organization to become more proactive and faster to act as change in the market, customers and competitors continuously occur.
This translates into the high value and importance that a leader has in WH in what consists of the relationship between himself and the team, the team and its client and the client and WH. It is vital for not only WH, but almost all companies that compete in this market, to have a leader with a clear mind, straight focus and good human relations qualities, all these being used to create a powerful and successful strategic company.
3.6. The actions of a strategic leader
Analytic and process: The most important element is to continue to provide strong direction in line with overall strategies and core purposes of the organization. A strong vision should be maintained, as well as specific success measures. This means that at sometimes leadership must be seen to be from the front, setting examples, being the first to try out a new initiative. But equally, the leader must learn to lead from the middle or the rear and when new initiatives, processes or solutions are suggested by others, be the first to give praise and reward. What the leader should avoid is to personally supply the ‘only right one answer.’
In WH, this gets done through weekly and monthly team and individual briefings regarding process developments, personal and team achievements and results. These meetings also have the purpose of de-tensioning the team in difficult periods, brainstorming for new ideas, solutions or even organize interactive and fun games or tests for motivational reasons. This matter is well implemented in WH and the results are in good team work, pleasant work experiences and atmosphere and group relationships that are being worked on for getting the expected outcome.
Human dimension: Good strategic leaders should see themselves as becoming coaches and mentors. The job becomes one of interpreting the organization’s strategy and purpose, so that when strategy is proposed they can explain why it may not work, or that the process proposed is better than the one that is currently in place. It is important to ensure all are engaged and own the strategy that is continuously evolving and know the part they have to play in developing success through execution.
This is being handled inside WH by team or individual coaching sessions or training sessions for new-comers of new processes being deployed. These sessions are well organized and implemented and their objective is for the team leader to properly understand each team member’s point of view related to the process and eliminate blockers, glitches and bugs from the procedural steps of any activity. These sessions occur each month with every subordinate and it may take from 1 hour to a full working day, depending on the complexity of the tasks involved and the level of knowledge of the subordinate.
3.7. Leadership development strategy in relation to the business
Key drivers of the business are:
‘ The relatively few (e.g., 3-5) determinants of sustainable competitive advantage for a particular organization in a particular industry.
‘ Also known as ‘key success factors’, ‘key value propositions,’ critical success factors, etc.
Note that key drivers are not in themselves detailed strategies; instead, they are the key decisions WH leaders are making about what the organization must do. For example, in some markets, like the restaurant industry, making certain that customers are satisfied may be chosen as a key driver of success. In other industries, like utilities, customer satisfaction may not be a key driver. A key driver in the utility industry might be finding long-term sources of competitively priced raw materials to turn into electric power.
In WH, a service provider, the client’s satisfactory rate is the most important key driver that will also have a big influence over the next projects that will develop inside the company. A project’s success ignites others to join and their success will not only imply profitability, but also ranks WH highly above other competitors in the market’s hierarchy.
Key drivers can be identified by asking a few fundamental questions:
‘ Is this an organizational capability that is absolutely vital? Could something else be more essential in causing the vision/mission to happen’? Defined relatively, what is most important to competitive success and mission completion’? Is this something that the organization is positioned to do better than its competitors’? Will doing this well translate directly into continued or future success’? Would not doing this well cause the organization to fail?
In reality, the leadership strategy implications would be much more specific, reflecting the actual opportunities and issues surrounding the key drivers. The key drivers and their associated business strategies should have clear implications for what WH leaders must do well in order for the organization to succeed. Ultimately, leadership development activities should be designed to ensure that individual leaders and the collective leadership of this organization are prepared to implement the most important strategies related to the key drivers. After the high-level implications for the leadership strategy have been identified, the next step in developing the leadership strategy is to assess the current leadership situation and compare it to the desired future. This is the step that requires the most ‘heavy lifting’ in terms of assessment and data collection, covering a wide range of variables that will affect decisions regarding both the leadership strategy and the leadership development strategy to follow.
