This leading global Telco had a clear view as to make itself famous for world class leadership, as a part of it’s transformation strategy to continue to meet its ambitious business goals. A key part of this was to target their 8,000 front line leaders who effected their consumers everyday and help them transition and lead the new company culture. A move from Command and Control to Challenge and Support.

CorporateDNA was approached to not only deliver the programme globally, but also to help this initiative engage and genuinely become a part of the developed DNA of this group of leaders; as well as integrate this into other leadership initiatives. The main challenge was to flex the framework within very different cultural and business situations from China to France to Brazil.


For each market, we ensured that we spoke with both the senior management team and the HR function. A key part of the success of the project was to ensure that there was a feeling of their being ‘pull’ from each country; and not that this initiative was being ‘pushed’ onto them from the centre – which would have caused the initiative to fail.

The other key pillar of the success of the project was understanding the different cultures that the programme needed to be delivered in, and adapting to overcome these challenges. From ensuring that in India it was OK to challenge that the boss is not a ‘god’ to providing the confidence of individual’s to challenge the group think in Singapore to enabling ‘strong and silent’ leaders to be vulnerable in Australia.

Over a 4 day period participants covered improving their expertise in Leading Self, Leading Others and Leading Business. A key part of this was the dialogue that happened between all parties. From the introduction of the senior leader in person, to the discussions across different functions and markets and the coaching by our experts as well as peer to peer coaching as the participants’ skills improved. This helped hugely in ensuring the sustainability but also helped create diverse communities that helped the business tackle their challenges in a new way.


So far over the last 2 years, across over 15 countries across 4 continents the initiative has had a hugely positive impact in helping to add value to on going consumer relationships, as well as support the successful move towards the more effective Challenge and Support Culture.

“The first global programme to really connect with our local market challenges, with fantastic Brazilian facilitators who could help us see how our work connects to the businesses global purpose and the important role we play in delivering this – very energising” Sao Paulo, Brazil

“No nonsense, does what it says on the tin – but it also gave me so much more. It has helped me realise the power of displaying my own vulnerability. Not a natural national trait!” Sydney, Australia

“An inspiring 4 days which has changed not only my ability to add value, but has given me tools for life that I can use to continually improve – thank you” Bangalore, India

Business Challenge

EDF Energy, UK’s largest integrated energy and electricity company, and one of the three largest in Europe with 38 million customers is part of French state owned EDF Group. It was born in 2003 when thirteen companies integrated into one.

Since then, it has grown steadily, integrating and streamlining its operations to become more responsive and effective in a fast-changing marketplace. In 2009 EDF Energy took control of the UK nuclear generator, British Energy for £12.5 billion making the combined business UK’s largest energy generator and largest distribution network operator.

Pierre Gadonneix, EDF chairman and chief executive, was quoted on the purchase of British Energy to commit to three key promises of which people leadership and culture were foremost.

Reduce Carbon Waste in building a Sustainable Community The Green Customer Agenda in Community Investment Building Sustainable leadership and a World Class culture

‘Sustainability depends as much on people as it does on government policy and technology’.
- Vincent De Rivaz, CEO EDF Energy

How our work was profiled in the top industry journal, Utility Week

How our work was profiled in the top industry journal, Utility Week

The People/Leadership Challenge

Growing to become one of the country’s largest energy companies in such a short time is an impressive achievement, but to be able to continue its development was the major on-going leadership challenge.

Much has been made of the technical and scientific skills required to build a sustainable economy, but I believe leadership skills are just as important. This is why, in July 2009 when I was asked to become the Prince of Wales’s national ambassador for Business in the Community (BITC), I pledged to gain further understanding of the skills required for a sustainable economy.
- Vincent De Rivaz

Following integration with British Energy in early 2009, EDF Energy looked to refocus its leadership. There was a need to develop a pool of future-focused leaders who could build and implement a long-term vision of how the organisation would contribute in an uncertain future.

