Reading time: 28 minutes

Sharon Newey: Welcome to Learn Grow Succeed Conversations Podcast, and I’m your host Sharon Newey. If you want to become the extraordinary leader today’s organisations need, then listen now.  On this special conversations episode, I’m joined by two special guests, Ton Schoonderbeek, Global Talent Leader and Chairman of Mindshare Benelux, and Clara Grelsson, who’s the CEO of Mindshare Sweden. In a moment I’m going to invite Ton and Clara to share a little more about themselves.

Sharon Newey: In today’s podcast, we are going to be talking with Ton and Clara about a senior leadership development programme that came about through a collaboration with Mindshare and Excel Communications. We’re going to find out a little bit more about what was the situation of the organisation and why this programme was developed in the first place.  But also, and I think people listening will find this really helpful, to learn about how the programme has evolved, and especially the kind of results that Mindshare have gained from this particular development programme.

Sharon Newey: So Ton, Clara, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.

Clara Grelsson: Thank you.

Ton: Thank you.

Sharon Newey: And Ton, perhaps I could invite you, first of all, just to share with the audience a little bit more about Mindshare as an organisation and a little bit about your role, because it’s an interesting sort of dual role that you have as well.

Ton: Okay. Yes, I’m happy to introduce Mindshare and Mindshare is a global network of media agencies that really brings together brilliant people to help our clients grow their business and profitability. We do this through what we call adaptive marketing as an approach, and we bring in original thinking for building stronger brands and creating better performances for our clients. We do this around the world. We are a global company; we have 115 office in 85 markets and close to 9,000 people. Although we are 20 years old, or young, we still call ourselves young.

Sharon Newey: I like it.

Ton: Yeah. We are still run, let’s say like when we started; like a startup company, or at least with the pioneering spirit that we had 20 years ago, and it has much to do with the fact that many of the founders are still with the company.  That includes our Global CEO Nick Emery and also myself; I will talk later about it.

Ton: Mindshare tries to avoid being a real corporate company despite the fact that we are a one billion dollar plus company, and basically that shows up by having no executive committee, no formal board, more like a round table inspired by King Arthur. We also have values like speaking with provocation that came out of the DNA of the company, and it has close links to what we call “the punk spirit of the eighties” and more than the corporate world of bankers or whatever.

Sharon Newey: Wow.

Ton: Mind you, our clients are unique as well. Of course, we have as our clients, let’s call it “seasoned marketeers” like Unilever, General Mills, but also challenger clients like Booking.com, Facebook, and of course not to forget one of our most defining clients in the network, Nike, so that mixture is quite unique.

Ton: At the same time, we are part of WPP, well known as the greatest transformation company that’s going through a youth transformation process itself under the leadership of Mark Read. So it’s a dynamic environment we are operating in because it’s a media environment – it’s media and entertainment –  but it’s also our own organisation and development that makes it a very good place to be at this moment in time.

Sharon Newey: It sounds like a really creative but an inspiring culture, and the fact that you have kept this pioneering spirit that you describe, I’m sure a lot of people will be interested to hear a little bit more about that, but maybe that’s another podcast. Thank you for that. And so how about your role? Because you’re Global Talent Lead which is a huge role, I imagine, with 9,000 people but also you have this other role, Chairman of Benelux too.

Ton: Yeah. I have a dual role; it’s a good one. I’m one of the founders as I mentioned already, so I started 20 years ago Mindshare in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam. With our team, we made it to the leading agency in the country, and it still is in terms of scale and reputation. After that, I created GroupM in the Netherlands and became the first CEO of Mindshare in more international roles in Europe, including Belgium and the Nordics, including, of course, lovely Sweden.

Ton: I did some global business development projects and then a couple of years ago I was asked by Nick Emery, who is now our Global CEO when he took over the role, and he asked me to join the global team with a focus on our people and culture. And of course it has a fancy title attached to it like Global Talent Lead, or I think sometimes they call me Chief Global Talent Officer, but it’s all in a name because really the role is to support all our leaders across the world in taking care of people and culture, because it’s not something which someone owns in a sense. Every one of our leaders has to be involved in their people and culture.