Figure 3.11. Leadership strategy in relation to business strategy and leadership capabilities
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
A sampling of the methods that are used to collect the current-state information needed in each category for WH reporting and monitoring is listed in the table below.
Table 3.1. Dimensions of key drivers and their application in Webhelp
Dimension Methodologies for Data Collection
‘ Workforce planning
‘ HRIS data
‘ Scenario building
‘ Assessment centers
‘ Leadership style assessment/personality profiles
‘ Talent management forms/review sessions
‘ HRIS data
‘ Ability testing
‘ HRIS data
‘ Competency identification and assessment
‘ Focus groups
‘ Culture assessment surveys
‘ Employee surveys
‘ Focus groups Interviews
‘ Document analysis
For team reporting and monitoring, this is being done in WH through monthly performane individual briefs called OPCs. These have the purpose of informing each agent of last working month’s results. Here are being prompted errors in applying processes, in communicating information from one point to another and even high-risk mystakes that may endanger the company’s image. The leader is looking for solutions from the agent for avoiding similar situations in the future and may also come up with solutions of his own that will be personally managed and inspected by the leader to have the expected outcome. This is also a chance for all agents to communicate issues, problems or errors with the process, other colleagues or even with support team members (management). This way, the subordinate is assured that his voice counts in WH and also bad results or behaviours are corrected.
These briefs may be crucial for the leader to understand, course-correct or even take drastic measures (administrative punishments, reports etc.) in order for the strategy to be fully implemented and respected for company success.
The figure below shows how the leadership development strategy is related to and driven by the business strategy and is tied to business results. It also makes clear that developing leaders should be thought of systemically, not simply as a curriculum composed of programs.
Figure 3.12. Leadership-business strategy related to results
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
Moreover, the leadership development strategy should reflect the challenges and content included in the leadership strategy.
‘Off the shelf’ programs or experiences may be fine for starters, but they won’t be sufficient to achieve the leadership strategy, which means that the business strategy won’t be implemented. Because the link between business strategy, leadership strategy and leadership development strategy has so often been missed, many organizations don’t have either a defined leadership strategy or leadership development strategy at all.
Webhelp initiates programs in the nature of internal courses (stress management, implementing leadership, client retationship management etc.) that have the purpose of developing the already trained leaders’ mentality and perspective and also offer newly-promoted leaders the opportunity to have a variety of courses that add up to the leader training that occurs after promotion to understand the importance, values and acquire or develop the necessary skills for this position.
A cursory examination of this organization will reveal that leadership development consists of an assortment of programs that are roughly tied to the level of participants, rather than to a careful assessment of business needs. Competency models are generated, when leaders have been customized to fit the business, which are often generic, backward looking or only loosely tied to the learning activities that take place.
To achieve lasting and substantial benefits WH’s idea is that learning to be applied to real organizational issues. Moreover, learning must takes place in the collective, not just on the part of individuals. This can be translated into how WH leaders work together and this determines whether or not the company succeeds in implementing strategies and adapting to change, while individual leaders do not act alone. Leadership development activities have changed the context within which leading takes place, not simply the mindsets or capabilities of individual leaders. While capable individuals are the foundation for success, organizations require coordinated action to improve effectiveness or shift directions. Individual development and coaching will only get the organization so far; breakthroughs require attention to leadership cultures and collective leadership capabilities.
3.8. The costs of implementing a leadership strategy
While a precise formula does not exist for translating the leadership strategy into WH’s budget and time required to accomplish each objective, the leadership strategy does provide a compelling basis for justifying such investments because of its clear link to the business strategy. Expenditures on executive development are typically higher due to high competitivity or rapidly changing business environments, and in companies that receive awards for their development practices.
Developing the strategy in WH is considered an iterative process as it involved a team assembled for that purpose that reported regularly to the executive team. Just as with talent reviews, the process of creating a leadership strategy produced inside the company useful conversations that have never taken place before.
