Leadership at Telstra – Telstra and LIW

– GOLD WINNER OF THE 2018 EXCELLENCE IN PRACTICE AWARDS –

To achieve its vision of becoming a world-class technology company that empowers people to connect, Telstra sought to redefine what leadership means within the company. Telstra is in the midst of a massive transformation with customer expectations, competitors and technology changing rapidly.

As Telstra evolves so does its approach to leadership, one in which leaders take a proactive approach to understand the current and future needs of Telstra customers and employees, create the environment to drive world-class performance and effectively deliver the Telstra strategy.

Telstra partnered with LIW to develop a strategic learning solution, made up of a number of programmes and initiatives to support the transformation of the business through leadership. The solution enables leaders at all levels to create a common language of leadership and a movement that is shifting the culture of the organisation to deliver the Telstra strategy and achieve its vision to become a world-class technology company that empowers people to connect.

Telstra and LIW have been working in partnership for five years, and over that time the LIW team have developed a good understanding of Telstra’s business and its culture. The two businesses have been working together to develop an organisation-wide suite of programmes to support the leadership transformation at all levels of the organisation. Each programme has been designed for impact with a specific set of business and behavioural outcomes in mind. The result is a very different programme for each group, but with common threads and a common language of leadership:

• Telstra Leadership Programme (TLP) – designed for the executive team and Executive General Manager group of approximately 1,600 people

• Business Leader Programme (BLP) – designed for the General Manager (band 2) group, with a population of about 2,400 people

• Connected Leader Programme (CLP) – designed for frontline leaders (bands 3 and 4)

• Emerging Leader Programme (ELP) – designed for individuals about to become leaders

The LIW and Telstra team used the LIW Impact System four-step approach to create alignment in two directions:

1. To align the programme design to Telstra’s business and leadership objectives

2. To create alignment among stakeholders and processes within the business to support the leadership change initiative.

The Telstra Leader Programme (TLP) is the core programme within the strategic learning solution and was created specifically for the 1,600 most senior leaders at Telstra. It aims to deliver the greatest positive impact on the culture and performance in the organisation, starting with CEO Andy Penn and his leadership team.

For TLP, Telstra needed a partner who could contribute real thought leadership and a high level of expertise to the process while also working in a highly collaborative manner. Telstra design lead, Jess Tonissen, engaged in an intensive co-creation process with LIW’s Andy Chevis at Telstra’s innovation lab in Sydney, Australia, to bring the programme to life. The team researched global best practice and called on subject matter expertise to ensure the latest thinking was incorporated.

Telstra and LIW identified learning outcomes that adhered to the 3Cs framework already underlying existing leadership initiatives throughout the organisation. The 3Cs framework outlines the conditions that leaders need to put in place for their teams to be successful. For TLP the intended learning outcomes are:

Clarity: Understanding the macro environment, its impact on the organisation, the strategic response and rationale. Being able to clearly articulate a compelling narrative to inspire others and support them to align their effort

Climate: Knowing the conditions required to drive world-class performance and taking accountability to create an environment for people to do their best work

Competence: Being clear on the definition and expectation of leadership at Telstra and developing the skills to transform Telstra into a world-class technology organization

Throughout the TLP programme participants record their reflections through a digital coach to help them to articulate what they have learned, their reflections on that learning and how they make meaning of that learning for themselves through intentional, mindful thinking

The design team also engaged all of Telstra’s key practice areas – Performance, Talent, Diversity and Inclusion, Advocacy and Culture – in early design discussions to ensure key messages were pulled through the programme content. There were many competing priorities and differing views which pushed the team to develop a decidedly bespoke programme. The design also needed to accommodate the needs of many business units – some in decline and some growing – to ensure that the programme was applicable to all leaders.

Digital agency Loud&Clear was engaged to set the scene for participants, enveloping them in world-class technology. Their futuristic set added an extra dimension to the facilitators’ role requiring them to incorporate changing screens and scenes into their delivery.

Each simulation, for example, has a different set of interactive screens to create a specific environment. The set, which requires a producer to manage it, creates a whole world using technology adding its own layer of complexity to the experience of the programme.

The resulting programme is a fully-immersive cognitive, behavioural and emotional 20-week journey. At its core is a five-day off-site workshop where participants are surrounded by a custom-built, future-orientated set and supported by highly-skilled facilitators and bespoke app-based learning tools. In this phase, participants take part in challenging, future-focused leadership simulations. Exploration and reflection exercises enable them to experiment and gain high-quality feedback on their leadership.

Throughout the programme and afterwards back in the business, leaders gain deep insights into themselves, their teams and the organisation and develop their behaviour to achieve a significant shift in their leadership and enterprise-wide impact. The programme is a highly-visible initiative within Telstra and continues to be a priority for the CEO, so much so that in 2017 Telstra’s L&D team won the annual CEO Team Award for outstanding business achievements across Telstra.

Throughout the TLP programme participants record their reflections through a digital coach to help them to articulate what they have learned, their reflections on that learning and how they make meaning of that learning for themselves through intentional, mindful thinking. In addition, the app provides access to content in the form of digital micro learning as well as providing them updates on their pulse scores.

After the workshop participants continue their learning journey through a series of events:

• Three leadership commitments are set in the workshop (at self, team and system level) and participants receive coaching to support them in achieving their goals, with check-ins at 45 and 90 days

• Participants share their expectations and learnings with their team and manager both before and after the workshop

• Learning PODs of three are formed supported by executive coaches to hold leaders accountable to follow through on their commitments

The results of the programme are dramatic and ongoing. To date, 700 leaders have taken part in 29 TLP programmes since its launch in 2016. TLP has generated real and lasting change in Telstra’s leadership culture along with greater proactivity, customer focus, strategic alignment, genuine collaboration across the business and improved performance.

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