The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

Putting trust in the future


How Accelerance and Old Mutual Wealth developed strong and collaborative Trust-based Partnerships.

The “Enabling Positive Futures Programme” is a powerful example of the impact organisations can achieve through a dynamic relationship model we call “Trust-based Partnerships”.

Such partnerships create the optimum conditions to challenge assumptions and identify what must change. The result is a pathway to innovative learning solutions that deliver significant and measurable improvements in leadership effectiveness and business performance.

What did Accelerance and Old Mutual Wealth (OMW) achieve together?

  • 90% of the alumni of the programme stated that, due to it, they were collaborating more with peers, providing more effective and constructive feedback to their teams, and reported that the programme had been valuable to their careers
  • 75% of the participants’ stakeholders stated, via an end-of-programme 360-degree feedback process, that the participants had become more effective as leaders, had improved their focus on clients, and that the activity of their teams was more tightly aligned to the execution of the OMW strategy.

How did we do it? We have identified four key attributes, which drive our successful “Trust-based Partnership”:

  • Invest in building relationship capital
  • Learn about ourselves as organisations
  • Gain access to the business and the executives who lead it
  • Challenge the developmental status quo

Invest in building relationship capital Like all relationships ours took time and effort to build. Many organisations pay lip service to establishing partnerships with their suppliers or customers but often reduce the relationship to a transactional nature, which is rarely effective in delivering tangible impact.

Why? It might be the product-oriented focus of a supplier, a client belief that fulfilling intellectual curiosity is enough to deliver behavioural change or an unwillingness to “invest” in partnerships due to fiscal pressures. However, many client organisations also find themselves in dynamic and competitive environments. Others are attempting to reimagine their business models through strategic transformation and change initiatives.

In 2014, OMW found itself in exactly this situation. Its leaders faced a set of “adaptive challenges” associated with the transformation they needed to navigate. They understood what needed to change but did not know exactly how to achieve it. Navigating these challenges required their leaders to focus on learning, experimentation and constructive failure to move forward.

OMW understood that creating a developmental solution in this environment would require the same focus, which is why it sought a partner who would invest in building the high levels of relationship capital required to build a platform for success.

Financially investing in the partnership facilitated a collaborative dialogue, built on trust, which helped both organisations challenge each other and ultimately raised the “level of play”.

Learn about ourselves as an organisation

Increased self-awareness is critical to improving leadership effectiveness for individuals and organisations, which is why both gain so much from a rigorous “discovery” process. Exploration of fundamental questions opens the door to important insights regarding “what needs to change and how to change it”. Organisations that do not engage in constructive analysis tend to pursue the same developmental goals, using techniques they are comfortable with, and expect a different outcome. Isn’t that a version of Einstein’s definition of insanity?

In our case, OMW had articulated its “vertically integrated” strategy but many uncertainties remained. Divestiture of legacy businesses and acquisition of new businesses in quick succession had led to people asking “how would the pieces fit together? How would governance structures work and how would leadership teams change?” Unfortunately, many leaders were making assumptions about the future based on their experience and personal opinions, which led to fractured approaches.

We quickly realised that the choices, made in an earlier context, were no longer working. Worse, some of these choices, and their associated leadership practices, had the potential to inhibit future success.

This insight opened the door to exploring new choices in the new context, which yielded greater impact.

Gain access to the business and the executive who lead it.

Leaders value development that focuses on the drivers of individual success and practically addresses obstacles to success within the current context.

The individuals who have the greatest understanding of these challenges and context are the leaders of the business – both the target participants and their management. So, it is critical to engage these leaders in a conversation to understand their top priorities and concerns as well as discover any issues that may inhibit success. Only through an open dialogue with “the business” could our partnership gain the insights required to create a high-impact solution.

The myriad conversations we had with leaders across OMW enabled us to:

  • Identify challenges and clarify “myths” about “the way we do things around here”
  • Capture leaders’ fears, and those of their teams, about their prospects

It is natural to “protect” senior leaders and executives from frivolous conversations with external consultants and suppliers. However, we would never have identified or understood the divergent leadership perspectives that existed within OMW without being granted a broad level of access to leadership groups across the company. Instead, we would have proceeded under false assumptions based on “rose coloured” assessments of the challenges and issues – not on the reality on the ground.

Our access to these leaders was critical to creating a learning solution that has delivered significant impact far beyond the leadership effectiveness of the programme participants.

Challenge the developmental status quo

All organisations have developmental cultures and philosophies. In most organisations, certain learning methodologies are well accepted, and others are not. For example, psychometrics may be commonly accepted, but others, such as 360-degree feedback, may be less welcome.

Once again, earlier choices play a significant role in determining “how things are done around here”. That’s why it can be inherently difficult to explore solutions that challenge the prevailing developmental “comfort zones”.

By accepting a simple premise – “new challenges require new solutions” – OMW adopted an “exploration mind-set”, open to new approaches that were not in its developmental playbook.

Was there resistance to challenging the status quo? Yes.

Specific developmental philosophies drove the career identities of several stakeholders and some executive decision makers were hesitant to pursue solutions that bumped up against developmental norms.

Our “Trust-based Partnership” mitigated these resistance points because:

  • Relationship capital was built, trust was high, and credibility firmly established
  • An exploration mindset challenged assumptions to discover the real drivers of success
  • Senior business leaders were an integral part of the conversation and open to new solutions

Final thoughts

The investment in time and resources to establish our “Trust-based Partnership” was critical to the success of the Enabling Positive Futures Programme.

“Trust-based Partnerships” may not be effective for all organisations due to financial limitations, legacy developmental cultures or the product-focused business models of a supplier. However, they are very effective for organisations that are in dynamic and competitive environments – or undergoing significant business transformations.

They also benefit organisations that place a premium on increasing leadership effectiveness as a driver of business performance and source of competitive advantage.

For Old Mutual Wealth, which was navigating a dynamic business environment, driving rapid transformation and believed that superior leadership provides competitive advantage, the establishment of a “Trust-based Partnership” with Accelerance was the perfect solution.

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