3.9. Leadership strategy ‘ an unremitting process
Analytic and process: The procedures were an essentially linear process with a distinct beginning and end. As each objective was completed, it would be checked off of a predefined list. This led to ‘snapshots’ of points in time which had little to do with the ever evolving wants and needs of WH’s customers and the outside world. The WH leaders focus time on the process of change, goals and execution strategy that can be quantified and measured. Within this continuous change, innovation became a key driver, and this is seen by good leaders to be a number of continuous little steps that can be measured in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.
Human dimension: Vision is a very important aspect in ensuring that the work of strategy creation is never complete. Inside WH can be spotted an environment of continuing work in process, continuously shaped by interactions with customers, of being able to spot the next business opportunity. Strategic WH leaders will constantly evaluate important assumptions and, based on feedback from team members, will make necessary changes to the process and, if otherwise cannot be amended, to the strategy itself. Many think a good place to start is to create a common standardized vocabulary with a common set of frameworks or tools.
Jack Welch had a very simple vocabulary of only five questions. Within the five questions were nestled common tools set to test and answer the individual questions. Once all the questions were answered, using data, common tools and frameworks, ultimately an answer would present itself which Welch called ‘the big aha.’
Before the questions were asked, it was important to ensure a current understanding of why change should occur, and what this could mean to WH. Then, the questions were asked:
‘ What does the playing field look like now’? What has the competition been up to’? What have we been up to’? What’s around the corner that customers may need’? What is our winning move?
A simple vocabulary, team leaders and members that understand common tools, frameworks and templates for success, who practice both the human and analytic dimensions, is a very good starting point. This is followed by learning and practice, learning and practice and more learning and practice.
In today’s rapidly changing business settings, one of the most important skills a leader can offer WH is an astute ability to respond to change quickly, appropriately and with the confidence needed to get the job done across company projects.
3.10. The team built by a strategic leader
Analytic and process: The most important thing for the WH strategic leader to ensure is that their team members are comfortable and that they are fully competent to do the strategic task in hand. They should be consistently updated with the latest data, process knowledge and skills to be able to develop continuously changing strategy. It is also imperative that the leader enable understanding among teams about how each individual part of the strategy is fitting in with the whole. An operations manager should know all elements of what the strategy of customer service is.
A leader in WH is the first to acknowledge process developments, changes, updates or even newly to-be implemented processes. One of his responsibilities is to ensure that the process is in working standards and that procedures can be applied by his subordinates. If all is according, he then must get the team up to date with this new information via team meetings or email listings and then make sure all information is understood and well-received.
One other important aspect that a leader must comply is to have a great contribution to his team’s welfare with a good presence of mind that focuses on creating a tension-free environment for improved results, an aspect for which the leader himself will be rewarded by executives.
Human dimension: A WH strategic leader builds a sense of citizenship among the members of the team. The end goal is to generate a sense of comfort and acceptance among team members, resulting in a sense of ownership across the organization. People in all teams work much more efficiently when they know where they are going, how they are going to get there, what they have to do to be successful for themselves, their team and organization and what it means to them and to the whole company they are a part of once the success is being achieved.
3.11. Implications for talent and practice in the company
The leadership development strategy in WH has in turn implications for talent management processes and leadership practices that affect individual leaders, as well as the leadership culture. Unless these systems, processes and policies are aligned with the leadership strategy, they will at best fail to reinforce the intended message and at worst become barriers to success.
Figure 3.13. The context of talent sustainability
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
While determining the number of leaders required is often a straightforward extrapolation of growth targets using workforce planning methods, defining the desired leadership culture is a much more non-linear process.
