Fastlead at Dulux Group - Flexible, local, on topic and personal.

Written by Graeme Philipson 13 Apr 2020

DuluxGroup had some very clear criteria for a frontline leadership program and FASTLEAD ticked all their boxes – practical, high impact, flexible, focussed on application. With a successful pilot in 2017 of 4 pods, they have implemented a further 14 further pods in 2018. Not only are participants learning new skills they have also found a surprising knock on benefit to the managers of participants.

What is your role at DuluxGroup and what does the company do?

I am the Learning and Development Manager at DuluxGroup. I look after leadership development, including our graduate program and other levels of leadership development, professional skills learning and our talent acceleration program.

DuluxGroup manufactures and markets premium home improvement products such as paints (Dulux, British Paints, Porter’s, Berger) and coatings (Cabot’s, Protective Coatings), consumer and industrial adhesives (Selleys, Parchem), garden care products (Yates), garage doors and openers (B&D group) and cabinet hardware (Lincoln Sentry). DuluxGroup is an ASX 100 listed company with over 4,000 employees across seven countries.

At DuluxGroup we are committed to developing our people through high quality leadership programs that are practical, thought provoking and high impact.

When you embarked on the search for a frontline leader solution, what were you looking for?

We had a tight brief from the Executive General Manager for Supply Chain. Our frontline leaders head teams across the business every day and are critical to our success, especially in delivering products and services in full and on time for our customers.

Our employees in these roles such as team leaders, supervisors, or store managers can’t be taken off the floor for long periods of time, so full day programs were not going to be suitable. We also know that many people don’t learn well in a workshop environment. We wanted the total time for the program to be around two days. We also knew that breaking up the learning would get a better outcome.

Our participants are geographically spread, in major cities in Australia and New Zealand. That meant we had to partner with a learning provider who could service that spread. Given the nature of the group as well, we wanted a face to face solution. Many of our participants have had no formal leadership training, and they don’t work on a computer all day – they work in warehouses, factories or stores.

“At DuluxGroup we are committed to developing our people through high quality leadership programs that are practical, thought provoking and high impact.”

How did the FASTLEAD program fit your development and business criteria?

We were immediately attracted to the small coaching pod model. The timeframe – two hours, once a month, with a single topic – seemed to be the right fit for our people. We reviewed the core models carefully to ensure consistency, and were very comfortable with the content. All of our learning offerings have to be highly practical, with a real focus on application. FASTLEAD delivers that.

What results have you found from implementing FASTLEAD?

Participants say they have really benefited from the topics covered by the coaching, and that they really enjoyed working with other people in DuluxGroup. In the pilot, most of our groups were made up of participants from different parts of the business. This allowed them to not only speak freely about what was going on for them in their workplace, but to get to know people they wouldn’t ordinarily meet.

Relationships between managers and their participants have also been improved through the program, because the manager takes on the role of coach back on the job. With the set-up of the FASTLEAD program, the managers also learn new skills and knowledge as they experience the program through their participants. That is a real extra benefit.

The success of the pilot program led us to implement 14 more FASTLEAD pods this year.

Would you recommend FASTLEAD to others in your role? What tips would you give them for successful implementation?

I would certainly recommend FASTLEAD for frontline leaders. The model is very suited to the audience, and HFL delivers it well.

The administration is all done by HFL, and the materials are very good quality. The coaches are responsive,

and can speak with people at all levels. The account management team is customer-centred, always ensuring the program is hitting the mark. They have also shown themselves to be very flexible. We had a topic we wanted included and they wrote the module especially for us.

In terms of implementation, I would strongly recommend mixed groups – people from different sites and roles in each pod. You definitely get the extra benefit. Following our pilot, we spent time reviewing the communication and onboarding of our people into the program and made improvements. Logistics are a challenge with mixed group, but it is really worth the effort.

My other suggestion is to spend time with the managers of the participants, and ensure they are really engaged and clear on their role in the program. Our most successful participants were those whose managers took the time to follow up and gave their participants the scope to try on new behaviours back on the job.

What are FASTLEAD participants saying?

What were some of your leadership challenges prior to FASTLEAD?

I felt I needed to learn how to become aware of the signs when team members aren’t coping, to help them and to help me get the best from them. Dealing with people who are highly strung and very emotional can be very challenging.

What was your experience of the program?

The way the pod was set up worked really well. We had people from three different business units, rather than three people from one business area. That was a great advantage.

Our sessions were set up as a general discussion, with each session starting with a debrief of the previous session. We asked each other specific questions about how we had used the previous session’s skill sets during the month.

As a group we would give feedback and positive reinforcement to the person sharing their stories. We would then discuss the next topic and see how these coincided with our current work leadership issues and tasks. More often than not this would result in the three of us sharing our stories of circumstances where the skills we were discussing would have a practical application in our work.

The whole group would then discuss the circumstance, and try and work out a solution. We challenged each other to use the skills being learnt to help each of us solve the issue at hand. Also, our coach was very knowledgeable and had a great deal of experience.

How does FASTLEAD differ from previous development programs you’ve been on?

It was real adult learning and conversations – not death by text book. It allowed us all to speak freely and without judgement. It also allowed for non-biased reasoning within the group and really helped create friendships that will continue into the future.

We were also able to use each other as sounding boards between the sessions. We would sometimes email and call on each other to help see issues from an outsider’s perspective, and give feedback and offer solutions to keep us on track. After each session I would check in with my manager and give him an overview of what we covered. This is quite different to other programs.

What has changed as a result of FASTLEAD? What skills have you applied and what’s been the impact?

I try to use all of the material and ideas. I’m a lot more aware of my team members’ emotions and the way I manage them. I make better choices. It’s all about emotional intelligence. It’s given me a lot more confidence to trust my own judgement.

What advice would you give to anybody doing the FASTLEAD program

Open up. Share your experiences. We were all able to challenge each other. It was great to get each other’s take on our own situations. Because we had three different business units we were able to look at issues objectively, because we weren’t already emotionally involved. Don’t be scared to discuss current challenges!

How does FASTLEAD differ from previous development programs you’ve been on?

The timeline of the program works in its favour.

With each session covering a specific topic, the month in between allows you to put learnings into place and explore the ideas you’re exposed to in the course. Allowing for feedback on the previous month at the beginning of each session let the pod see practical responses to the topics from the people who implemented them – what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve.

The mixed pod I was a part of included an export manager from the B&D business unit and a Warehouse Supervisor from our Lincoln Sentry business unit. The blending of people from different parts of the business worked perfectly. None of us knew each other or the stakeholders in our professional lives, so we felt we could speak openly and candidly about our concerns and issues.

What advice would you give to anybody doing the FASTLEAD program

At times conversation could veer off topic but our HFL learning coach kept us focused and on track. It also meant that we saw a wider range of managerial and interpersonal challenges.

A key example was the experiences of the other site managers responding to union pressures that aren’t present in the trade store division. If this program is to succeed on a personal level, people must be allowed to speak openly about their careers, and the blend of business units. FASTLEAD facilitates that perfectly.

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