Utilities employees, broadly speaking, tend to be technically wired with strong left brain reliance. Building their internal and external relationship network base is often challenging, which means they can find it tough to inspire people through change, to build strong teams in uncertain times and to improve their leadership visibility and personal impact.

A programme has been implemented to help EDF managers access their right brain and emotional intelligence, not to replace their technical expertise but to complement it.

The Solutions

EDF Energy – training leaders for uncertainty

During 2009, on the wake of the British Energy acquisition, a talent review and succession planning process identified a targeted group of senior managers to attend a strategic leadership development programme designed and delivered by CorporateDNA. This was designed to accelerate executives’ ability to build a ‘leadership toolkit’ and to develop the resilience to meet tough challenges head-on. The participants were at a grade where they had to move beyond technical leadership and direct their energy to influence a range of people, including staff reporting into them, colleagues, clients and suppliers.

CorporateDNA spent six months witnessing the change and mapping what people felt and experienced during this intense wave of change, including the myriad of emotions, dilemmas, choice points, decisions managers and leaders faced. This helped pinpoint the essential development ingredients thereby designing a programme experience which would be fully anchored in EDF Energy’s reality.

CorporateDNA designed a programme called Leading in Uncertainty with Impact, Influence and Presence where high potential participants were nominated across different business functions. This group of people went through three stages of development.

(1) Feel the pain and sense the Opportunities

This stage explored: Ways to feel the uncertainty from three perspectives. Head (rational), Heart (emotions and relationship awareness) and Hands (what needs to change and for what outcomes).

(2) Unlearn, Learn and Build

A three module blended format of experiential skills, mindsets and behaviours that people needed to learn, unlearn/let go and build from scratch in this new paradigm of becoming the biggest energy operator. This included:

  • Looking from the inside out
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Social intelligence
  • Unpacking the work Gravitas
  • Political Savvy
  • Negotiation
  • Influencing
  • Fierce Conversations
  • Delivering through others
  • Empowering directs
  • Targeted coaching and mentoring sessions between each module.

    (3) Live Impact Day

    Vital to the success of the programme was a Live Impact Day arranged after 3 months of programme completion where participants had to bring and present their new selves to a select group of senior stakeholders talking through their achievements and equally their failures. The ask was to prepare and present their rebuilt leadership selves to high powered internal stakeholders and be ready to be challenged, probed throughout the way.?

    The feedback from these sponsors to the participants was invaluable, and ranged from soundbites such as “ I never knew you were such a convincing storyteller or you had the voice to project such valued opinions” to “I am amazed by this new confidence and how you challenged me upwards from a position of influence– can you join my team?”

    Essential ingredients were social intelligence, self-awareness, risk taking and innovation, whilst balancing leadership development with every day business priorities.

    Business Outcomes

    • “Before and after” 360-degree assessments on EDF Energy’s 4Is – impact, involvement, inspiration and integrity.
    • The programme achieved an average savings of more than 5x per person’s toal cost compared to the program investment.
    • Key successors put in place for this community.
    • A climate audit conducted six months later helped to bring about a 60% uplift in positive performing environment experienced by the participating community and their directs.

    A year from then…

    • More internal candidates applying for management and outside-own-function internal vacancies
    • Increase in staff satisfaction from 41% to 72% in six months,
    • A decrease in key-position turnover to 15% from 25%

    Short Term


    Participant feedback – “life changing, inspirational,…tangible” Change in behaviours, approach and capability as observed by direct team, peers and stakeholders


    Bottom line impact on current projects: The ability to reach project decisions more quickly, speeding up attainment of milestones and completing projects earlier (measurable financial gain for the business). Cost reductions achieved, including improved negotiation of more favourable terms for external spend – for example renewal of licence agreement negotiated down from £1.2m to £0.2m and supplier happy. Process improvements championed and successfully implemented.

    Long Term


    Improvement in feedback results at next three performance reviews; faster promotion, stakeholder satisfaction as evidenced by requests for support on future projects, specific feedback on increased impact and powers of persuasion.


    Repeated ability to improve internal decisions (speed, quality and efficiency) as measured by improved financial return on projects. Increased financial contribution to the business resulting from enhanced ability to devise and direct key strategic initiatives.

