Behavioural Excellence in High Performing Leaders

To mark the merger of Indigo Personal and Organisational Development and LeadEQ,
Sarah Wall, Charlotte Dennis, Colin Wall and the LeadEq team held a celebratory reception where an expert panel shared invaluable insights about ‘behavioural excellence’ and leadership.

Panellists included:

Ash Roots, Managing Director of Digital, BT
Kay Collins, Vice President of Human Resources – EMEA, Monster Energy EuropeKate Simpson, Head of People and Development, Perrigo
Richard Freeman, Finance Director, Ebsford Environmental

Please see the below overview of the discussion.  If you find any of the concepts interesting or would like to chat to Sarah or Charlotte please do contact us on our direct emails:

How can high-performance leaders embrace behavioural excellence?

Last night we welcomed many clients and new friends to a celebratory reception that marked the merger of Indigo Personal & Organisation Development andLeadEQ.  During the evening our expert panel, whose companies are all clients of LeadEQ, debated the question: behavioural excellence; an essential quality in high performance leaders?

While many senior managers achieve their positions based on technical brilliance, successful leaders demonstrate behavioural excellence driven by high levels of emotional intelligence. For Monster Energy, an entrepreneurial business which has grown exponentially in the last decade, it’s a familiar theme for Kay Collins, Vice President of Human Resources – EMEA, Monster Energy Europe.

So, how do you balance the hard and soft skills required by leaders?  Kay observed that: “We’ve had to ask what the future looks like and how exactly we are going to go from ‘big to beast’. And we have a number of people that have made their journey into management positions with little training. It’s really difficult, because you have to balance what you need from them, for example their market knowledge, with our predominant focus on upskilling them.”

Of course, that challenge is not unique to Monster. “We have many highly intelligent and scientific people who, based on the strong organic growth of the business, are suddenly leading teams when they have not had prior experience” said Kate Simpson, Head of People and Development at Perrigo. “We’d never done anything to understand emotional intelligence, so there was an immediate need to look not only at the basics of line management essentials but also what leadership looks like and to explore the differences between management and leadership skills.

Encouragingly, Kate believes that emotional intelligence is inside everyone: “it’s about helping people unlock what that possibility is and what value it can bring. We take the best of people and help them more congruently not see work as ‘work’, but as part of themselves. We develop a role for honesty and challenge, but in the right way and enable people to become bold and courageous in their decisions.”

Ash Roots, MD Digital at BT, has found himself leading entrepreneurial teams within more traditional organisations. For him the key is to start developing individuals within the immediate team before then creating a wider effect within the company. Ash said: “it’s about how you can encourage people to be experimental and to challenge the status quo of the organisation. How do you help individuals survive and then change in such environments? And by starting with the individuals, how can you then also build a halo effect within the organisation?”

Despite a growing and obvious need for external leadership development support, Richard Freeman, Finance Director of Ebsford Environmental, was nervous about the possible reaction of his team. He said: “I was cautious about external people diving in and feared that it might unsettle them.  However, we had hit our capacity as managers and leaders and decided that given there were things we didn’t know, we’d bring in support. 

“Having built from a start-up of three people in 2011 to 45 people now, the board was scratching their heads as to why ‘stuff’ was just getting done wrong and why things had started breaking in weird places. We just couldn’t understand why.”

Richard continued: “We had become starved of quality models of leadership and were then presented with exciting new ideas that we have just soaked them up. There was a simple realisation that leadership isn’t about telling people to do things. These weren’t light bulb moments for the team, these were nuclear explosions going off in people’s heads!”

Yet there isn’t a single model for leadership programmes, as Kate explained: “in terms of behavioural excellence we don’t want a robotic view around what leadership looks like and we veered away from a sheep-dip approach. It’s about enabling people to be truly themselves and authentically ‘them’.” 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kay also revealed that: “our leadership development programme is completely ‘Monster-ised’! We strive to maintain the entrepreneurialism, so the type of training and leadership elements we have put in place have complemented our culture – because it’s what makes Monster, Monster.”

Ash has also found himself on a personal journey: “You have to be a role model – it’s the ability to be able to know who you are and to put other people before yourself.  My experience of most organisations is that we leave ourselves at home when we come to work and that means to tap into that part is then pretty tough.”

But the results can be impressive. At Perrigo Kate said: “the programme is in its fifth year and about 40% of participants have already been promoted into first director roles. Another 40% are already nipping the heels of those directors, while 20% have left the organisation to take on senior roles elsewhere.” 

For Ash, success is also measurable in terms of agility and speed to market, which has improved greatly in teams he’s worked with. “It’s about being experimental and challenging the status quo of the organisation.  If you take collaboration for example, it sounds simple but it’s really hard to do in practice.”

Sarah Wall, director of LeadEQ, summarised the discussion by saying that leadership development is mixture of science and art: You’ve got to make sure people know their stuff, but you’ve also got to encourage people to be able to discover more about themselves.

“Having authenticity is key, and it’s one of the reasons we use horses in our programmes. They can see straight through people, giving aspiring leaders an opportunity to suddenly discover or rediscover something about themselves.  They had emotional intelligence all the time and now, by really understanding how to tap into it, this becomes a huge asset in embracing behavioural excellence as a leader.”