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Training & Learning

Learning as a Byproduct: Boehringer Ingelheim’s 3-Step Playbook for Leadership Performance Support

As L&D leaders, we must support our organizational leaders, managers, and supervisors to be ready, innovative, and agile so they have the skills to make their teams as effective as possible.

So, how can you start walking the talk when designing your leadership development programs? And in doing so, how do you impact how they support their teams and the landscapes they create?

Fortunately, the solutions are within reach! In this interview, I speak with Dr. Adrian Waite, Head of Talent, Leadership & Organization Effectiveness (India, Middle East, Turkey & Africa) at Boehringer Ingelheim, about how they are training leaders to make their teams’ collective working a more performative experience, and how they see learning as a desirable byproduct, not the end goal.

Read on to hear about Adrian’s three-step playbook for leadership performance support.

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What makes Boehringer Ingelheim unparalleled

Boehringer Ingelheim is unique in biopharmaceuticals because it's a world-leading, research-driven, and family-owned company founded in 1885.

“I think that leads to the scale of their multi-generational ambition: to improve the health of people and animals for generations to come. This a big ask for a typical corporate, but also in that family space we're in,” says Adrian.

Before he moved into pharmaceuticals, Adrian was in healthcare: an industry driven by innovation. Cycle by cycle, the methods used to care for people's health change, necessitating constant evolution of the knowledge doctors learned during their training. And as a pharma, Boehringer Ingelheim has to be driving that space.

“The innovation comes from all of the services supporting healthcare in general, and we've got to be in the driving seat and not be passengers,” says Adrian. “That means we must support leaders to be ready, innovative, and agile to navigate that space effectively.”

“We're all on one team, trying to get the best outcomes. I never see learning as a goal,” he says. “Learning is one of the stations on the railway. It's an enabler and necessary, but it's not the ultimate goal. We want to help people get impact through performance on all organizational levels.”

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Boehringer Ingelheim’s 3-step playbook for leadership performance support

Adrian's support framework for leadership performance starts with walking the talk. 

“Many organizations will be familiar with a 70/20/10 split about where the impact from effectiveness comes from,” he explains. “70% of it may have come from the real world and 20% from being supported with some structure, but when we review learning budgets, we don't see the budget split similarly.”

“We usually see possibly 90% or even 100% of the organizational budget heavily invested in the 10% performer programs. There is a place for the best executive leadership management and performance education–but that's education,” says Adrian.

1. Establish a performance framework

In a regional setup, like at Boehringer Ingelheim, Adrian says it's essential that they place themselves as being there to support. 

“The programs we've developed over the last two and a half years have provided a framework for performance—a structured framework to support a predictable role lifecycle.”

“When employees enter a new role, we can predict the phases, the kind of analysis and the prioritization, and the listening tour. Then we can look at acceleration, bringing other people on board, and moving things forward.”

2. Be there to support performance

Adrian and the team don't classify the programs as learning, education, or leadership development but primarily as performance support frameworks. 

“We don't classify those programs as learning, education, or leadership development. They're primarily performance support frameworks, and we do our best to support leaders to be well prepared, well planned, well analyzed and then create safe spaces to go out and reflect on how things are going through that progress,” Adrian explains.

We don't classify those programs as learning, education, or leadership development. They're primarily performance support frameworks, and we do our best to support leaders to be well prepared, well planned, well analyzed and then create safe spaces to go out and reflect on how things are going through that progress.

3. Create a constant agile journey

Adrian and the team currently have a group of leaders going through the second phase, another chance to take stock, analyze, and listen. 

Significantly, everything is based on performance in the real world of those leaders’ teams, their functions, and how those functions interact with their landscape.

“So, it's a constant agile journey,” he says. “ For every group that goes through the framework, we measure every impact and adapt. And right now, we would be moving to a mix of boot camp and face-to-face and drilling down the analysis. But out of all our impacts and performance, learning is a desirable byproduct–it's not the goal.”

Boehringer Ingelheim’s leadership performance support frameworks highlight the importance of collaborative learning. By putting themselves in a supporting role, they can create a safe space for leaders to develop together to improve their performance and go on to impact their teams’ collective working.

Measuring the impact of a performance framework

Adrian explains that measuring impact is easy if you set up the framework correctly. 

“I've always felt that within the development space, HR seems keen to ring-fence the metrics and return on investment of their initiatives,” he says. “The reality is that senior business leaders don't care that much where success comes from as long as it comes, is repeatable, sustainable, and predictable.”

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In Adrian’s experience, the ability to know your metrics, and understand what the pillars are, is likely to bring success. Then having solid metrics around that is part of the programs which acknowledge the landscape is different for people going into leadership roles.

“The frameworks would cross over regardless of your function or level. But the analysis of that framework, what it is you as an individual are working on, prioritizing, and accelerating, will be unique to you, your team, and your function,” says Adrian. 

“But measurement is essential. If we don't know why and how we're measuring it, maybe we should not do it. Let's be clear on why we're doing it, how we see what results we’re getting, and how we'll measure the results down the line.” 

Related: Did That Training Really Work? Measuring the Impact of L&D with Kevin M. Yates

Advice for those rethinking their leadership program

Adrian explains that he’s not advocating for one way or the other but rather a balance between performance support and education.

“Cumulative knowledge, what we've learned over the years and decades in our roles, is essential. And part of that is the theory, which is traditional management, development, and executive education. So, I don't advocate moving away from that, but I advocate finding the balance,” he says.

In Adrian’s experience, we must let leaders have the background and foundation knowledge. “But the bit that we're not so good at as organizations is setting them up and putting in frameworks for success so that agile becomes normal.”

“So, blending those two things and getting the balance right. And that balance is not 90% theory and a bit of coaching. That balance is a heavy investment supporting appropriate education at the right times to build that up cumulatively over the years and decades,” he says.

Related: Tricon Residential’s 3-Step Playbook for Nurturing the Next Generation of Company Leaders

Ideal managers are team effectiveness facilitators

In L&D, Adrian explains, there's a focus in the industry on individual competence and individual performance. However, virtually all organizations are set up to get results for groups and teams, particularly the interactions between those teams and the workflow between teams.

“It's critical that when we're supporting leaders, managers, and supervisors, their results are going to be primarily based on the impact of the people they support, the environment they create, and the landscape they put in place,” he says.

It's critical that when we're supporting leaders, managers, and supervisors, their results are going to be primarily based on the impact of the people they support, the environment they create, and the landscape they put in place.

“A lot of the measurement, actions, and priorities are around that,” explains Adrian. “So, we're supporting the leaders, the managers, and the supervisors to be well skilled and well educated in team effectiveness approaches because that's their core job.”

Thanks to Adrian for sharing his playbook for leadership performance with us!

For more expert advice on leadership development, check out our interview with Sarah Larson at Stanford University School of Medicine on her approach to promoting diverse leadership growth within her organization or with Andrew Foote about Tricon Residential’s playbook for nurturing the next generation of company leaders.

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