A Trading Organization at the Top of Their Game Decides to Reach Beyond

JMW was engaged by the leader of a highly successful and fast-growing trading business within an international corporation. In the midst of current successes, the group’s leader sought to maximize opportunities for even greater growth and profitability. At the conclusion of the group’s work with JMW, the group had established a collective vision, revitalized its leadership team, realized high performance at all levels, moved to a more agile approach and doubled its profits over the next two years.

At a glance

Industry: Financial Services

Challenge: Realize even greater levels of success through a shift in culture and further developing other complementary capacities.

Objective: To pursue opportunities for still greater growth and profitability, and a sustainable capacity to deliver extraordinary growth and profit.

The Challenge

In the three years prior to its engagement with JMW, the trading business had doubled its profits and quadrupled in size. The group’s leader saw this as a time to pursue opportunities for still greater growth and profitability, and a sustainable capacity to deliver extraordinary growth and profit. The leading accomplishments of the trading business had been built largely on the group’s strengths in technical proficiency and financial acumen. To realize even greater levels of success would require a shift in culture and further developing other complementary capacities.

The Objective

The key specific challenges were to:

  • Develop a Collective Vision. The entrepreneurial spirit that characterized the organization and had fueled its success also came with a tendency to focus on shorter- term results. Building a more future-focused, collective culture and leadership team would help the business unit be more proactive and help its people coalesce around their work.
  • Expand Individual and Collective Leadership Capacity. There was a need for leadership capacity to match the organization’s outstanding operational and technical capacities. In addition, the multinational group’s high degree of geographic and cultural diversity presented an opportunity to improve communication between leaders and their teams.
  • Simultaneously, Significantly Improve Organizational Performance. There was a recognition that the route to enhanced performance was a cultural transformation and a shift to a more agile way of working. Objectives with regard to culture and leadership were tied in directly with aggressive growth targets for the next five years.

JMW Approach

Working in partnership with JMW, the leader of the trading business established an ad-hoc group of 24 people deemed to be the organization’s core leadership group direct reports, as well as key senior managers and functional managers. The core group members were enrolled in a customized five-session Shaping the Future™ program conducted by JMW, designed to build participants’ leadership capabilities, both individually and collectively..

Between sessions, JMW conducted one-on-one coaching with the leaders, who also set individual breakthrough objectives as part of their coursework. In setting these objectives, participants were encouraged to take a new approach by focusing on what kind of new ground they could take, regardless of what had been done in the past.

For some, progress began early in the program; others began to see the usefulness of program principles at later stages, some even after expressing initial reluctance about spending time in course sessions and “out of pocket” from their daily work lives. Facilitators made this feedback part of the discussion agenda and held sessions on time management and prioritization, helping equip participants with new tools for taking on challenges and managing their time and efforts.

The Result

With In the words of the principal client:

“Beyond the obvious deep skills in developing a transformational leadership capability, JMW consistently demonstrated an enduring commitment to my team’s success that was simply tremendous. Their real value came from combining leadership development with a refreshing results orientation which led to a performance that was truly extraordinary by any measure of business success.”

A Collective Vision

The team articulated the most important things to achieve over the next five years, and collectively held standards about how they would operate as a team. This involved a critical shift in perspective, creating a new context for participants’ vision of the business and what they could achieve. The team documented this vision in what became a white paper shared with the rest of the business. They also identified “Six Principles of Extraordinary Performance” that became operationalized throughout the business unit, becoming a part of performance assessments and leadership bonus calculations. The net result of all this was a shift in culture within the trading business and a move to a much more agile approach.

Individual Leadership Breakthroughs

Participants came away with new insights about their personal strengths as leaders. Over the course of the program, one participant ultimately came to the realization that he no longer felt well-suited to serve in a leadership role, and now works in a non-supervisory job in the company. Several participants are now serving in key leadership roles in the business—roles to which they began to aspire at least in part due to insights and capacities they gained in the JMW program.

Unprecedented Results

Once they began operating in the context of their vision for the future rather than only focusing on budgets and financial objectives, the group began to confront what was truly possible for them to achieve, and arrived at bold new objectives across the balanced scorecard. Their trading business—which had already doubled its profits over a three-year period prior to the JMW engagement—doubled profits again over the next two years. The group continued to profit at the same pace through the targeted five-year time frame.