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Co-op Food - Developing Leaders To Be Passionate Champions Of Change

“The programme gave delegates the confidence to try something new, to be authentic, uncompromising and engaged, with access to new tools and a network of support to help them become better leaders and coaches.” Helen Webb, HR Director

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With an ambition to be the best local food retailer in the UK, Co-op Food knew that investing in its senior leaders was essential to making it great.  

Co-op Food HR Director Helen Webb explains, “We needed our senior leaders to understand the difference they could make and their part in our overarching True North strategy of ‘Easy Shops. Friendly people. Great food’.”

Lane4 devised a 3-stage Leading Champions Programme to speed this journey, beginning by investigating and diagnosing the current situation, and gaining insight into customers’ perceptions.

Leading change from within

Over the next 12 months, around 400 of the Co-op’s senior leaders went through the programme, preparing for the experience with 360° feedback. Co-op Food’s executive team was the first to participate and a member of the team has introduced every workshop since, demonstrating their continuing, active commitment to the programme.

Helen notes, “It was the first time for many Co-op Food leaders that they’d been on a programme of this nature and we needed it to be innovative, creative and exciting, with delegates having a memorable experience and taking their learning with them into the future.”

To this end, a number of influential Leading Champions were selected to drive the programme from within the organisation. These champions took part in focus groups and their feedback informed the design of the programme. Lane4 helped to develop these change leaders’ facilitation skills and provided guidance to help them in successfully delivering parts of the programme, alongside Lane4 consultants. Champions have now adopted action learning groups to support delegates going forward.

Champions of change

Throughout, the programme aimed to challenge and change leaders’ thinking and to create a shared understanding of what it takes to be an effective manager at Co-op Food.

This demanded nothing less than a cultural change. Collectively, leaders identified the positives that they wanted to take forward into the future, including the Co-op’s membership heritage and values, and the negatives to be left behind, such as short-term KPIs and over-managing.

To build a successful business, Co-op Food knew that all employees had to feel genuinely connected with its True North strategy. Lane4 helped leaders to refresh their coaching skills to become passionate influencers who could set the goals and vision, engage their teams in the True North strategy and keep the momentum of the new strategy going. Lane4 worked on leaders’ story-telling skills, increasing their confidence in telling a compelling narrative around change and sharing their own True North story with their team.

An overwhelmingly positive impact

Feedback on the Leading Champions Programme confirms its value, both for leaders and for employees who have felt its impact. Everyone who has gone through the programme would recommend the experience to a colleague. Employees’ experience of leadership, always a key metric for Co-op Food, has improved: for instance, 8% more now agree that “Our leaders demonstrate fairness and honesty”.

Helen says, “The programme gave delegates the confidence to try something new, to be authentic, uncompromising and engaged, with access to new tools and a network of support to help them become better leaders and coaches.”

Speaking personally Helen adds, “Having been through the programme, I now have a greater understanding of how to be a better leader of our hugely committed people and how to influence business performance by having effective conversations on how today might be different.”

Key benefits of the programme

  • Senior leaders inspired to facilitate and champion a cultural change
  • 100% of delegates would recommend the programme to a colleague
  • Significantly improved perceptions of management among employees – scores have increased by between 6-8%

Having been through the programme, I now have a greater understanding of how to be a better leader of our hugely committed people and how to influence business performance by having effective conversations on how today might be different.

Helen Webb, HR Director Co-op Food