Case Studies

Here are some “real world” examples of our work and its effects. We can help you in similar ways.

The challenge

We work with Genscape, a leading global provider of energy information for commodity and financial markets.

The staff is powered by top technology talent. As the company expanded, technical people moved into management roles.

So the company asked us to help create a program to expand their leadership skills.

The plan

Collaborating with the company’s leaders, we created a 2½-day intensive workshop.

Adults learn best when they can have experiences, take time to reflect, then apply what they have learned.

So we structured the workshop around experiences that required new skills and approaches. Participants received valuable feedback, took time to reflect and had opportunities to apply what they had learned on topics like:

Leading and managing. What’s the difference between the two? What have you done, we asked, that involves each set of skills?

Active listening. How can habits of open-ended questions, paraphrasing and thoughtful silence pave the way for better communication?

Emotional intelligence. What are your personal strengths and development needs? What strategies can help you manage them so you forge empathetic connections with others?

Coaching. With scenarios and practice with partners, participants tackled challenges like giving feedback to someone whose work needs improvement.

The result

We are working on our fifth year with the company’s new managers – and participants often praise the program’s practical value.

  • “Being able to see yourself respond to certain situations was very helpful. I’ve learned to be more patient and consider the opinions of my field techs before making big decisions.”
  • “Active listening has become a part of my day-to-day work. Learning the Myers-Briggs preferences of my peers helps me work with the leadership team.”
  • “I learned how to plan ahead for difficult conversations.”

In fact, Energize U has been so successful we are now developing platform extensions that will provide more specific skill development for differing levels of experience and incorporate e-learning modules.

“I’ve seen valuable staff members get re-engaged who earlier felt their voice was not heard.”

The challenge

This large agriculture and food-product company looked fine from the perspective of its bottom line.

But if you measured its health by employee feedback, it was a different story:

An employee engagement study found many workers felt they were not heard, poor performance was tolerated, meetings were unproductive and management problems were not addressed.

Company leaders knew about the powerful GE WorkOut process – which rapidly engages workers across the entire organization to focus on challenges and devise improvement strategies.

That led them to The Wunderlin Company whose team members have more than 20 years of wide-ranging WorkOut experience.

The plan

We quickly engaged a dozen employee gatherings in the first six months, asking: What’s getting in the way of focusing on your most important business priorities?

Over three years, we facilitated more than 20 WorkOut Workshops – known as WOWs within the company – bringing together functional and cross-functional teams of people from all company areas.

The result

Issues and projects surfaced that are improving the staff’s ability to focus on priorities.

The company developed action plans around several key business processes to pave the way for improved decision-making, including annual communications planning, data warehouse integration and organizational alignment.

Participants frequently commented on the power of the WOWs to build relationships across the business working in a focused, uninterrupted fashion.

In some ways this process aptly illustrates the power of a strong facilitation process:

The group often knows what needs to happen. They sometimes don’t know how to make it happen.

“This team and brand are terrific. We have so many great ideas moving forward.”

The challenge

In the fast-changing global spirits market, this brand set an ambitious three-year sales goal.

A key part of its strategy: new marketing and product flavors.

The Wunderlin Company’s mission: to help its leaders organize a leadership retreat for the global brand team.

The goal: to align priorities and jump-start tailored regional initiatives.

The plan

A four-day retreat brought together key team members — managers from the organization’s six regions, top company leaders and the creative agency involved in branding and marketing.

We designed a plan to ensure the group’s work would be collaborative and creative — and tap into the broad experience and expertise of all the individuals present.

Experiences aimed to engage, empower and inspire the group in ways that would fuel ideas for regional initiatives.

Examples:

  • SWOT analysis. The group assessed Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats in the new overall brand marketing and sales plan in a dynamic and interactive approach.
  • Fast-feedback sessions. Focused questions encouraged frank discussion and creative thinking. “What surprised you about the approach?” “How do you think customers in your region would respond to this?” “Are there aspects that concern you?” “Anything you want to understand better?”
  • Looking at next steps as regional managers move forward to create regional strategies: How are their regions different and how can they inspire each other? Where would they like to be a year, three years, 10 years from now?
The outcome

At The Wunderlin Company, we know that collaboration and dynamic group experiences enrich understanding and commitment in organizations – especially in the face of challenges and change.

The participants agreed. Some of their take-away responses at the end:

  • “This team and brand are terrific. People want to work for this brand for a reason.”
  • “We will be winning a website award.”
  • “More good ideas than we know what to do with.”
  • “Trust has enabled our progress.”

“She has helped me become a better leader…and a more confident person.”

The Challenge

When we met Jane, she had a full plate: She was responsible for HR at a global manufacturing company and juggling a busy life as a wife and mother of young children.

Jane knew what she wanted: support to build her capacity at work to prepare for the next level of leadership while balancing her roles at home.

Her boss, the company’s CEO, agreed wholeheartedly with her plan.