There are a variety of methods that can help. One way, called the ‘future perfect’ method, involves ‘projecting’ oneself into the future and imagining what the leadership culture would be like if the organization were fully implementing its business strategy and operating as effectively as possible. What behaviors among leaders would one observe? What shared beliefs would be held by all leaders that support and reinforce those behaviors? What things would employees, customers or other stakeholders be saying about leadership in general? What behaviors would be visible and reinforce the kind of culture that is desired? What behaviors would be called out as indicative of ‘good leadership’ and rewarded accordingly? Whatever methods are used to define the desired culture, the definition will require that leadership strategists ‘get comfortable’ with the emotional side of leadership.
These are the set of questions that a project manager, the high-management officer in charge of managing a project at WH, is asking and trying to answer in order to propose a strategy that implicates the number of leaders required for that particular project to be headed towards success.
In creating a leadership strategy, failing to be as detailed as possible in describing the leadership culture that is required to implement the business strategy will lead to oversights later in the process that erode strategy implementation and interfere with effective performance.
In WH, the strategy is very well planned, thought-through, in high-detailed versions of what is next. Those particular details are very important and critical as all dimensions are born from it: people involved in it, new hires to be acquired if necessary, the level of that team’s involvement in the whole process etc. Another aspect is, depending on the complexity and the sizeof the team, a certain number of leaders is required.
A leader in WH is considered most effective with a team of up to 15 people, according to research and personal experience. This is why each team/project within WH has a number of leaders (experts, junior or senior supervisors, junior or senior project managers).
In order to become a leader, WH ensures that all people involved are equally conditioned and equally tested in order for the company to choose the best people suited to this position. This happens through assessment centers, a series of tests, both mental and psichological, that will place the participants into different situations in order to test their capabilities and their leader skills. One other aspect of WH’s equality is that all participants that pass these tests will have an opportunity for future position openings or even different projects.
Executive commitment and engagement
As discussed previously, talent management has become a priority for senior executives. However, there can be vast differences in the level of support that is actually demonstrated and the level to which executives become personally engaged in talent management activities. The occasional talk at a leadership program isn’t sufficient to shape the leadership culture, attract and retain the best talent and plan a leadership strategy that makes a bold new business strategy possible. The responsibility for talent management can no longer be delegated to the Human Resources department. Executives must be assessed in terms of their engagement in talent management activities and actions taken to support or deal strongly with those who fail to act.
This is applied in WH through training sessions for newly appointed executives, sessions that can last up to 6 weeks. This is, of course, dependent to the level of implication from the trained person and also his background of leading positions, in which case it can take up to just 1 week.
Reward and recognition
Everyone knows the power of rewards to reinforce certain behaviors and not others. When rewards are not tied to the content of the learning development strategy, the strategy takes a back seat to work or other priorities that are perceived to be more important to one’s pay or future. Failure to align rewards and recognition with learning objectives is perhaps the most common and easily corrected mistake in executive development efforts.
Webhelp rewards its hard-working members. There are many internal challenges with prizes that can vary from increased free time for the winner (lunch breaks) up to symbolistic prizes (star of the week/month, picture frames with the star agent’s name and picture etc.). Best performance recognitions take place either in team meetings or during individual briefs. This has the purpose to increase the competitivity among the agents and also increase their motivation and avoid work monotony.
Antoher aspect related to rewards is monthly performance bonuses to which each agent is entitled. This is, however, related to productivity aspects (error levels, time spent on processing stocks etc.)
Knowledge management systems can greatly simplify learning and also capture important information that might otherwise disappear as talented individuals retire or move on to other assignments.
A leader ensures that his team is up to date with all necessary information regarding procedures. Besides briefing the agents and communicating them eventual errors that might occur, WH leaders must develop a monthly quiz through which they test their team and also check the level of their knowledge. Using these result, the leader analyzes and draws conclusions of which agent should he focus on more or if there are process bugs.
Rewards and recognition are blunt instruments for changing behavior. Performance management should be more continuous, more targeted and more individualized.