Ton: Yeah, you mentioned next that there is still the Chairman role in the Benelux and that it still means involvement, not in day to day operations but more in the certain direction of the company and supporting the management teams in Brussels and Amsterdam. And that is, I think, a good combination because if you are too much focused on HR, talent and culture then you can be distracted in a way from the day to day business and the challenges that we are having with our clients. In this combination of roles, I can have both, so I’m aware of what’s happening on the floor as well as in our corporate world.

Sharon Newey: Yes, and as I was listening to you I had a very similar thought in terms of the value, with that dual role, that you’re able to bring to the programme, Momentum, that we will be talking about so thanks for that, Ton.

Sharon Newey: Clara, can I maybe just ask you to introduce yourself a little bit, so we have some insight?

Clara Grelsson: Absolutely. So my name is Clara Grelsson. I’m currently the CEO of Mindshare in Sweden. I have been with the company for almost eight years and started in the digital department when I was a digital strategist, and then I moved on to different types of roles – project management and client lead – and it was somewhere around there that my CEO at the time dropped me a question regarding a leadership programme. So I have been taking part in the Momentum programme, and I was in the class 15/16.

Sharon Newey: Okay, brilliant. So that’s great because we’ll be able to perhaps come back to you later quite a few times to get a participant’s perspective, but also because you have now transitioned into your CEO role. I guess you’re probably looking at the programme with a particularly different set of eyes now, so that’s got to be really helpful.

Clara Grelsson: Yes, absolutely I do. I think the programme has given me so much, not only the content of the actual programme but also to meet colleagues in Europe and to get to share and develop in that way, but we can get more into that.

Sharon Newey: Absolutely. But I think it’s really helpful to listen to a little bit about both your stories, because straight away, what I’m hearing is an organisation where people can grow and develop. Obviously, even as a founder or one of the founders, Ton, you’ve moved around the organisation as well, and it’s great that that showcases what Mindshare’s all about. But let’s get into them.

Sharon Newey: Ton, before Momentum was realised, what were some of the challenges and what was the situation in the business that created a need for a leadership programme like Momentum?

Ton: Yes. We have to go back then, to 2013/14. Not that long ago.

Sharon Newey: Right, absolutely.

Ton: Yes, so that was the time I took the role within the new global team to support people and culture, and we define them as an ambition for talent as you call it, which goes beyond “best place to work”. We really wanted Mindshare to be a place where our people can do the best work of their careers so there’s quite a broad ambition and we realise that ambition was not vague in markets, because in many markets we were very successful in talent management and taking care of our people and retention.

Ton: And also we spotted, with my tour around the world, a lot of initiatives in different parts of the Mindshare world, that were very interesting to see if we can bring them to other markets. Most initiatives in those markets were done by regions or at group level so we’re also part of GroupM within WPP, so I spotted a lot of great activity.

Ton: And the ambition was to bring a little bit more global structure around what we were doing in talent management because that fits our global ambition of course, and also our global operating model, and because the nature of our clients’ business is basically global, so we wanted to have a more global talent management structure.

Ton: And when I looked in Asia-Pacific specifically, I spotted a lot of great talent but also the fact that they knew each other quite well, so in different markets but still they were very much connected to that. When I went in-depth in the conversations with them, I learned that they knew each other basically from training or from working together on business, and from meeting each other face to face.

Ton: So, when I thought back to Europe to some of the issues we were having, and I will mention them in a minute, I thought, “Well, we are a strong network in Europe, but our people were not as connected to each other as I saw in Asia”. If a project started, it was always from scratch, so without having a base level of relationship with some of the people. So that’s when I thought, “Well, we need that.”

Ton: And at the same time, and that’s how the issue in Europe was; a very typical HR issue, but succession planning, so we wanted to know more about the individual agency in Europe. How does succession planning look like? Because we had some issues with succession and we wanted to have plans around it in different markets.

Ton: We also wanted to know more about how we can bring the future talent, the aspiring talent that we have in the agencies, more in the spotlight of our regional management and also to create a kind of network of them. So we were thinking about a couple of those elements then we came to the idea of creating two things. One, training for our future leaders, so really train them in developing themselves into true leaders. And second, to create a network of them, to create a network within the network of aspiring leaders.

