Success Story

Leadership focus prompts culture 180

When a work environment becomes ‘unworkable’ because of toxic behaviours from employees and a failing leadership, it can be challenging to turn the ship around.

But as they say, you can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results.

When a Newcastle manufacturing business experienced push back and negative employee behaviours while trying to implement change processes, they turned the spotlight on their leadership team to try and get everyone on the same page.

A leadership team engagement program, involving workshops and mentoring over a 12-month period, focused on developing the skills of its leaders to be more effective in communicating and influencing the culture of the organisation.

Taking responsibility for the culture problem

“Culture is all about how people do things – but it’s leadership that creates culture,” Graeme Fitzgerald explains.

“What we did is really focus on leadership. I asked the CEO questions that he didn’t like his answers to.  When we talked about what he wanted to achieve and what was holding him back – it was clear that ‘not taking action’ was having a major impact on him and his ability to lead his people.

“He was allowing white-anting to infiltrate the work environment and was being a victim. Basically, he didn’t know what to do.

“I proposed that he consider choosing to embrace this option – “It’s not my fault, but it’s my responsibility to fix it.”

Looking within provides personality information

To gain an insight into the personality and leadership styles in play at the organisation the group participated in a profiling session, using the Myers Briggs model.

The model is useful in demonstrating to a workplace group that people think and behave in different ways when faced with the same situation.

The situational leadership process enabled the CEO to understand himself better and where his team was at – ultimately helping him to lead the group more effectively with communication styles that resonated with the team.

“Our workshops were very productive and it also let us understand each other’s personality profile so we all understood how to communicate better with each other,” the CEO said.

Leadership changes key to communicating new business strategies

Leadership is about creating a productive culture whilst maintaining and improving an organisation’s people, so they achieve its objectives.

“It was critical we had the right leadership team to take us forward. At times I had to make difficult decisions,” the CEO said.

“Our lead team attended an open, honest workshop where we rated where we are now, and where we need to be in the future to be competitive in Australian manufacturing. We set shared values for moving forward.”

Communicating the new business strategies to the team

The new business strategies, developed and aligned with values of family, change, sustainability and the ‘principles of how we behave’, were  communicated to the workforce via several means, including toolbox meetings, noticeboards and television screens at the site entry.

All teams participated in reviewing and tracking the plans each quarter, which includes developing priorities and goals to ensure progress in achieving the business’ vision.

“Priorities and goals for departments and employees cascade directly from our business plan.

“We focus on the critical few and ensure we place rigour into these actions, no more than three.

“You are better setting three keys actions every quarter and achieve 100 per cent rather than setting ten and achieving one.”

Leadership team building a strong future

“As a leadership team we are now strong and have the right people in right roles,” the CEO said.

“We need to continue working on succession planning and development of potential leaders and young talent whilst giving them the right tools for success. Too many times we have placed leaders in roles because they are good people, not necessarily good leaders.”

Keeping the lines of communication open with individual employees is also crucial.

One-on-one reviews are occurring on a regular basis so that employees are kept informed on how they are performing in their role, areas they need to develop and what opportunities exist for training and development – aligned to the company’s vision of multi- skilling the entire workforce over the next three years.

Current culture scores well

The organisation now has a strong, aligned leadership team that lives and breathes its shared values.

“Our challenge is to continue to create an environment where our workforce believes in the sustainability of Australian steel manufacturing,” the CEO said.

We are doing this by communicating our investment plans, making new products, first and only in Australia.

We have regular, open, communication sessions with our workforce, which includes a barbecue and a question and answer session.

“We also reward and recognise milestones. If you continue to create a productive work environment and set succession paths for your people, honest one-to-one reviews, you maintain a sustainable workforce.”

Regular cultural surveys for employees at all levels also provide the leadership team with valuable information to action.

A recent survey attracted more than 600 comments, which the leadership team committed to reading and responding to where appropriate. The result was an action plan for the top three themes, which was communicated to the workforce.

The impact of external mentoring

Although initially hesitant about embarking on a mentoring journey, this CEO says it was the key to his success, and to turning the organisation’s culture around.

“It is critical that you have a connection and trust with your mentor to ensure success.

For me personally the external mentoring has given me confidence to deal with difficult decisions and confronting issues, where I used to dwell on them. It has grown me as a leader to create a very strong lead team and work environment to take us forward in Australian steel manufacturing.

“I continue to catch up with Graeme Fitzgerald on occasions to talk through the ongoing journey of leadership and self-growth. It has been a breath of fresh air. I would strongly recommend giving it a go.”


If you’d like to speak with Graeme to find out more about his mentoring program, contact him directly, or, book in a free 60 minute growth session.

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