Anthony Walker

Anthony Walker

Group Director

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Transforming conversations at Virgin Trains: part three

July 14, 2017

Embedding the Super-Skills™ of great conversation into an organisation requires support from the board. Here’s how Virgin Trains worked with The Right Conversation to pilot its new programme for the Executive team.

Day three in the life of Virgin Trains

Remote working, technological innovations, the increasing number of millennials in the workforce and the changing nature of jobs has shifted the focus from top-down command and control style leadership. The workplace is now moving towards an open and personal dialogue that encourages a collaborative and inclusive culture. This is the rise of conversational leadership.

Virgin Trains looked to move towards this style of leadership, but faced a number of challenges. These included pockets of organisational silence, relationships between managers and employees that were often lacking in trust and conversations that were based on deep-seated old habits.

With a programme in place to negate these issues, create a cultural change and improve the conversations between leaders and their teams, Virgin Trains needed buy-in at executive-level. With this support, embedding the Super-Skills™ deep into the organisation would become an easier task.

Ready to see how Virgin Trains communicated with the Executive team?

Part three: getting executive-level buy-in

Virgin Trains worked with The Right Conversation to create a day-long pilot session, co-designed with the People team. The objective was for executives to experience the training, so they could support the programme and become familiar with the language of the five Super-Skills™.

The session was highly discursive. It initially explored the wider trends in society and the behavioural neuroscience that underpins all conversations, before looking at each of the Super-Skills™ in detail. This wide-ranging approach meant the Executive team engaged with the subject more seriously than might otherwise have been the case. This focus on tangible science was particularly important for an evidence-based business like Virgin Trains.

Getting the Executive team’s support for the programme proved to be a relatively straightforward sell. What was crucial was how the senior team wanted to position the Super-Skills™ programme to the wider management development agenda.

It quickly became clear to the team that conversational leadership was fundamental to all of Virgin Train’s training programmes. The Executive team decided it should form the foundation of its Future Leaders programme after the pre-boarding stage – during which employees are assessed as having the skills, personality attributes and abilities to be future leaders. This way it would form the backdrop to the company’s entire approach to leadership development.

Creating a 'Virgin' programme and training the trainers

Once the People team achieved executive-level buy-in, it needed the rest of the organisation to follow suit; particularly its leaders. The first step was to get the training team up to speed with the Super-Skills™ programme, before rolling it out across the organisation.

Want to find out more? Download the eGuide.

Transforming conversations at Virgin Trains

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