Ton: And we also, a couple of years ago, had more and more people stepping into roles that they were not used to. So for example, if you were not great in a specific skill, let’s say programmatics, and you grow to become a very good programmatics specialist, normally the trend is that you will be promoted to a role and that you are leading a team of programmatic specialists. And that promotion, it’s always happened, but you need to help and support those people who are promoted to what it is to become a leader and how to take responsibility in that.

Ton: So there was also something we spotted that we wanted to help with, so I think leadership in a broad sense was something we need to develop to become better in, in the near regions and at the same time, that network. So those were the two elements.

Sharon Newey: Brilliant. So I guess there are lots of questions in many ways that you’re wanting to answer about how do you take the good things that were happening within Asia and bring those to the global markets.  And put in place not only a consistent leadership talent programme, but one that is almost playing catch up, if that would fit, in terms of people already in roles but maybe feeling a little bit stretched because they’re not prepared to make the most and move as quickly as the organisation would want them to move.

Ton: Correct, yeah.

Sharon Newey: Brilliant. So I guess, Clara, Ton’s talking about when these initial conversations started happening around 2013, 2014. We’ll come back and talk specifically about the programme that was developed from the scenario that, Ton, you just described. I’m curious, Clara, from a participant perspective – you joined the programme around 2015, 2016 so as an employee then that was perhaps identified as top talent, what, from your perspective, was the impact on development of yourself pre-Momentum, being there? What were the issues, as someone wanting to develop as a senior leader, that you were encountering?

Clara Grelsson: Yeah, well, so back in 2014, when I got the question from my CEO. At the time I felt very privileged because I understood that this was something very special and it has never been done before, so I got asked to the first year of Momentum, and at the time I don’t think I really knew what it was besides that it was for future leaders. And I’ve always been interested in and very hungry to know more about myself and to learn more within leadership, so I instantly knew that I wanted to go through with the programme.

Clara Grelsson: But as Ton also knows, I was never in the 14 class. I was actually in 15/16 because when we had our first meeting at the European management meeting, which was really nice also to bring all the Momentum participants along to the CEO meetings, I was pregnant at the time. So I participated in the year after instead, but when I got asked, I didn’t really know exactly what it was besides that it was leadership and I was just totally into it.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, and so as someone who was wanting to develop themselves in their leadership skills, what perhaps were some of the areas that you were aware of that you would value, support, and wanting to learn more about? Were there any specific areas that you remember?

Clara Grelsson: Well, I remember that I looked at the programme, which at least that year, the first module was leading self to know more about yourself as a leader and how you act leading others. Of course the big thing, how to create high performing teams. Leading business and then leading change, that was the four modules. So I was just very into it, you know? Just by hearing those four steps.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. From a leadership perspective, these are the core things, the more you know about yourself, the more, hopefully, you can develop as a leader because everybody needs to understand how to lead change and lead the business. So yes, I can see why that’s really whetted your appetite to want to participate.

Sharon Newey: So before we get into the detail of the programme because you’ve just started to share a little bit about it there, Clara. Ton, if I could come back to yourself and ask what contributed towards the decision to engage and collaborate with Excel Communications on this global leadership development project?

Ton: Yes, so when we identified the fact that we wanted to help our future leaders in Europe with a programme, then, of course, we looked at different suppliers, but it’s potential partners – that’s maybe a better way of putting it.  Then I realised, not coming from an HR background, that I was totally blown away by the number of suppliers active in the area of leadership development.

Ton: And so, in that case, it’s always nice to have friends and to have friends within the group, so I checked with our teams in WPP and GroupM, and they suggested a couple of potential partners. And in my conversation with Excel, I think there was immediately something like a personal ‘click’ with Nick Hallett.  And so we had a very nice conversation. He came over to Amsterdam.  He got it, the challenge that we had was not easy to write down on a piece of paper in terms of a briefing, but it’s more like I had a long conversation and I think he came back with a proposal that really hit exactly what we were aiming at with the programme.

Ton: And also, and I think that’s still the beauty of the partnership – the flexibility of having part of the programme done by Excel and part of the programme done by others in Europe. It’s us, so it’s something like what our own people are doing, and I will explain that later in the programme, and in Asia where we are running the same programme which is due to success in EMEA, we brought the programme to Asia as well.

Ton: We also have another partner participating in the programme, so I think that openness and the click and the good content was the reason to choose Excel and we’re still happy with them up to now.