She chose Karen as her coach because Karen had faced similar challenges — operational job responsibilities that included travel along with a commitment to kids’ soccer games, family dinners and school events.

The plan

Like most executive coaching, Jane’s experience followed a clear structure for the first year: assessment of her skills and experience, a development plan with action items and one-on-one coaching over more than six months.

The result

Jane quickly developed strategies for work-and-life balance.

One element: a peer group of other senior women leaders with young children and significant work and travel commitments.

This group has continued to provide support and strategic advice over the years as careers have progressed and children have grown.

Highly motivated, Jane addressed other immediate challenges, building her emotional intelligence along the way. She committed herself to developing the senior executive skills and experiences to ultimately give her a shot at a very senior role in her organization.

That short-term coaching process has evolved into a 10-year relationship. It has continued as Jane has embraced new roles and challenges such as addressing performance problems on her staff, developing key client relationships and directly leading a large portion of the organization.

She has used her coach as a “thought partner” to discuss issues and challenge her assumptions – and she has become more visionary in her approach to her organization.

The rest of the story: Her husband has a successful small business and her children have grown into smart, caring young people.

The future

Our view of Jane: The sky’s the limit.

Her view of her coaching experience: “I know that every time I work with The Wunderlin Company, I become more energized, focused and self-aware. Karen has been a true partner and friend to me. My continued success at work and at home is in no small measure because she has helped me become a better leader and a stronger, more confident person.”

“I am trying to listen more…”

“I promote teamwork and discourage ‘us-versus-them’ thinking.”

The challenge

Two longtime business partners decided to tune up their skills as they guided their newest company through a period of rapid growth.

One was confident that coaching would strengthen their top team’s performance.

His partner was skeptical — but he took the plunge with an open mind.

The plan

While the two have offices right down the hall at their company headquarters, their coaching was individual, private and confidential – the rule in all our coaching relationships.

Coaching usually covers 40 hours of work together over six to nine months organized in three phases:

  • Assessment, including leadership assessments such as the MBTI, Birkman or Hogan, personal interviews and 360-degree evaluations from colleagues.
  • A personal development plan where the individual being coached chooses two or three key goals on which to focus.
  • One-on-one coaching sessions, starting weekly and phasing down to “as needed” that aim to support and challenge clients as they address their goals.

Clear communication is critical: So at the outset, each executive summarized the most important insights he drew from the assessment and decided on his top development priorities.

Next came the development plan with specific actions to address those priorities.

In the case of our partners, their profiles and priorities and action plans were completely different – but both wanted to become more effective in their roles.

The result

Within six months, both had made recognizable improvements in their leadership effectiveness.

One focused on a management approach that embraced more listening and squarely faced the challenge of addressing difficult conversations, especially feedback about staff performance.

“I am trying to listen more, react more slowly, be more patient, and stay more in tune with my direct reports,” he told us. “I am much more likely to be viewed as a resource to my senior leaders who they seek out for advice, rather than offering too much advice when not requested.”

His partner, a skeptic no more, found value in the process. He focused on encouraging more collaboration, teamwork and openness with staff.

“I am taking time to know people when I meet them. I promote teamwork and discourage ‘us-versus-them’ thinking,” he said.

“I have a clearer picture of my staff’s strengths and issues and a methodical way of coaching them to higher effectiveness.”

When the relationship between two department leaders who had a truly discordant work relationship deteriorated even further, we were called in. Using a process that involved each person’s responding to probing questions about the other leader (such as “I think you want me to…” and “What do I want you to do more of? Less of?”), we helped to create a new set of working agreements to move their conversations and conflicts to a different, more professional stance.

In recent follow up interviews the leaders told us the process had significantly decreased tensions and enabled them to build a productive working relationship.

This entrepreneurial firm had grown dramatically and needed significant change to survive beyond the founders’ tenure. Leadership realized that the organization had grown, profitably, but was unprepared to continue its mission successfully if the founders were not at its core. Working with the leadership team, we defined a plan for implementing the changes needed to create a more sustainable organization. These included strategic planning, succession planning, strengthening HR practices to decrease turnover and improve morale, and coaching senior leaders to improve their leadership and communication skills.

On this project, we began with a leadership retreat that included the extended senior staff from across the company. At the retreat, we helped to draft a corporate statement of purpose, values, and vision. From that blueprint, we identified four areas that needed focused strategy development.

After the retreat, we created cross-functional teams led by members of the senior leadership team to further analyze the specific strategy areas, conduct gap analyses, and then define the strategies, goals, and initial tactics to support of the plan. This analysis addressed three basic questions:

  • Where are we today?
  • Where do we want to be in five years?
  • What is in the gap between today’s reality and the desired future?

Creating the strategic plan led to a number of critical strategy changes from ownership, including developing a new set of leadership skills and spurring organic growth. It is an important example of the power of cross-functional teams working together on the strategic (and sometimes intractable) challenges businesses face.