RBS Leadership Team Effectiveness

A system-wide approach to developing leadership behaviour – team-by-team

“Ideas Unlimited have significantly impacted the effectiveness of the Mortgages Business in the last two years. They have designed and facilitated the events with my top team that have supported our leadership journey, increased our clarity, improved our performance for customers and boosted our influence with important stakeholders. All at a time of rapid regulatory change and growth! I would strongly recommend them.”
Richard Harrison, Head of Mortgages, Specialist Banking

This now infamous global bank was well on its way to stability, having undertaken radical surgery to restructure virtually every aspect of the organisation after the financial crash of 2008.

The focus now was on bringing the more substantial culture change to life. This meant embedding the new and more customer-focused ethos and more sustainable business practices into the day-to-day execution of the new operating model, operating rhythm and overall strategy.

The vehicle for delivering this change into the worldwide organisation was to be the behaviour and operating practices of the bank’s top 90 leadership teams, from the Group Executive Committee to 2 levels below them in the structure.

Traditional teambuilding was clearly going to be an anachronistic irrelevance. What these top-teams needed was to develop an uncompromising level of attention to how they showed up in the business in general and in their work in very specific practice. They needed to work out how they each turned the strategy and culture into an effective way of life for themselves and then their own teams. A model was developed for engaging the teams over a period of 3 to 6-months focussing on the 5 ‘C’s of Clarity, Context, Customer, Collaboration and Culture.

The teams’ leaders, senior executives in their own right, worked one-to-one with a facilitator to get ready for their role in the team’s development and to help the facilitators tailor the Team Effectiveness design in whatever way was necessary. It was essential that the design was rigorously adapted to ensure that it was 100% relevant to the specific day-to-day work of every individual team.

Each team then participated in two team development workshops, both of two-days. Team coaching was delivered between the two workshops and continued beyond the second one. The team leaders were also supported throughout the process.

The design ensured that, whilst every team’s experience was tailored to their needs, across the whole organisation one common palette of processes, language, models and messages were used. The cumulative effect was to bring about an unprecedented level of leadership alignment, both across what had otherwise been silos of the organisation and vertically between different levels of leadership. Most importantly this was an alignment of intent, practice, language and day-to-day leadership practice.

A review of the overall process explored what the programme had enabled teams to achieve. These were the common themes:
(1) Delivering the change more quickly with more limited resources, juggling Business-As-Usual and change agendas, and deciding what we¹re NOT going to do
(2) Moving to a functionalised structure and operating model in practice. Identifying level of resource, developing awareness and alignment of the functions’ plans, helping the functions take up their places around these senior leadership team tables
(3) Developing trust: within these teams, with the team members’ direct reports, and with colleagues in other parts of the business. This was especially true of trusting others to think and deliver on behalf of the collective interest
(4) Getting out of our own way, in terms of our systems and processes, in terms of our use of risk/control/compliance; and in terms of the culture of obedience and waiting-to-be-told versus taking the initiative and using judgement
(5) Engaging the leaders and whole organisations below them with purpose, strategy, priorities and change agenda