Sharon Newey: Okay.

Sharon Newey: No. In the introduction you were alluding to some of the outcomes that you wanted for a development programme like Momentum and that it would be about creating the network, creating a programme that would support leaders and aspiring leaders. Were there any additional specific outcomes that you worked with Excel Communications on that this is what we want to deliver from the programme?

Ton: Yes, in terms of the programme. If you think about, for example, KPIs or what kind of return on investment do you want to get from the programme? To be honest, we have not been fine in that way, and it’s a few years on we talk more about that now, which is of course that we want the retention of future leaders of course. We want to create a strong network that we can tap into if we need, we want to have a great response from individuals because it’s also individual development, of course, it’s for the benefit of the company but also our individual employees.

Ton: I can call it vague but at the same time if I talk about the results so far, and I can do later as well, then I think what is important for me is the support that I still get from our top management. So from, as I call it, the round table initiative that we could have brought the programme to Asia-Pacific, that there is interest in other parts of the world to run the programme that makes this quite clear that it’s a programme that’s valued by our people, so it’s a success.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, certainly. And we’ll come back to you and ask you about results because I know when I looked at the internal brochure that you have that introduces Momentum to the next group of participants, it really is inspiring to see all the different participants. People like yourself, Clara, who have gone on and been promoted and are heads of country and heading up major initiatives.

Sharon Newey: That’s good to hear but let’s talk about that in a while, and think about the programme and how the programme has got people to new opportunities.

Sharon Newey: So maybe you could just share a little bit, Ton, about the structure of the programme and how it was developed, because you talked about how this is a collaboration, Excel Communications is a part of it, but there are key inputs from within the business. And then Clara, maybe if I could come back to you it’d be great to just learn a little bit more about your experience as a participant.

Sharon Newey: So Ton, maybe we can get you to chat about the programme first.

Ton: Yeah, you said about the programme, and I will mention the elements… Basically what I do when I promote the programme, a lot of times it’s what I call the success factors at the moment. Basically there are a couple of modules developed by Excel and also done by the trainers from Excel, and Clara mentioned it as well, by leading self. I was surprised to learn how important that session is. It’s a three-day session, and it really makes people aware of themselves and how they are seen by others, and so it gives you the ability to adapt yourself to situations and to individuals that you’re working with.

Ton: So it’s a very important module. Then we have leading teams, which is really how to work with teams and create strong teams, and how to get a collaborative spirit. It’s leading a business. It’s not leading a business, let’s say, from a P&L perspective but more like how to set the vision, how to get all your people with you because that’s of course important.

Ton: Then we bring in another element at that very moment which is leading a project, and that’s done by Mindshare, that’s what we are doing. So we brief all our people to work together remotely on really challenging projects, so business relevance projects and at the moment the teams are working across Europe, and it all relates to e-commerce projects.

Ton: So that’s what they’re doing, and then we finish off with a project called leading change, and I think that’s an obvious one that we have to do, so in this fall-apart world you also have to know how to be flexible in your leadership. That’s the four modules that the trainers from Excel take care of and that’s the build of the programme.

Ton: But I have to say two other big important factors – one is the coaching. So it’s not going through from programme to programme; it’s really going to a programme and take it with you back to your day to day job and apply it in your work. And then in between the sessions, they have a coaching conversation with the trainers, and they will check in with them and see how things are going, how they can help them with specific challenges.

Ton: So I think that’s an important element as well.  The other one that I want to mention is the participants are not alone because they have their managers, and also when they come back to the offices, we want their managers to be aware of what they went through on the training, so they are –  we mentioned that there is a management handbook of Momentum – aware of what has been done and what kind of questions they can ask the participants. They need to be involved because yeah, as I said, you are not alone.

Ton: So that’s basically the programme setup. Another thing which I always like to mention – it’s a programme. There’s a start, there’s an end, but in fact there’s never an end, so there’s no finish line, to use one of the Nike ads of the earlier days because it’s the beginning of something. And so although you are left alone by us and Excel in a way, you are not really left alone because it’s the start of something bigger. I think that’s always something I have to mention when I talk about the programme, so it’s not like ending.

Sharon Newey: No, and I understand that you have alumni so that network continues to grow and people are encouraged to support each other and stay in touch.

