Only Connect? Is our leadership programme delivering on its promise?
Leadership development through experiential learning is at the heart of Wavelength’s mission. During the last ten years our Connect programme has become a key part of the way we deliver those experiences.
The objectives of Wavelength’s leadership programme
The Connect leadership programme seeks to enrich the skillset of the C-Suite by learning with and alongside their peers. Since 2010, nearly 900 leaders from over 110 leading FTSE 100 companies, social enterprises, charities and public-sector agencies have taken part in Connect. We aim to broaden their knowledge and understanding of different leadership challenges as they affect other individuals, businesses and sectors. We seek to provide ongoing support for participants to continuously improve their performance as leaders.
Has it worked?
If our purpose is to make the business world better by enriching the quality of leadership, how successful have we have actually been over time? And what do those who have participated in the programme have to say about its impact?
In 2016 Wavelength conducted a study to see how participants over previous years had profited from the learning strategies, tools and support networks we aimed to develop with them. This year we’ve looked again at these key metrics.
Impact of the Leadership programme over time
The findings from the last three years have been published in our latest report, compared with the 2016 results and supplemented with deeper, qualitative insights gleaned from in-depth interviews with alumni.
Real voices reflect on the progress made
As well as the latest data, this new report features the real, anonymised voices of those who have participated over the years. In this study they reflect openly on the way developing learning relationships and a support network of peers outside their organisation, has impacted on their personal leadership style and performance.
Although flagging up some critical areas where more value could be driven through the programme, the report shows what return on investment in the Connect programme can really look like. It underlines the way it can re-energise, refocus and bring new confidence and skills to those who lead.
These are the key results from the 2019 study:
of participants believe their organisation has directly benefited from inclusion in Wavelength’s Connect programme
What does ROI from Connect look like? The energy and long term value an inspired and focused leader can bring to the challenges facing their organisation:
“Personally, I feel reset and invigorated by Connect which has a knock-on effect on my immediate colleagues. It’s also instigated a deeper appreciation for ‘purpose’ and how it flows through our strategy and day-to-day.” (Corporate participant – 2017)
of participants believe they act with more courage as a result of participating in the programme
The willingness and ability to take risks and tackle daunting organisational challenges is a key leadership skill and Connect has a strong track record of delivering on this.
“Being a leader can be incredibly lonely. And it is really hard when you feel that you’re swimming against the tide because you’re not surrounded by peers that think like you or behave like you. Sometimes in work you have moments when you think, ‘I’m not sure I can do this anymore’. But Connect made me more determined to stand my ground. So from my organisation’s perspective, they’ve certainly got more out of me and I’ve stayed the distance” (Corporate participant – 2016)
have gained tools and developed approaches they still use
The tools and approaches introduced by the course have particular and abiding value for the participants. The ‘Personal Boardroom’ (a strategic approach to building networks) is often cited as a powerful take away from participation:
“Personal Boardroom I still use. I also regularly review and look back on session notes when I’m thinking through issues for inspiration and ideas. What do I do? What could I do? What stops me?” (Social Sector Business Participant – 2016)
say they now have a bank of stories and insights they draw upon
Sharing insight through story telling and networking in open and supportive environments is a central and highly successful part of the programme. The report concludes that choosing how to tell our own story – to ourselves as well as to others – can help us position ourselves positively and productively:
“What was beautiful about Connect was how they brought different groups and types of people together. It was a very safe space. Natural. Allowing people to exchange advice and suggestions open and freely. I never got any sense of ego from anyone.” (Corporate participant – 2016)
“I have a book full of notes that I still use as my bible” (Corporate Participant 2018)
of participants said they were clearer on their purpose as a leader as a result of the programme
Emerging refocused and re-energized for the future was another strong benefit of Connect:
“[It] re-energised my focus on what is interesting and what is really important. My personal effectiveness has improved, and I put much down to the opportunity to hold a mirror up personally and as a business about our thoughts and more importantly our actions. Often, we can get into personal routines and practices which need to be disrupted to bring more benefit.” (Corporate participant – 2017)
