15 Jun 2017
Transforming conversations at Virgin Trains: part one
Discover how Virgin Trains improved their conversational Super-Skills™ and broke down the barriers to organisational dialogue.
Changing the conversations that occur in workplaces requires a change in both mindset and behaviour. This can be seen as challenging or threatening the current culture. But it’s a crucial exercise for organisations to assess their current conversational habits before designing an approach to drive change.
Virgin Trains was borne out of the railways, which have traditionally had an engineering-led culture of problem-solving and pragmatism. Rules, regulations and the hierarchical structure have guided a lot of communication, so conversations were often characterised by command and control.
Managers often assumed that employees were ‘in the know’, which led to things often being left unsaid. Leaders weren’t always open with bad news and face-to-face conversations were often avoided. Any intervention had to take into account the macro issues and challenges that affected Virgin Trains, exploring the barriers that prevented improving conversations.
Ready to see how Virgin Trains designed the right programme for its leaders?
Part two: designing a programme to improve conversational Super-Skills™
A conversational leadership programme was designed, in collaboration with The Right Conversation, to improve the quality of organisational dialogue. It focused on the 5 Super-Skills™ that underpin all conversations:
These Super-Skills™ form the bedrock of all successful and meaningful organisational dialogue. Leaders at all levels needed to be equipped with these skills to ensure that conversations would happen in the right way, that employees would feel listened to, and that difficult issues could be raised and spoken honestly about.
A metaphor that worked well for Virgin Trains was to think of a conversation as a dance. Success is only possible if both partners are aware of and using all 5 Super-Skills™ – being present, tuning into themselves, being sensitive to the other person, voicing what needs to be said and managing the flow of the conversation.
Getting executive-level buy-in
To embed these skills into the organisation, the executive board needed to buy into what the People team and The Right Conversation were trying to achieve. Getting the executive team’s support for the programme proved to be a relatively straightforward sell. Want to find out more?
Look out for part three to discover how a day-long session was delivered and what it looked like.
So much about the world we live and work in has changed: how we interact, collaborate, and follow… With this, a new type of leader has emerged and the traditional view of what constitutes a good leader has substantially shifted.
Along with some of the most respected L&D and HR professionals around from companies such as Toyota GB, Premier Foods, ITV, The Post Office, and Transport for London, we’ve developed The Little Book For… series – a little book, just for you!
At t-three, we help you improve performance through your people. We work hard to inspire individuals, teams, and organisations to change, grow and succeed.
We are a committed, passionate bunch who love what we do. But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what they’re saying about us…
“Clearly the best development programme I have ever attended. I am convinced as an individual and as a leadership population we have progressed massively in the last two years.”
Toyota GB programme participant
“Working with the t-three group helped in understanding what the Leadership programme should focus on – and it has been a key part of the transformation at London Underground.”
“Feels like a very user friendly way of completing a 360 appraisal. A definite improvement on the last system.”
BBC 360 Degree Feedback participant