Ton: Yeah, yeah. That’s correct.  Not an official metric, but basically there are WhatsApp groups, there are people who are connected to each other, who help each other, and I’m always delighted. I travel a lot across the region so when I’m in a market and see the Mindshare alumni and learning from them… They don’t only speak to each other, let’s say, in a market, so alumni from different years,  but also still across. They know where to find people to support them and to help them if they have, let’s say, a business challenge but also a personal challenge. And I think that last one is really something which makes this programme such a unique one, that people share so much more than just the business challenges only.

Sharon Newey: Yes, and I like that word ‘unique’ because I think what you’ve described with the elements of the programme, this is not just a programme that is about a number of days of delivery that’s broken down into different modules. This is a real programme where people are supported with coaching; managers are involved so they can support, and they can help people embed everything they’re learning.

Sharon Newey: It’s applied to the business and the day to day job. And as you say, with the alumni and certainly from my own experience, if people and participants are setting up their own groups, whether that’s on WhatsApp or whatever medium it is, it’s so much more powerful than a formal platform where, “Well, this is the platform we’re going to use, and you will interact,” because people are initiating these groups themselves. They’re so much more committed to the collaboration and that ongoing mutual support, so it’s quite powerful.

Ton: Yeah, that’s it. And I think the one thing I have to add as well to, as I call it success factors, is the fact that the training is built up of different modules and the trainers from Excel, and through these modules, basically we try to avoid having it in a typical training setting like in a hotel or something.

Ton: So we always try to do this in the offices in the near region and that has a benefit, and it’s also, of course, a disadvantage of you are always distracted there when you are in an office in another way than if you’re down in a hotel conference setting. But a positive thing is that people experience other offices.

Ton: Also, opportunities to meet people for the trainers also, to be more a part of Mindshare than they are, let’s say training Mindshare people without being at Mindshare and all that. So they feel also more part of our company than they are somewhere else. And that also brings interest by a bunch of people in the locations, so they see this training happening, so they get to know more about Momentum. We always use the opportunity to talk to all of them and talk about the programme, so it’s also what I mean with the success factor; it’s one of the good things from the programme.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, yes. And certainly I’d imagine from a trainer perspective that the more that they experience the different expressions of the culture and the different offices, that it can only help them actually continue to add more and more value to the programme, really because their experience of Mindshare’s just growing all the time.

Sharon Newey: So Clara, can I come to yourself as a past participant then. Could you just share with people listening, what some of your own experience was, perhaps in terms of some of the big learnings from the programme, what you valued? I’ll let you share your thoughts.

Clara Grelsson: Yeah, absolutely. So what I valued most, I think from the actual content was, when I just think back about it, was a lot around management versus leadership and those different perspectives, how to work with smart goals to be really good at following up with all individuals and to be really clear on what’s expected from them. We worked a lot on presentation skills which I appreciated a lot, and I think that was very good for many people in the group that I was in.

Clara Grelsson: Also, a lot around feedback, the purpose of feedback and developmental feedback. But also, as Ton mentioned, the first session that was about getting to know your self, the kind of person you are and how I am acting in different kinds of situations when I am stressed, or under pressure, or when I’m happy, or when I’m just my normal self. We all have different kinds of states we are in when we are our normal self, and I’m maybe not as good communicating with a person that is more analytical, so to speak. It was a lot of that kind of things that I thought was really interesting.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. When you think about, I guess, and I realise I’m maybe just putting you on the spot a little bit here, when you think about your role now as a CEO and you reflect back, which parts have you really been able to draw on as someone in their first CEO role?

Clara Grelsson: Well, when I just look at my day to day… To work on delegation, to not make sure that I have my fingers in all the stuff that is being done since I also grew up at Mindshare in Sweden eight years ago. So the people I worked with back then that were maybe my managers, now I am managing them, and if you grew up at somewhere and you have done stuff from scratch, you can very easily do things yourself if you know what I mean.

Sharon Newey: I do, absolutely yes.

Clara Grelsson: Yeah, so just around the whole management versus leadership, and to delegate, and to be a leader. My goal is to just create a high performing team. Everyone else should be better than me at their specific thing, and I’m kind of like the one holding everything together. I think I got a lot of that from Momentum, but I didn’t realise it at the time. I’d say that a lot of it is also sinking in, the more you get comfortable in your role. But the Momentum programme was so great, and I think I realised in the last session everything it had given me during that year.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, yeah. And how did you find it, the fact that the programme was so closely aligned to the business and your day to day job? How did that make it easier, if that’s the right word?

