Developing Leaders with Presence at Sodexo


July 25th, 2016

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Sodexo – an organisation that delivers integrated facilities management services to improve the quality of life for clients and customers – partnered with Roffey Park to deliver Leading with Presence as part of its ‘Advance 4’ leadership development programme.

“In developing our in-house leadership development programme we asked our senior leadership team to define the qualities they wanted to see in their leaders of the future. The directors we spoke with identified the need for leaders who can positively influence and perform well in any situation, whether with clients or working internally with colleagues and stakeholders,” said Jann McBride, Head of Talent UK&I (Human Resources) at Sodexo.

The Sodexo Advance programmes are aimed at establishing a strong pipeline of ‘promotion ready’ leaders for the future. Each programme runs for eight months with ten participants in each cohort. The core objective of Advance is to raise personal awareness and leadership effectiveness, including impact and influencing, as well as strategic decision making skills. Delivery is via a range of learning activities, including participation on the Roffey Park Leading with Presence programme and mentoring of participants by members of the UK and Ireland Executive team. Participants on Sodexo’s Advance programme are selected through the organisation’s talent review process.

“In putting our senior people forward for personal and professional development, it is important to offer something special, something that will stretch the individuals and take them outside their comfort zone. The Leading with Presence programme offered by Roffey Park Institute firmly met this requirement.

“Admittedly, I had some initial concerns about introducing a development programme that involved horses! This meant it was important that Leading with Presence was positioned carefully and we actively communicated the research and reasoning behind the programme, emphasising how this innovative approach would stretch the development of our leaders. Fortunately there was strong senior management support for our investment here and we were keen to see how our employees would develop on the programme.”

Jann McBride also participated as a member of the Leading with Presence cohort:

“Becoming a participant on the programme enabled me to better understand the development path that our leaders were on, as well as helping me to provide feedback about the experience and value delivered through the programme.

As part of the programme pre-work, participants completed psychometric assessments and a 360 degree appraisal, helping to establish their personal development plan and enabling individuals to understand what they wanted to achieve from this opportunity. A follow-up 360 was also scheduled on completion of the programme, providing useful feedback on progress.

Leading with Presence delivered a positive learning experience for Sodexo’s participants. And involving horses in the professional development of our managers really moved people outside their comfort zone. The cohort consistently reported that the equine experience helped them to understand that presence was about having clarity as a leader and essential to ensure people follow you.

One programme participant reported:

“The equine training gave me skills that I will never forget. The course is structured to ensure that from moment one you slow down and reflect on who you are, where you are and the power of your presence. The three days gave me an insight into my leadership style, how my energy drives people and how being in the ‘here and now’ is a fantastic skill to be used in all walks of life.”

“One participant had the experience of their horse just stopping and refusing to move. For this highly capable individual, the situation was frustrating and unexpected. But after being supported by the programme team and taking the time to centre himself, be clear on what he wanted to achieve and stay in the moment, he achieved his objective of getting the horse to move.”

Alongside the formal learning aspect of Sodexo’s Advance programme, all participants are mentored by a member of the organisation’s Executive team. This is a wonderful opportunity for participants who really valued the generosity shown by mentors.

“The mentoring aspect of Advance enables participants to raise their profile, to benefit from the knowledge and wisdom of a senior executive, and to discuss career aspirations. Participants are also required to complete a ‘stretch’ assignment provided by their Mentor that sees them apply their learning in a different sector of the business. They must then deliver a final presentation to the Executive team, defining the return on investment to the business of their participation on the programme.

In terms of evaluating the impact of Leading with Presence as part of Sodexo’s Advance programme, the business is in the process of completing final feedback sessions with participants.

“Developing and enhancing leadership skills was a key area the business wanted to boost. While there are a number of variables affecting the return on investment of the programme, we will evaluate its impact using a combination of manager feedback and HR observations, as well as the direct impact that participants report. Already, though, there is very strong anecdotal evidence that this has been a great investment and we have subsequently sent a group of HR Business Partners on the programme.”

“The Leading with Presence programme brought both a completely different style as well as content to leadership development. Following the programme I am much more aware of my impact on those around me and in particular the way people feed from energy levels. Taking 30 seconds to ensure energy levels are high before each day, meeting or team encounter has proved hugely valuable in supporting the team through a challenging period,” said a Sodexo programme participant.