WH also has a highly energetic performance management part of its strategy. Its leaders must assess and analyse each agent during each month using 10 performance evaluations. This is done after agents have processed stocks during the month and these are randomly evaluated with ‘acquis’ or ‘non-acquis’ points.
The purpose of these evaluations is to assess the level of knowledge of each agent, establish the monthly performance of each one (one of the conditions for the agent’s monthly bonus) and also draw conclusions regarding errors of thinking with which the leader must insist on.
Sourcing and recruiting
It makes sense, when possible, to begin leadership development with people who are already inclined to do what the organization needs them to do. Some organizations, believe that their highly selective sourcing strategies are the key to their continued success. If there are leadership positions in your organization that don’t require the best talent available, those positions are probably candidates for outsourcing.
Webhelp is the adept of promoting its own talents and raise its own managers. This is why WH has adopted this system through which no position is filled in the company from outside the organisation. This translates into a better process management due to a better knowledge of how all things work in the company.
Basically, a person is newly hired as an agent in the company, after a period of accomodation and standing out of the pack, that same person will have the right to participate to assessment centers and may well fill in an executive position.
This way, WH assures itself that that person is already accustomed with administrative tasks and also as aware of all procedures, an aspect that will help the next steps for that person (training sessions, dealing with the team etc.). Also, research shows that if a member of team gets promoted, he will be better received by the team as aleader than a company outsider.
Leadership practices are the observable, shared behaviors that shape and ultimately define the leadership culture. According to Ed Schein, a preeminent author on the topic of organizational culture, culture can be discerned by listening to the stories that people tell one another about the organization. The same is probably true for the leadership culture. The leadership culture in WH can be discerned by listening to what agents say about leaders throughout the company. The stories people tell will be based on behaviors they observe, especially during unusual times that ‘test’ the true nature of the leadership culture. When results aren’t achieved, what happens? Do leaders start looking for scapegoats, or do they engage people in problem solving? When strategies are not implemented, do leaders finger point, or do they pull together across units and levels to figure out what’s happening and try something new? What’s interesting and important for leaders to note is that speeches do not determine how people view the leadership culture. People listen to speeches, but then they watch closely to see what really happens. That’s why defining the leadership practices that are essential to implementing the leadership strategy is so important.
WH’s leaders are trained to use both verbal and non-verbal languages. Studies show that 7% of a leader’s communicational skills represent actual words, 38% his voice and tone and 55% his body language. The company emphasizes on the importance of leader-team communication being flawless. One of the most important facts that are shown in the training sessions is that when verbal messages are in conflict with non-verbal ones, people believe what they see rather than what they hear.
These training sessions consist in courses of body language importance, such as hand shakes, behavioural aspects of public speaking (used for team meetings), hand gestures, eye-to-eye or eye-to-face contacts. Other learning sessions involve question differentiation and their effectiveness, Dos and Don’ts when managing a team and leadership tests that place the leaders in different situations.
Figure 3.14. Leadership culture related to the leadership development strategy
Source: Developing a Leadership Strategy, by William Pasmore
3.12. Getting results and building the talent Webhlep needs
With the right leadership strategy in place, the right leadership development process designed and the appropriate talent acquisition, talent sustainability and leadership practices in place, there’s a much better chance for WH to achieve success in implementing its business strategy. If business results don’t follow, it’s time to go into a learning mode once again. Was the strategy incorrect in the first place? If so, what can be done to experiment rapidly with alternative strategies to see if they hold more promise? Or, was the leadership strategy incorrect? Or, was the leadership development strategy ineffective in producing the leadership and leadership culture desired? Figuring out what’s working and not working will be much easier if you know what you intended to accomplish and have identified intermediate and summary metrics that provide feed-back each step of the way. Having gone through the process outlined here will make it much more likely that you will understand what is really happening, or at least have a good guess about where you need to look for answers.
