Wondrous’ approach to leadership development

Remi Baker
Managing Director

Can you tell the Content Hub a little bit about Wondrous and your approach to leadership development.

At Wondrous, our goal is to help businesses perform better. Our start point is to fully understand the role of your leaders in delivering strategic and commercial goals, together with the attitudes and actions you need your leaders to take.

Our approach combines psychological and neurological theory with first-hand knowledge of the ever-changing, ever-demanding realities of leadership. We challenge individuals to radically rethink their roles as leaders, and offer insights that will aid them as their leadership evolves in the future. By shifting mindsets we can transform behaviours to drive the business results needed.

There is real debate in the leadership development field as to the extent to which the characteristics and behaviours of good leaders have actually changed.  What are your thoughts on this?

Yes, the debate is real! And we’ve all seen examples of different and arguably questionable leadership styles playing out in the public arena.

At Wondrous, what we have observed to successfully drive performance is unquestionably more inclusivity in leadership; listening to a wider and broader range of voices – sharing the air!

At the end of the day, the role of leaders remains to work out “how do we get from here to there” – so there’s still a need to to step to the front; to create and lead the vision; to motivate and inspire; to encourage when the going gets tough. To listen and to learn with an open heart and an open mind.

Fundamentally leaders need to lead themselves – drawing on their own resilience and role modelling the way forward. As a leader you confront – constantly – a myriad of decision points. How are you making your decisions? Data driven decision making with human insight and heart: that’s Wondrous leadership!

If the sheer complexity of the world of work means we need to rethink our traditional beliefs around leadership. What are the most important skills or behaviours future leaders will need?

An open mind. And ‘nimble empathy’!

Despite a renewed focus in the last five years or so, we still aren’t making the necessary progress regarding diversity in our senior leadership teams. Is this a function of the seniority of this group and change being slow, or is there more we can do?

I am mixed race and so I shall answer this from my personal perspective. And as a leader of colour – I can’t help but answer the question by looking outside of organisations.  What’s going on in nurseries, in schools and in our communities? There’s something about the very early formation of value sets and biases that is intrinsically linked to the whole debate around diversity.

Early messaging, expectations and experiences set our course – what we are told is possible, what and who we see around us.

But if every senior leader or team spent just a fraction of time mentoring a future leader that sits outside of whatever ‘traditional model’ of leader they themselves are holding onto, or would be willing to speak at a school assembly …imagine the impact that would have

This is actually about inclusion, not just diversity; it would be good to broaden things out a bit and embrace more non-traditional credentials.

Finally, it still astonishes me how often I find myself as the only person of colour when joining events for or with leaders; I recently attended a leadership event with 150 other leaders – I was the only person of colour there!

Previously known as Coachmatch, why have you decided to undergo your most recent rebrand under the name Wondrous?

For some time the name Coachmatch has only described one part of what we do. There is so much more to us, and so much more to come. We are increasingly brought in by our clients to help them solve some of their most significant organisational challenges and they tell us that we do this with insight, intelligence and a little bit of ‘magic’.  Whilst coaching will remain an important part of our offer, our new brand represents the breadth of our offer today, and paves the way for our future. Now we are Wondrous, officially.

What’s new/trends in leadership development?

Interestingly the U.K. continues to lag behind in the productivity stakes. Unlocking potential in humans will be significant for organisations, as technology will ultimately create an otherwise homogenous environment. Leaders are the key to this, so for 2019 we think this will result in leaders:

  • Moving from seeking to have engaged people, to creating an environment where they have fulfilled people. Building a workplace where people are at their best
  • Moving from diversity to inclusion. If we ensure we have an inclusive workplace, where people can be their full selves so their unique talents and experiences are harnessed, then diversity is inevitable. And diverse organisations are more likely to outperform less diverse organisations
  • Moving from leadership development to leadership action: making learning translate into a tangible and sustainable difference in the workplace. At Wondrous we know that embedding learning is when the magic really happens and organisations actually transform both culturally and commercially

Leaders not only need to be constantly learning but ensure that their people are too. We can’t predict what 2019 will bring, but what we do know is that it will be full of different, new and complex challenges. Leaders who are able to learn, adapt and be courageous will reap the biggest rewards.

You can hear more from Wondrous at the upcoming HR Vision London conference, 21-22 November. Meet their Head of Product, Dorrie Dowling, during her breakfast roundtable on How to develop the most important skill you and your leaders will ever learn  alongside Lloyds Banking Group, Senior Manager, Leadership Development, Sharon Hutchinson.

Despite HR being a human-centric discipline, technology is rapidly evolving the conventions of good practice. We have put together a free 11 page e-book which includes:

– NASA’s perspective on the rise of the bots
– ‘Getting social’ with Deutsche Telecom

– Karen Brown at Baker McKenzie address humanised technology
– The concept of human robotic partnership

You can sign-up for your copy here.

rise of the machines e-book

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Pancho Davis
Director of Human Resources
Rackspace Hosting

With talented technical employees thin on the ground, and your business expanding, can you tell us a bit about how your Open Cloud Academy has helped you source the right talent for your brand? And how have your current employees benefitted from the Academy?
What I believe we have done well as a company is ‘build’ talent where there are scarce resources in the market. We have done this in the past when we struggled to find System Administrators and we continue to do this with OCA. Open Cloud Academy is program that has been funded in conjunction with the City of San Antonio to help create a pool of technical talent in the city. The program is not necessarily meant to train Rackers, but we have hired roughly 50 people or close to 50% of the OCA graduates so far.

As director of HR what would you say is your biggest challenge at the moment? And, looking ahead, what do you think are going to be the biggest drivers of employee engagement in 5 years time?
At the moment, our biggest challenge is finding and keeping great talent. This industry is incredibly fast moving and there is always something ‘newer and cooler’ to be working on and with technical talent in such short supply, one of our biggest objectives is to be an employer of choice for the best technical employees. This is why creating a great culture and having engaged employees is critically important. There are always companies willing to pay more money, companies with better benefits, etc., but hopefully Rackers believe in our mission are actively engaged in our culture and that, more than anything is what keeps them here. As far as trends for the future, having the ability to be more flexible around the when and where you work could be a big driver for engagement.

Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, according to Gallup – and bad managers can bring down a business. What key qualities do you think managers need to engage their teams, so a company’s employees are motivated to go above beyond, reaping rewards for the business?
There are a number of qualities that make a manger great and help them engage their team members and as I mentioned before, it probably depends on the employee, but two that are key at Rackspace are communication and coaching. Full Disclosure and Transparency is one of our Core Values and Rackers want to know what is going on in the business and want their managers to communicate with them on a regular basis. Along with communication, Rackers want their managers to partner with them and coach them as they progress in their careers. This coaching can take the form of career development or it can be performance feedback. As much as anything, Rackers want to feel like they are growing and developing in their careers and want to be successful. Without good, continuous feedback and coaching this can be difficult to achieve.