Finnish business publication Fakta on BLT's work with KONE

13th May 2016

Elevator manufacturer Kone has, in the past six years, trained many of their middle management in management skills with the tailor made Kone Leadership program. The program was created when Kone’s management noticed that there was a real opportunity to develop the capability of their middle management pool. An abundance of strategy and vision development training was already well established for top management, but practical assistance for team leaders in everyday leadership situations was lacking. The aim was to develop a training program that enabled knowledge and skills to be spread throughout the organization.

“In many businesses people are promoted because of their technical skills, however in a management position individuals needs a completely different set of skills than those for which they have previously been rewarded. It can be confusing and challenging for people to make the skills leap. Our approach to these types of program combines both technical and soft skills, and that is the very essence of leadership skills,” says Samantha Caine, Client Services Director at Business Linked Teams (BLT), the company that was in charge of designing the program.

BLT is a British consulting firm founded in 2001 and specializing in people development. The CEO, Kevin Fox, has trained Finnish technology businesses for 15 years and Kone was one of their first clients. The partnership between Kone and BLT began first with training salesmen.  Fox says “The training program comprises eight modules and HR and other management teams can decide locally how the training is executed, based on those being trained and their specific needs. The training can happen over three days or in multiple sessions over a year.”

The problem with many traditional training programs is that the manuals and guides are left on a shelf to gather dust. Things learnt during the course are forgotten fast and those who took part go back to their old habits. “The skills that were learnt need to be monitored, and this is hard work.  Continuity is important.  In addition, the training program needs to include the business’s values. For example, in Kone’s case it was not a case of just learning how to lead, but also how to lead a team in such a way that makes working safer. Courses need to be tailored to the needs of each company,” Fox says.

BLT decided to make their training program as practical as possible. Fox and Caine, along with their team, knew from experience that technically gifted people like processes and structure, so the structure of the training is also logical.  The training process includes lectures, but the focus is on doing and experiencing.  “Coaching is a very typical topic for training. We wrote case examples for Kone for the participants to solve. We filmed them and gave feedback and then tried again,” Caine says.

The training program begins with reviewing the preferred working style of the leaders themselves, with one of the first topics being communication. The goal is to map their own habits and understand different styles of communication. When those being trained understand those different styles, their new understanding can be utilized in the communications and development operations of the team.

The contents of the training also include developing negotiation skills, facing situations of conflict and developing the performance of the team. Understanding the strategy of the company is also important and this is why top management gave talks in the trainings. The top managements’ talks and sessions were needed to help those in the training understand the necessity of company changes and training. Planning and executing an effective meeting is its own part of the training.

In order for change to really happen, the course material includes a checklist as well as a manual for preparing for different situations. The idea comes from Fox whose first profession is an aviation engineer and who is also a private pilot.  Fox says “A pilot never heads on a flight without a checklist. Those being trained can keep them in their pockets or cars and go over what they have learned, before a negotiation, for example.”

He is impressed by how quickly those trained have adopted soft leadership skills and with great results. “Usually the first habits taken on board are listening and questioning as well as giving constructive feedback. An immediate improvement is the increased time spent with members of the team,” says Fox.

Over the last 6 or 7 years, many middle managers have taken part in Kone’s various leadership training programs around the world. The programs vary a little according to which country they are delivered in.

“Kone carries out trainings around the world, which is great, and because of our harmonized approach to skills development, when leaders travel around the world, everyone speaks the same language. The methods and principles of leadership are the same everywhere,” Fox says.

Effective Meeting checklist

  • Decide on the objective or purpose of the meeting and identify critical success factors
  • Develop an agenda that is aligned to your objective and time it – make sure each item on your agenda is directly linked to achieving your meeting objective
  • Consider the meeting attendees and their roles and objectives
  • Decide on an appropriate style for the meeting – formal / informal, process driven, level of contribution required
  • Prepare support documentation in advance
  • Communicate meeting arrangements clearly and professionally (date, time, duration, location, required preparation)
  • Plan your own approach – appearance, equipment, approach