Discover how the MBTI enhanced leadership capabilities

Skipton is the UK’s fourth largest building society. It heads up the Skipton Group, with 14 subsidiaries in such areas as estate agency and related businesses (through the Connells Group); financial services outsourcing (through Homeloan Management Limited); independent financial and related advisory businesses.

Couple in Building Society cropped

Skipton Building Society’s Head of Organisational Development Tim Spackman was keen to enhance the leadership capabilities of the organisation’s middle and senior management and align them with organisational strategy. There was also a need to develop culture in line with the Society’s core values of “One Team, Ownership and Trust”.

Prior to the development work, the long shadow of the post-2007 economic crisis had been cast across the organisation. Concentrating on weathering the historically difficult economic conditions, investment in people had been seen as a less urgent priority. As a result, leadership capability was variable. There were certainly plenty of talented people on board, but without investment in support and development some of them had not been challenged to realise their full potential.

The Modern Leaders Programme was developed to address this. Its aim was to build capability, shape the Society’s culture and reinvigorate leadership through development programmes. It was also designed to make a sustainable difference, so that there would no longer be a dependency on Organisational Development for learner support.

A key principle in the Modern Leaders Programme was self-directed learning, whereby people establish their own learning goals and concentrate on their individual learning experiences in order to achieve those goals

Tim chose the MBTI® instrument on the strength of its strong track record and the years of scientific research behind it. The work centred on developing unique individuals rather than ‘identikit Skipton leaders’, focusing on diverse and flexible styles. Valuing diversity sits at the core of the MBTI tool, so it was ideal for the job.

The MBTI process has been incorporated into the Modern Leaders programme. Its aim is to help leaders gain greater understanding of how they function in the workplace. In addition to the MBTI sessions, the programme includes 360 feedback, modules on Customer, Processes, People and Finance and a three-way contracting meeting with a line manager to establish individual development goals.

As the programme progresses, individuals and facilitators increasingly use the MBTI tool to develop their understanding of others. They do this in “Action Learning Sets”, at a highly experiential three-day residential workshop, and through ongoing reflection and coaching.

“Throughout, the MBTI system is central to the development work”, comments Tim. “It informs the concept of valuing difference, and for understanding the two-way impact between individuals and colleagues. It’s also central to these sessions to emphasise that we all use all of the preferences at different times and are able to view situations from multiple perspectives.”

Midway through the three-year rollout of the Modern Leaders programme, Skipton has already seen employee engagement rise significantly to 83%, which is above the norm for Financial Services. Line managers are playing a central role in development, and coaching is becoming a central part of the organisation’s culture once again.

“We use a Review and Assessment process at the end of the programme”, says Tim. “This involves all leaders attending a one-day Assessment/Development Centre and demonstrating the learning they have achieved through the programme. It also provides an opportunity for them to articulate the impact the development has had on the business and on their team. 81% of our leaders are currently meeting the expected standard, which is a fantastic improvement.

“Our culture has changed to one where there is more feedback, coaching, challenge and self-development. The quality of conversations and feedback has improved dramatically, too. When we embarked on this journey in 2012, feedback was sparse and the quality variable. Now, leaders share feedback willingly both face-to-face and in 360 feedback. There is more understanding of different preferences and anecdotal evidence of senior leaders changing their styles to get the best out of their teams, sometimes to dramatic effect.”

Skipton is now running a programme of ‘alumni’ events, in which those who have completed the programme come together quarterly to share learning sessions with each other – a great example of leaders helping to develop leaders.

Tim has also been able to identify, through the development programme, a number of leaders who have demonstrated an ability to coach. This group is being developed into an internal coaching cadre, and these leaders are now involved in delivering the continuing programme.

The MBTI process will form part of the alumni learning sessions, where coaches will explore different aspects including type and conflict, type and stress, and type and emotional intelligence.

Our culture has changed to one where there is more feedback, coaching, challenge and self-development. There is evidence of senior leaders changing their styles to get the best out of their teams, sometimes to dramatic effect.

Tim SpackmanHead of Organisational Development. Skipton Building Society