    Business Challenge

    The new CEO of an underperforming FTSE 250 packaging business covering manufacturing, supply, recylcing and distribution had taken the role knowing that he needed to halt the decline, and both grow and consolidate the business while maintaining the necessary control and reducing risk.

    When DS Smith approached Miles Roberts to become its chief executive, he was unable to work out what the company’s focus was.

    ‘I had a look at their annual report, and they sold some office products, but they also made packaging. And within packaging, they used cardboard, but also plastics. Then they had some paper mills. So I went to the board and asked them what their strategy was. And they said ‘we don’t have one. That’s what we want a chief executive for.
    – Financial Times 20th January 2012

    So when the new CEO of DS Smith FTSE 250 packaging company took over in 2010, The company was floundering. He had fires to put out quickly.

    Board members and the management team had fundamentally different ideas about the strategy and direction of the company.

    The chasm was so severe that key staff were contemplating leaving, morale was low, the Board knew they would have to retain its leadership pipeline, cut costs dramatically, reposition strategy, agree key priorities and yet improve operational efficiency to succeed.

    Outcomes within CEO’s first 90 days

    Intervention 1 (1-30 day period):

    • Pinpointing unique issues that block effectiveness and aligning the team around key conversations
    • Developing transparent dialogue and personal intent to name the ‘elephants in the room’
    • Facilitating tough priorities and starting to inject a team climate of high trust and healthy conflict
    • Calling on individual strengths and mitigating derailing behaviours

    Intervention 2 (31-60 day period):

    • A rigorously managed team process on aligning roles to do an all-hands on the new strategy that showed the team had started to use the emerging agile mindset and new ways of doing things
    • Right executive in the right roles Disciplined commitment on the most important enterprise issues

    Intervention 3 (61-90 day period):

    • Cohesive strong team with clear goals and a defined purpose
    • Strong alignment with the CEO’s agend and a happier Board
    • Transparent decision-making which optimised speed with consensus
    • Necessary exits

    People Challenge

    The challenge for the incoming CEO, as an outsider, was the speed of immersing himself into the DNA of the firm, the legacy management team and mediate differences between the board and the management team while leading them to develop a cohesive, workable strategy followed by a clear execution plan. Within the management team people were strongly at odds, there was disagreement, and significantly being stuck in old ways of “this is how we do things here“. The company values hadn’t been refreshed in ways that could be meaningful to the new world. For a while, it was clear that some members could not let go of the past. They were more at ease with the challenges of survival. Some experienced that as loss of purpose, and others were unable to sustain the sense of unity.

    The CEO needed to deliver bold performance promises to the board and yet persuade the board to get out of the way to let his management team find a new DNA and execute without their micromanagement. He had significant industry and operational expertise, yet he was a new comer from outside of the industry.

    Our Solution

    CorporateDNA Consulting was chosen for our creative proposal and guarantee of impact for an initial two day workshop as anything more was neither plausible nor affordable. We began by interviewing the CEO and his individual executives asking two clear questions – ““what would the gains be if things changed”… “What would be the pains be if nothing changed“. We saw that some of the individuals were at some odds, and there was a clear split of three camps: people settled inn the ‘golden past’, hose in the ‘can’t wait to change’ and the ‘not so sure – neutrals bystanders’.

    During our first two day intervention, we chose a clear strategy which we brought to life appeaing to the head, heart, hunch and hands. This was : “Humans are more psychological than logical. In accordance, we designed a format to appeal to and awaken the emotions of these senior executives who seemed trapped in saying the right thing or saying nothing. To activate the right brains, we relied heavily on graphic facilitation to take these individuals on a journey, mapping their real time conversations to paint a “picture” as if they painted it themselves. In effect they were holding a mirror up to their own behaviour and decision making patterns, almost unconsciously. This became a real ‘aha’ moment : ““we hadn’t realised we were quite like this broken!“ This had a massive human appeal as everyone aligned to the reality which no one could avoid or deny. Where widely divergent views were held, we worked with them in pairs to get them on common ground. We also ran strengths and preferences profiles to heighten the awareness of colleagues, recognise shared blindspots. We ran through an itireative process to “call out the three elephants in the room i.e. misalignment, trust and ‘fear of letting go’.