WH has encountered situations in the past with certain projects in which, a bad strategy not being well-thought and with bad implementation. This ended with the termination of those projects and most employees being mutualised or fired due to lack of space on other successful projects. WH executives had much to learn from those experiences and started to redirect its focus toward some of the most important parts of a company: HR levels to senior management involvement and comittment.
If you are successful in achieving desired business results, there is a final bonus that is indicated by the arrow above from strategic execution back to business strategy. That is, the new leadership capabilities you have developed may allow the organization to consider even more aggressive strategies to meet the competition or respond to change.
WH’s success in Western Europe determined the company to spread its subsidiaries to Eastern Europe in countries with great but insufficiently harnessed potential. This was probably the biggest, most important and most successful step for the company’s development because the people it found in these countries propelled it to success, profit and one of the most important players in European client services market.
Five attributes of teamwork culture
You’ve probably seen companies where each member of the management and staff are engaged, productive and loyal and maybe wondered what it took to get there. To create a teamwork culture in your company, consider these five attributes shared by companies with strong cultures of teamwork:
Empowerment: Teams are encouraged to be self-reliant and empowered to make their own decisions.
WH is all about team power as it never lets down anyone (clients or employees) and fights for each one to enjoy both his rights and duties. Also, WH leaders encourage their teams to focus on the knowledge and information they possess and require rather than counting on another team to provide help or solutions.
High Expectations: Teams are given important assignments and projects, not just low-level tasks.
This is one of the reasons why WH has climbed above its competitors so fast.
Proper Backup: Teams with the talent and ability to produce results are supported by management with the time, budget, people and other resources needed to do the job.
WH leaders invest much time to each member of his team in order to have them all at an almost straight line opposed to having them in a sinusoidal line. Good work transform into good results that will also translate into success, profit and increased budget for the company’s future.
Encouragement: Teams are encouraged to work independently and employees are encouraged to form their own informal teams to solve problems.
It is very important for a leader to make his team understand that they and only they can get the job done. This is related to empowerment, so each team is managed by its leader to be more independent and to count only on itself and not on others.
Proper Training: Teams have the proper training for their own positions as well as cross-training opportunities. This makes teams more nimble and increases appreciation and understanding among colleagues.
Training sessions, as mentioned earlier in this paper, are a must in WH. Regardless of the level of process knowledge each team member possesses, each one goes through a period of training. If it’s a new hire, the training can last between 1 and 4 weeks. If it’s a new process in development or process updates, the training happens in a shorter period of time as the agent is already accustomed with the interface and tools needed in order to properly apply the new process.
Creating a teamwork culture is easier when teamwork is promoted, sponsored and supported from the top. However, if teamwork is not currently valued within the organization, it will take time to change underlying beliefs and systems.
Building an effective culture of teamwork
An effective teamwork culture can contain many facets, depending on the size and type of company, industry, or even location. Some of common ingredients to baking teamwork into WH’s culture include:
Setting goals: Each member of the team needs to fully understand the WH’s goals and vision, as well as his or her role in getting there. Setting goals creates common ground and increases productivity.
Resolving conflict: Conflicts arise, even in the most harmonious teams. The key is handling them well. Let members in a team work out conflicts as much as possible. If not, a leader is there to calm spirits down and intervene in these conflicts.
WH is a supporter of the equality among all kinds of people. This is why throughout WH there so many different mentalities, characters, differences between points of view and this may evolve into conflicts that are also rapidly extinguished, without the intervention of a leader. The leader is to intervene in the moment the conflict escalates and the whole team is affected by this.
Productivity: Team members are proactive and take responsibility for their assignments.
Measurement: Measuring team productivity is the only way to ensure the concept works ‘ and is worth expanding company-wide. Fortunately, Webhelp has methods to measure employee productivity and performance.
Gamification in team building
Gamification, the use of game theory to solve problems, can be a real team motivator. It leverages people’s natural tendencies to compete, strive for status and achieve self-satisfaction to get tasks completed and goals accomplished. The strategy can incentivize a whole team, and eventually, the entire company.
