Leadership - Case Study

Richard Levy

I have worked with John Curran over several years to improve my leadership skills and he has also supported me on planning and implementation various point projects. John's mentoring, advice and support has always produced a positive and beneficial outcome. His advice is always incisive and well founded, as he has taken the time to get to know our business and our people.

When I initially started working with John I was responsible for managing about 60 people in engineering teams around the world. I was finding growing and developing distributed technical teams a significant challenge.

I wanted to assess my leadership skills and identify growth areas. John worked with me to plan and implement 360 leadership appraisals for myself and my direct team. This included helping to mentoring the team through some initial wariness of the 360 process.

Whilst I was generally pleased with the overall assessment I got from my manager, my peers and my team; the more valuable results were those where my self assessment differed from that of my direct reports. Some found my intimate knowledge of the business as either overwhelming or intimidating. They felt that I was sometimes too close to them and sometimes interfered with their work and decisions. In other words, I was not 'Enabling others to act'. I was also viewed as needing to improve in 'Inspiring a shared vision'.

John acted as a mentor to examine and understand this feedback and identify actions for improvement. He helped me implement a formal Managing by walking about programme (MBWA) established around the performance appraisal process. This lead to SMART objectives produced from Performance Appraisal process, stronger and fairer linkage between reward and actual performance and a much deeper understanding of the capabilities and failings of senior managers empowering them to take fuller responsibility and ownership. It also gave me a greater knowledge of individual employees across the department and from different locations that benefited from much more visible and relevant leadership.

A second important outcome was the first ever global kick off for the group. Following initial planning stage, 8 people were delegated the responsibility to deliver the conference over 2 days. The conference was completed on time and under budget with exceptional feedback from the attendees. Motivation was sustained and the process was repeated two years later. There was active involvement of people who often felt left out of the 'mainstream'. There was a change of role for several people and promotion for two employees.

Subsequent 360 appraisals measured significant improvement on the scores, though I'm pleased to say we are always able to identify areas for improvement.

John has also provided valuable assistance on some point projects. He trained and coached developers on presentation skills prior to our user conferences. On several occasions he has also led our graduate recruitment interview days; by running the candidates though material on team building and communication styles he helps them relax and so show their true capabilities in the interviews whilst also making valuable assessments of their likely fit within our development teams.

Since first working with John I have progressed to leading the Customer Care team of more than 100 people worldwide and subsequently to the leadership of the entire development team of more than 400 software engineers.