Emily Marsh

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Twinings case study: designing a bespoke leadership development programme

April 2, 2019

Twinings are one of the world's best loved tea and beverage company. Whilst the Twinings family came from Painswick, the tea business was actually founded in London in 1706, where Thomas Twining situated his tea shop on The Strand. They still trade from Thomas’s tea shop today, staying close to their humble roots, and recognising that their success can only be achieved with great people. As an employer, they are committed to empowering their people to grow, learn and develop.

We spoke to Steven Napier, International HR Director at Twinings Ovaltine, to discuss his experience of working with t-three on a recent leadership development programme.

Firstly, can you tell us a bit about what Twinings Ovaltine look for in their leaders?

At Twinings Ovaltine, we need leaders who aim high, who want to deliver the best results. We need leaders who will inspire people in their teams to want to follow them. We need leaders who can operate in quite ambiguous circumstances, but despite that, remain focused on delivering results. And we need leaders who can be resilient.

The final thing I would add is that we need to be able to think differently about the challenges we’re facing. We need leaders who can come up with creative solutions and new ideas to overcome the challenges that we are facing as a business as the world changes around us.

Can you tell me a bit about the history of your leadership development programme?

We run an international leadership development programme where we bring in talented individuals from around the world. We bring them to the UK and immerse them in a week’s worth of leadership thinking and activity to help them build their capability and their proficiency as future leaders within our business.

It is something we have done for the last ten years. We are a very devolved business. We only do a relatively small number of things centrally, and building leadership capability for the future is one of those things. We believe there is a benefit to be had, not only from the leadership development part itself, but the building of the network and working with people from different cultures and different businesses from within Twinings Ovaltine.

A couple of years ago, we decided it was time for a refresh and a reboot of how we format our leadership training. We had worked with our previous partner for eight years and wanted to test the market to see if there was anything better suited to our needs. That’s when we found t-three.

Why did you choose to work with t-three?

The first thing we liked about t-three was their use of technology. We have a group of leadership delegates from Australia to the US and everywhere in between. The use of technology is important because it allows us to prepare the delegates before the programme and to stay connected after the week event. This ability to connect outside of the training week was critical for us.

t-three were also very flexible in terms of the design, and we very much felt that it wasn’t a case of them rolling out a vanilla version of what it is they do for us. They very much designed what was right for our business. And they have a great amount of expertise, having done it with a lot of other businesses over the years.

Was there anything in particular that made t-three stand out?

There were two key components that particularly sold t-three to us.

One was the ‘Making it real’ event, as they call it. They use a live business case study as part of the leadership learning, which gives people the chance to try out what they’re learning and to be observed and gain feedback in the moment. In some learning programmes, you sit in a classroom and there might be some flipchart exercises and group discussions. We liked the fact that this was much more real and tangible and that people were able to give it a go.

The second thing that made them stand out was their focus on sustaining the learning. That’s so important when you go on these one-week immersion programmes. People are obviously very focused, but as soon as they get back to work, the day job takes over again.

t-three’s ‘Momentor’ platform allows people to structure their thinking around their own development objectives and to update, change, and develop that thinking as the programme continues. This meant that it wasn’t just 'in the moment' training. We’re in the middle of it now, but I think it will ultimately lead to a better outcome for us. It’s turned into a programme that lasts for around nine months to a year.

Can you give me a brief overview of the activities they ran during the week-long programme?

Day one was focused on the self as the leader and thinking about your particular brand and your style of leadership. It was a reflective day, but also as the first day of bringing everyone together, there was a lot of focus on building trust as a cohort.

Day two was about innovation and creative thinking. t-three brought along one of their external experts, Matt Follows, who was able to provide a very different perspective on how you can get creative in whatever solution you are trying to work towards.

Days three and four were the ‘Making It Real’ events. The business case study was designed bespoke for us and had parallels with our own business.

Day five was pulling everything together, reflecting on the week, and preparing for the next steps in terms of how to take all of the learning back to the business and carry on with that learning journey.

How did delegates prepare for the programme?

Truth Teller was a key part of the preparation. It’s always good to gain 360-degree feedback, and we liked Truth Teller as again, it could be bespoke. I also liked the fact that it wasn’t anonymous so that people could really follow up with the people who had given them feedback.

Initially, the non-anonymity was a slight concern, mainly because of our international nature. In some cultures, direct feedback is not the done thing and I didn’t know how it would go down in those cultures. But actually, everyone was very happy to provide open feedback.

As well as getting feedback from their closest colleagues, we also ran on-boarding and ‘getting ready’ seminars before people came across to the UK. t-three also produced a range of videos that we could broadcast prior to people coming over. Each video was around specific content that would be important to people’s learning journeys.

How have t-three ensured that people sustain the learnings going forward?

We have run action learning groups, which is where people come together in smaller groups, rather than all 19 attendees together. Delegates use the power of these groups to be able to work on their ongoing leadership challenges. These groups are very much focused on getting people to continue to support each other and to continue to focus on their development objectives.

What has the response been to the training programme so far?

It’s still early days and ultimately we won't see the product of this for a while yet. But as I go around the business, I make a point of talking to the delegates that took part in the programmes. People say that it has been a valuable experience for them on their leadership journey. So far, it is certainly having the impact that I hoped it would.

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