Nokia’s 7-step approach for turning its managers into real leaders

Nokia’s 7-step approach for turning its managers into real leaders

A 7-step approach has played a critical role in helping Nokia transform leadership capability, turning around business performance and helping to re-establish a competitive market presence, according to the company’s global head of leadership development.

As the former market leader in mobile phones, Nokia has been challenged on a number of fronts in recent years, including increased market competition, changing demographic and consumer preferences as well as numerous business changes and restructures.

This was on top of a fragmented and inconsistent approach to leadership development across the different regions in which Nokia operates globally, said Joel Casse, global head of leadership development for Nokia.

“What we set out to do was to create a common leadership framework which basically sets and defines what is expected of our leaders from a standards and competencies perspective, as well as what successful leadership looks like for our 8,000 leaders and line managers,” said Casse, who was formerly global head of leadership and talent management at Nokia Siemens Networks prior to Nokia buying Siemens out in 2013.

At this time when Nokia was looking to go independent, Casse explained that the business required a more consistent approach to leadership development as well as the leadership capability and talent required to deliver on business strategy and goals.

“We knew that we could not lead in the way that we had been leading for the past 30 or 40 years and we recognised that we needed to change our approach to leadership in order to meet the needs of the future,” said Casse, who was speaking ahead of the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, which will be held at ICC Sydney from 18 – 19 November 2019.

The first step in this process was to launch the framework at a global annual meeting of the top 250 leaders from across the business, and get them on board with the 7-step approach to transforming leadership development and capability.

The first step in the process involved what Casse said was the “soft wiring”, which was chiefly aimed at building awareness and understanding of the leadership framework.

To assist in this process, local HR team members and a camera crew would shadow and interview senior managers, and then broadcast one-hour interviews with these managers via Webex and Nokia’s intranet for employees to view and comment on.

“We knew that we could not lead in the way that we had been leading for the past 30 or 40 years and we recognised that we needed to change our approach to leadership in order to meet the needs of the future”

“I would focus on elements of supportive and challenging leadership, and in particular elements which focused on our four standards (“we know our business and perform,” “we lead with clarity and integrity,” “we develop self and others,” and “we shape the future”) to help drive engagement and understand what these mean to them as leaders,” he said.

“The soft wiring was really around building awareness, communication and understanding, with a strong focus on linking to the values of the company.

“Then we turned our attention to hard wiring, recognising that it’s one thing to talk about it – but how do we make it stick?”

This step was more about embedding the leadership framework across the business with a focus on key moments of truth around people development and people processes.

The leadership framework was embedded into Nokia’s leadership development programmes, and the company’s vendors and trainers were informed about the competencies which needed highlighting and prioritising for different groups and levels of leaders.

The third step in the process involved a range of assessments, according to Casse, who explained that Nokia’s 360 assessment, for example, is based on the 20 competencies which comprise the leadership framework.

The company set about selecting 100 internally accredited feedback facilitators with a detailed understanding of these 20 competencies.

“They needed to understand how these 20 competencies were selected, how they fit into our strategy, the 360 reports, how to give feedback and the full development process,” said Casse.

Behavioural-based interviewing was also an important element of this step, and Casse said that the process of recruiting leaders should strike a balance between technical and functional know-how, and leadership skills, mindsets and behaviours.

Nokia uses its leadership framework to identify what competencies to look for in leadership roles through behavioural-based interviewing, and trained its HR team in how to conduct interviews using the behavioural based interviewing approach within the context of the leadership framework.

“Leaders should not take an authoritative, top-down approach to management, but role model an approach which is more about showing the way”

The next step was to attach the leadership framework to Nokia’s current management process.

“Whenever we’re identifying talent, high potentials or wanting to promote somebody, we look through the lens of the leadership framework,” said Casse.

“For instance, is an individual contributor already displaying some of the attributes that we would expect to see in a leader, and if not, what can we do to support them before they onboard?”

Leadership at the frontline operational management level
In encouraging frontline managers to embrace the new approach to leadership, Casse said it was important to have senior line managers discuss the framework, role model and act in a way that was consistent.

“So, for instance, leaders should not take an authoritative, top-down approach to management, but role model an approach which is more about showing the way,” he said.

“It is very difficult to reconcile what you see and hear, if that’s different to your experience – that was number one.

“Second, we use the leadership framework to understand what leadership behaviours leaders should hold their direct reports accountable for.”

For example, first line managers are expected to pivot and shift away from doing a lot of the doing what would be expected of an individual contributor.

“You were given a task. You had a budget or a timeline, and you’ve delivered your work on time, within budget, with the right behaviours,” he said.

“In doing so, let’s say you were recognised and given a promotion as a first-time line manager,” said Casse, who explained that this is the most difficult pivot for many leaders as they struggle to let go.

This can be made more difficult when they have a line manager who holds them accountable for doing, rather than the new skills and competencies that they should be exercising (such as coaching and setting objectives for direct reports).

“We’ve also turned our attention to this, informing leaders they need to hold their direct reports accountable for leadership skills, and not accountable for doing things because that’s no longer their job,” he said.

“We use the leadership framework to understand what leadership behaviours leaders should hold their direct reports accountable for”

The last key step in the process has been operationalising the whole strategy, and Casse said a key part of this has been the training and accreditation of 350 internal coaches to help support leaders and first-time managers in particular – and now coaching is available to all employees across the business.

“These coaches go through an intensive three-module programme, and we make sure that first-time line managers provided with a coach, because we know it can be very difficult to first transition,” he said.

The role of HR
Line managers also take on some of the people management responsibilities that would sometimes be tasked to HR, including development of the direct reports in their team and taking ownership of succession.

“This is allowing our HR colleagues to be much more strategic, and help with identifying roles that are opening up and ensuring we are getting the right leaders in the right positions,” he said.

“These are moments of truth for us, because we cannot have leadership positions that are being populated with individuals who fit what is called the ‘mom’ bias which stands for ‘more of me’.

“We have an opportunity to get leaders who are fit for the future, and if HR is deep into the operational development of people, they’re not able to take more of a strategic view or help and enable decisions of getting the right people in the right positions.”

Nokia HR is also embracing technology in a proactive manner to assist with simplifying processes, according to Casse, who gave the example of a chatbot (called “Ziggy” internally) which the organisation employs to answer all sorts of questions around processes and administration – which would otherwise be answered by an HR team member.

“We’re also reviewing our talent management processes, to make them lighter and more relevant to our business and to our strategy,” said Casse.

“In a nutshell, we’re trying to get HR to be more a strategic partner with more depth in the business, rather than an operational, day-to-day task manager.”

Casse will be presenting on “Transforming the Way We Lead – Developing the 21st Century Leaders” at the HR Innovation & Tech Fest, which will be held at ICC Sydney from 18 – 19 November 2019. For more information please visit the website or call +61 2 9955 7400.

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