Gamification often involves competition between groups or individuals with points, rewards, and recognition.
To make workplace gamification work, it’s important to:
Start with goals: Establish a measurement system so everyone can track their progress. This is done through internal challenges with different prizes that everyone in the team is entitled to, but this also motivates them to become better and flawless in following the procedures.
Involve the team: Bring everyone together from the planning stage, building buy-in and participation. Team meetings performs that role as the team itself might come up with better or even the best ideas and solutions.
Appoint a steward: Someone needs to handle potential disputes. A third party can dispel conflict and resolve problems.
‘ Be flexible: Accept rules will change along the way.
‘ Make it fun: Define the rewards, but make something all might enjoy.
‘ Make it optional: As much as you try, not everyone will want to participate.
‘ Customize team culture to fit
Baking team culture into WH is no one-size-fits-all endeavor. Leaders in Webhelp make sure that their efforts are aligned with the company’s culture, mission and goals. Otherwise, they could be perceived as people trying too hard to implement change.
Why does teamwork make business sense?
A successful culture of teamwork can be characterized as an environment marked by the shared belief that the organization can move forward most effectively when collaboration and cooperation are at the heart of thinking, planning and decision making.
Some of the benefits of creating and fostering an effective culture include:
Employees who contribute to well-oiled teams are happy and engaged, care more about their companies and their jobs and are far more productive than those in an individualist environment. Leaders create those feelings through different social extra-curricular events in which team members are invited to participate. This way, the agents become close to one another and also to the leaders themselves. It is a founding principle of being a leader that is well implemented throughout Webhelp.
Businesses with a team-oriented culture enjoy higher levels of staff retention; the decreased investment in recruiting and training strengthens the bottom line. In WH, staff reduction is not very common and it only happened due to process automation or other details that are not in the company’s control. On the contrary, WH not only retains staff, but it also increases team numbers, all of this happening due to team work and good management.
Ultimately, strong teams work harder, improving themselves and the organization ‘ which is why so many organizations emphasize strategies to hone their development. The improvement that WH went through can be seen and shown from its inception up to today.
Planning and direction: building a culture of teamwork
Building an environment conducive to teamwork is a process requiring a plan and specific activities to support acceptance of a collaborative orientation. The plan itself must express goals for building the teams and management’s expectations for their work and performance. Progress against the plan is monitored and measured. Also, employees’ feedback on how the plan is proceeding is an important measure that can’t be neglected. The plan and the end objective are, therefore, openly and frequently communicated with employees.
Direction is set from the top for the shift in this direction to take hold. WH senior management is responsible for more than just communicating the value and need for a culture of collaboration. They are models for the kinds of behaviors they want to see take hold, even when circumstances might make it expedient to slip back into a more individualistic mode.
Growing the culture of teamwork
Successfully growing a culture like this requires setting up a system that demonstrates and recognizes contributions and performance on individual and group levels. It requires establishing an understanding of the consequences, ensuring employees take on responsibility and accountability for team achievements. Recognizing and rewarding individual and team performance are important. For many people, public recognition of a job well done carries almost as much weight as a share in financial gains that the business might experience as a result of this cultural shift. The system ensures that people who contribute to teamwork success experience a tangible reflection of the impact that it has on the organization’s increased success.
Team building activities go a long way toward reinforcing the behaviors that build a team culture. The most effective are those that are seamlessly incorporated into the larger teamwork effort and are practiced every day. For example, training and development can be provided in systematic ways while the team actually comes together to solve real work issues. Meetings are held to review projects and progress of various teams in a department. These offer broader input, and the opportunity to examine work processes that are mutually owned.
Creating fun occasions, such as organizing lunchtime potlucks or meetings after work, can also help lighten things up and bring teams even closer together.