believe they have helped people and/or been helped by people they met through Wavelength
This was the biggest drop in any score versus 2016, with a 13% difference. Creating an ongoing and more connected support network of alumni is an area we are already working on for 2020:
“I have made a number of contacts through Wavelength that I will try to stay in touch with – lots of good people and a shared experience.” (Corporate participant – 2017)
of participants say other people have commented that they’re a better/happier leader/person
A lower score than was recorded in 2016 and a disappointing result, but happiness is always difficult to quantify. Still, the qualitative research has thrown up some extraordinary examples of the personal transformation the programme can bring:
“Connect has certainly has helped me to be a much more rounded and complete leader – and more open to a wider range of ideas and contributions.” (Social Sector Business Participant – 2016)
“I have never come away from another programme with that level of inspiration, and the confidence that I could surmount the challenges I face. (Corporate participant – 2017)
of participants have said they’re better at helping others with their leadership challenges
Wavelength report disappointment at this result which represents a 9% drop from 2016. Connect always hopes the effects of its programme can ripple out to others. At the same time in the qualitative interviews many said it had taught them the importance of engagement with others and not operating in isolation. In the future, the programme will seek to find ways to develop this dimension of leadership:
“My own senior direct reports have benefited from the ability to contextualise issues and take a step back when needed.” (Corporate participant – 2016)
have consciously built a stronger network to support them and their team
Exploring and harnessing the power of the network is a key part of what Connect is all about. That’s the focus of the tools and approaches we share, helping individuals build a structure of support around them, with different roles and functions to achieve a balance of advice and guidance:
“Through the course of the last few weeks, I have been deliberately building my network of contacts across the external industry, recognising the need to build my Personal Boardroom – for personal and corporate benefit.” (Corporate participant – 2017)
“I learnt you’ve got to embrace different ways of looking at things.” Social Sector Business Participant (2018)
say they actively look at what goes on outside their sector
Wavelength believe that agile, effective, innovative leadership comes from getting out into the wider world and using what you find there to inspire and inform your leadership. It’s the core value and differentiator of the Connect programme, the way it links leaders across sectors and lends a new perspective to the personal and business challenges they face as part of the C-Suite.
‘It has been my goal for the past year to find a way to get our business to stand out from our sector and be recognised as a market leader, not just in our specific industry. Some of the insights I got from the programme helped and I am spending time with leaders in similar roles in other industries and countries.” (Corporate participant – 2018)
say Connect proved either “really useful” or “completely invaluable”
This result represents a 6% rise in the same metric since 2016 and is a huge endorsement of the power of Wavelength to inspire and equip leaders for future challenges:
“As a ‘new’ MD in a brand new business, I was looking for something that wasn’t just another ‘leadership course’. I wanted to find something that was really relevant in helping me to identify what my role was and needed to be; to extend my experience of other leaders in completely different sectors; to be inspired and challenged as well…Connect was all of those things.” (Social Sector Business Participant 2016)
“Really excellent and unique course.” (Corporate participant – 2017)
“It has given me a language and framework to think and talk about leadership seriously within my organisation and externally.” (Corporate participant – 2018)
Connect in the future
The detail of the report demonstrates the continued value Connect is bringing to the companies who are investing in it. There are also areas where we can continue to improve.
But the study demonstrates, in their own words, how Connect remains an extraordinary opportunity for leaders to broaden their horizons through building powerful networks; adopting new tools and approaches that can inject fresh purpose into their work.
Read the full report here – for more insight and inspiring case studies from the front line of leadership.
Learning from a highly experiential curriculum, leaders are given access to some of the world’s most successful and admired companies and accomplished practitioners. Airbnb, Alibaba, LEGO, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Liverpool Football Club, The Eden Project, and Four Seasons are amongst those featured on recent Connect programmes.
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