    We then used our proprietary Team Climate Survey to project a hard graphical measure of when the team felt they were versus where they felt they should be. This was against ten factors, such as: goals, roles, pride and belonging, staying true to oneself, and others.

    We ended the two days with and a deep replay of the outcomes from this immersive 48 hours experience, and assimilating that to give each other feedback through a carefully drafted Circle of Trust process. “Based on the impact from the first round, we were asked to do two further rounds within the CEO’s first ninety days.

    In our second intervention during the 31-60 days we developed specific tools for the team to use that gave them a stronger fresher toolkit to practice their leadership style, handle conflict, encourage constructive feedback, hold each other accountable and deliver to a common plan. The CEO practiced different situational leadership styles and got the team to align to create a well-thought out strategy and plan for the company. With this new plan in place and working, the company began to turn around.

    Our third intervention during the 61-90 days focused on working with this executive team to determine what needed to be done and executed differently now that they were starting to run a professionally aligned a company with growth ambitions.

    Early wins, a fresh new way of thinking, as well as a process which engaged everyone, created a new spirit and reinvigoration in the management team, as was then endorsed by the board.

    A year from then…

    • Return on capital employed has gone up by 3% to 16.5% in 2012.
    • RISI, the leading information provider for the global forest products industry, named DS Smith Group Chief Executive, Miles Roberts, as the European CEO of the Year 2012.
    • Criteria for nomination included leadership, vision and strategic accomplishment.
    • Mr Roberts was selected as the winner due to his significant achievements and overall leadership of DS Smith since becoming Group Chief Executive in May 2010.

    Business Challenge

    In 2004, Dubai Holding was launched by the Dubai Government and the ruling family to consolidate a diverse portfolio of assets and projects aimed to develop and manage an extensive portfolio of companies focused on investments, financial services, real estate, specialised business parks, telecommunications and hospitality. With luxury international brands like the Jumeirah Group, the group is majority owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum the Ruler of Dubai./p>

    The group holds 20 companies and employs 15,000 people. In the mid 2000s, Dubai underwent an unparalleled period of expansion to become a major global hub for business, education and leisure. It was time to build the necessary leadership and people foundations to support this unprecedented growth.

    The subsidiary companies covered many industries from real estate and technology to health and tourism. CorporateDNA Consulting partnered with Dubai Holding to facilitate a foundation programme of interventions required to enable leaders and teams to perform, while uniting these diverse operations into a single professional organisation structure.

    People Challenge

    “What made the work of CorporateDNA Consulting a success was their ability to understand our culture. Our organisation is very complex, in that we have an international mandate but a very localised culture that is maturing and growing rapidly. CorporateDNA Consulting worked closely with us to provide the people insights and advice we required in the right manner, tone and timeframe, which for us is critical”

    Kofi Rashid, Director of Strategy

    Dubai International Properties, a member of Dubai Holding


    Over a 24 month period, CorporateDNA was engaged in :

    • Top team effectiveness programmes with the Chairman
    • 20 team build programmes, titled High Performing teams, for the various project and functional teams across the company, over two years, across 50 nationalities
    • Coaching programmes for senior directors and all CEOs of the subsidiary companies
    • Culture change programmes for the holding organisation
    • Vision and values roll out across the functions and region

    Four work streams across:

    • Performance Management
    • Leadership Development
    • Management training
    • Reward Management

    A year from then…

    Established as a Global investment holding company with 15,000 people across 121 nationalities.

    Company turnover and Foreign Direct Investment increased over 23 countries; through active investments in hospitality, technology, communication, education, finance, real estate, health care, leisure and entertainment, industrial manufacturing, biotechnology, energy, telecommunication and aerospace.

    International presence in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Cyprus, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, UK and the US through member companies.