One Leadership Event; 30 Giant Crates; 600 Storytellers - DIRECT LINE
One Leadership Event; 30 Giant Crates; 600 Storytellers
Feedback from the ICE Awards has been overwhelmingly positive as corporate event planners embrace the opportunity for industry recognition, but many of you have asked for more insight into the winners. This case study is the first of many, highlighting the extraordinary achievements of the Direct Line Group who won Best Leadership Event.
Category: Best Leadership Event - sponsored by GES
Winner: Direct Line Group
In the words of one of our judges, John Sanders, Head of Strategic Client Engagement at GES, this event ‘was an innovative and exciting concept that challenged and engaged its delegates in equal measure.’ Not only does this event represent a new approach to encouraging leadership, but it represents a powerful lesson in the importance of trusting the power of your own ideas and the power of your people.
The Winning Idea
Some of the attributes of a good leader are the ability to set your own direction and create a shared vision. Therefore what better way to test the leadership skills of Direct Line Group’s 600 people managers than to empower them to craft the story of the next phase in their business journey. To set the tone for a day in which they would be asked to take ownership for sharing the company vision, attendees were left to set their own direction when the doors of the ExCel Centre opened to an empty room filled with 30 giant crates.
Direct Line Group wanted to launch the next phase of its exciting journey from a division of a bank to a profitable, publicly listed company. With a staff of over 10,000 to engage, the task of sharing their vision for the business required more than just a typical cascade of key messages. The brief from the leadership team was to bring together, for the first time, all 600 individuals in management roles to enable them to act as change agents within the business. The executive team asked for the event to ‘jolt’ staff into a different way of thinking and behaving and signal a change in tone for the business. The event needed to be a Launchpad for the new business strategy, referred to as the ‘rocket’ strategy.
With just five weeks to plan and execute an event for 600 people, the team faced not just logistical challenges, but the even greater hurdle of delivering the impact that the leadership team wanted. The solution was to turn the event on its head. Instead of delivering content to managers, the event was constructed to enable managers to create their own messages and engagement strategy for their teams.
Participants gathered for breakfast and then the metal grids went up to reveal 30 giant crates, each measuring three metres high by three metres wide, sitting in the vast, stark space of the ExCel Centre. The visual impact was powerful. As was the lack of agenda and instructions. Eventually attendees figured out the coding on their badges which helped them organise into teams and find their crate. Each crate contained three boxes. One labelled ‘Read Me’ contained an iPad and iOgrapher with instructions for the creation of a short film about the new business strategy. A second, labelled ‘Eat Me’, was filled with energy boosting snacks and finally a box labelled ‘Store Me’ offered not only storage, but other resource materials.
The executive team delivered ‘hot spot’ presentations using a silent disco format, allowing the people managers to gather information to assist in the creation of their strategy films. After a morning spent creating two minute strategy adverts, the teams came together to share their work and vote on four films to be shared with the wider business. The afternoon was spent on storytelling. The executive team shared their vision using just the power of their own words and images to make it more personal and compelling. A professional storyteller closed the day with a session to equip participants with the ability to personalise their messages when engaging their own team.
Two months after the event the people managers’ engagement levels had increased by 16 points as measured in the all-company engagement survey. Those metrics alone; however, do not convey the full picture. The most rewarding aspect of the event was to see how participants carried their messages back into the business. With no instructions or resources, managers re-created the experience for their people. Videos were shared and teams even started to build their own rockets out of cereal boxes and other materials. The ‘rocket’ strategy came to life in all shapes and sizes, with different perspectives, but aligned behind a common vision and conveyed with the power of personal meaning. The number of employees saying they are committed to the future of the business continues to grow.
Cathy Banks from Direct Line Group’s Internal Communications team highlights two important learnings from the event. Firstly, it is to be brave and trust in the power of your idea. ‘We knew the minute we heard it, that this novel approach was just what we were looking for. The trick then was to sell it in.’ Importantly, their other valuable lesson was to realise the benefit of placing trust in their people. The people managers were hugely motivated by the opportunity to tell the story of the business in their own way and in their own words and the format of the day meant that feedback shared the common belief that ‘we are all in this together.’