Heads Up and Out, Not Down and In


By Hugo Pound, r.d.i., Winner of Excellence in Coaching and/or Training of Specialists


Leadership - Look Up -01-01


This entry describes the CSS Challenge Circle; a programme created to help high potential managers within Oracle’s EMEA Customer Support Services (CSS) realise their potential as transformational leaders. The programme’s principal theme is that leaders make choices about when and how to focus on leadership and when to focus on managing, which stems from self-awareness and self-confidence.

The Challenge

Oracle Corporation is a successful US-based, b2b-engineered systems company. With over 120,000 employees world-wide, it is tightly monitored and financially-driven but it also embraces difference, acknowledging that new and different thinking was its foundation which continues to contribute to its constant adaptation to a highly volatile market.

Oracle wanted a high potential (HiPo) development opportunity that allowed participants to determine their own learning, to make of the opportunity what they want. To paraphrase the brief, “If they really find their voices as transformational leaders, we’ll hear about it!” The challenge was to create an experience, rather than a scalable “training course,” which explored (and explicitly measured) the impact that participants could have on the wider business environment. From the facilitator, it required skills in interpreting individual differences, group dynamics, organisational development, valueing different leadership prototypes across different cultures, future thinking modelling as well as effective counselling skills.

The Approach

Agle et al’s (1997) work on definitive stakeholders in organisations postulates that an individual’s authority (direct or indirect power), legitimacy (knowledge, background and experiences) and urgency (effectively judging when to put your ‘foot to the pedal’) determine, in large part, the impact an individual can have. Taking this model as a starting point, it has been extended to incorporate group behaviours and actions, helping them to create change across the EMEA CSS business.

The experience runs over three sessions over three months. Each cohort is different, but the sessions involve:

  • Facilitation of group and individual learning, helping individuals find their voices as definitive stakeholders
  • Sharing MBTIâ and StrengthsFinderâ results with all contributing to individual and group feedback
  • Input on topics such as strategy, engagement, leadership and team qualities models
  • Project progress reviews, constantly challenging individuals and groups to assess themselves against the measures of legitimacy, authority and urgency

Outcome Evaluation

The outcomes from the programme are evaluated annually in four interdependent ways:

  • Does the individual feel more self-confident and more self-aware?
  • Did the group collectively identify projects that have the ability to influence the EMEA CSS Senior Leadership Team(SLT)?
  • Has this SLT engaged in the proposed projects and implemented one or more?
  • Have any projects been completed where savings or revenue generated can be directly attributed to the initiation by the programmes’ participants?

That the programme has just been through its fourth iteration and is now being developed for the US Region, confirms that it is judged to have met all four evaluation outcomes sought by the business. Oracle also believes that this programme addresses all four levels of learning as described in the Kirkpatrick model; positive reaction, new, applied learning; exhibited behaviour and proven business outcomes.

About the Workforce Experience Awards

The Workforce Experience Awards is a significant achievement for the ABP, the champion of business psychology in the UK.

The programme attracted support from auspicious judges, including two of the three most influential thinkers in Human Resources (HR) in the country. It received almost 100 entries from a wide range of business psychology practitioners. And of particular relevance to you – our members – we now have excellent case studies at our disposal to demonstrate the value business psychology is delivering to organisations in the UK and abroad.

We have new benchmarks for ‘what good looks like’ when business psychology is used to its full potential.