Chapter 4. Conclusions
To become an effective leader, professionals across all WH sectors should seek a successful balance of reputable and relevant education, along with strong mentoring from current innovative leaders. Joining a professional organization and networking with innovative and successful business leaders can provide invaluable insight into the mindset required to reach elite leadership levels.
Fortunately, for busy business professionals devoted to developing their leadership skills, online education can put them in direct contact with industry leaders, up-to-date knowledge and resources needed to build a strong leadership skillset. Aspiring leaders can expedite the process by acquiring leading edge knowledge and applying their talent in dynamic business settings.
Soft skills, hard skills and more
While it does take time and experience to develop leadership skills, engaging with equally driven peers in an online learning environment can help build the momentum, collaboration and knowledge needed to cultivate the hard and soft skills that Webhelp seeks most when looking to fill leadership positions. In addition to a well-rounded understanding of business practices, leaders need to build the following core competencies:
A comprehensive analysis of various industries and business as a whole with responsiveness to current trends and future innovations
Collaboration, communication and team leadership skills applicable and relevant for today’s diverse workforce
Understanding of the integrated technologies that govern supply chain, business process and work flow procedures
Financial skills to promote fiscal responsibility
Creative problem-solving and strategic decision making skills to apply sound business knowledge to unique and constantly evolving challenges
The need to prepare the next generation
Effective leaders who have the unique combination of knowledge, experience and charisma to inspire teams are in demand and necessary to help secure the competitive advantage for the business WH is involved. Along with personal leadership drive and the ability to motivate teams, it is also essential that leaders know how to cultivate the next generation of top executives within this company. Ongoing development for teams across divisions keeps employees pushing forward on team agendas and helps them build the leadership skills necessary to help perpetuate long-term organizational success.
Human resource leaders sponsor and promote development and succession programs that reflect the diverse needs of the company’s employees. Building attractive benefits that are both flexible and responsive to the needs of a diverse workforce is a highly valued capability needed to support organizational growth. In addition, investing in building leadership from within the organization takes an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to look outside the box for ways to inspire teams to engage in ongoing education and training that can support their own growth as well as that of the company.
Selecting the perfect training ground
For business leaders at all levels, choosing the right training program is a key element in reaching personal leadership goals. In addition to seeking professional opportunities that provide room to grow while being active in a related professional organization for networking and career mentoring, online classes can also be an important element in creating leadership success.
Creating a culture of teamwork is not the same as team building. If a leader has developed strong teams that produce solid results, he can build a case for teamwork culture that can then be pitched to higher management.
According to Randy Slechta, president of Leadership Management International, Inc., a Texas-based organizational development company, an organization that seeks to develop productive team members first has to cultivate a culture that’s positive and open with an environment rich in creativity and challenges. Such a culture will lure and keep employees who thrive at teamwork, he said.
To help leaders develop throughout any of these three time horizons, Webhelp first has accurately identified who its leaders were and then convinced them of an opportunity’s potential. Top managers typically assume they know which of their best people are willing and able to take on new challenges, but the reality is often very different.
Strategy will not succeed in a void, and leadership often makes the difference between merely reaching for great opportunities and actually realizing their potential. Top managers in Webhelp have assessed their company’s leadership gap and have found ways to close it over the short, medium, and long term. Better still, they have integrated leadership with strategy development and thoughtfully have matched their portfolio of leaders with opportunities.
A leadership strategy supports the effective implementation of an organization’s business strategy. Without the right leadership, organizational strategies will remain as ink on paper.
Getting the right leadership to implement business strategies takes careful planning and dedicated effort, and often substantial investment.
Like the sports coach whose mediocre team never wins a championship, even with a new book of plays every year, the CEO can’t hope to achieve bold new strategies without giving thought to his leadership team and leadership culture. Too many organizations have become complacent with their existing leadership programs; instead of making certain that they are linking their leadership strategies and development investments with their business strategies and taking full advantage of the learning opportunities that accompany strategic change.
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