Clara Grelsson: Well, when we had a session, we could immediately go back and implement the stuff that we had learned. And also with the coaching calls with our coaches, it was very easy to follow up and to see if we had actually also done the stuff that we were going to do. And I had the best coach in Ruth, which I just thought was amazing.

Sharon Newey: That’s okay. No, I was just thinking about the fact that the programme was so aligned with the day to day job. How much more did that mean, that you could gain value from the programme because it was so aligned to what you guys are doing every day?

Clara Grelsson: Well, it meant a lot that you could just go back and implement everything right away that you had learned from the previous session. And at the time, when I started the programme, I knew I was going to go into a role of managing people, but I didn’t have it at the time for the first session when it was learning about yourself. But when I got into the sessions after that, it was so good to have a team of your own to go back to and practise on.

Sharon Newey: Yes, yeah. And Ton’s described that one of the key elements of the programme was access to coaching in between the different modules, and you’ve alluded to that yourself. I don’t like making assumptions but I’m going to make one so correct me if I’m wrong here, but I imagine that perhaps you’ll have been on other training programmes where you walk away, and you go and implement, and you’re supported by a manager. What difference did you find, that actually having access to coaching in between the modules, what extra did that add for you and allow you to do?

Clara Grelsson: Well, to have the coach from Excel and from Momentum that I could call. I mean, that person had been with me in those sessions. We had been talking about really deep stuff, and my manager never was a part of that conversation in my development. Although my CEO back in Sweden knew my everyday life, I’d say that the coach had more insight into how I was as a person and what I wanted to achieve, and knew more about my plans on how I wanted to achieve it. So it was a big support to get the coaching calls.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, fantastic. Let’s maybe move on then and talk about results, because I’m sure people who are listening are really super keen to know. What have been some of the key outcomes of the programme? So maybe Ton, if I could bring you back to give us the holistic overview.

Ton: Yeah, the key results of the programme. I think to start with something which I mentioned earlier in the podcast on our network, I think we have now interesting, strong networks across the EMEA region, people knowing each other and working together; which is good. We have seen a great number of people go through the programme who developed themselves and moved into new positions that probably they have never thought of before, and of course, Clara, on the podcast as well, is a great example of this, becoming the CEO of Mindshare Sweden.

Ton: We have the same situation in the Netherlands where we have a new CEO from the Momentum programme and in Belgium, and it’s not a programme to develop CEOs, it’s a programme to develop better and future leaders. We also have a lot of other great talent stepping into new roles and also, sometimes, roles outside of Mindshare. So within the group, which is not the real intention, but it’s also helpful from an individual perspective if it helps in career building.

Ton: And I think the other thing which I only realised because it was not really intentioned. I realised afterwards is that it’s also a magnet to talent. If you are in the process of hiring great talent to Mindshare, and we talk about the programme, then it really helps, and they then understand we are quite serious about development. It’s not something we only do in words or talk about, but we actually have something which we can offer them. I think that’s also a good signal to everyone that this is a successful programme.

Sharon Newey: Yes, and I do imagine that from attracting and retaining talent that it’s a really, really valuable programme for you because it’s very much a talent show market at the moment, isn’t it?

Ton: Yeah.

Sharon Newey: Particularly in the creative world. I mean Clara, we know that you’re the CEO of Sweden now. I don’t know if you went from your position into the programme and then into this role or if you had another stage between. Maybe share a little bit about how, having come through the Momentum programme, it influenced your career and where you are now?

Clara Grelsson: Yeah, so when I had finished Momentum I didn’t step into this role immediately, so I’ve had a couple of years in between.  I was managing our department of solution managers, as we call them. Pretty much account managers. And then I was also taken into the management team in Sweden, and it was when our last CEO was leaving or maybe a year before he announced it that he told me that, “But Clara, you’re the one that’s going to do this after me”. And I was kind of like, “What? No, not me.” I never thought of myself in that position but the more I thought about it, the more he pushed me in that direction, and Momentum was a big part of it.

Clara Grelsson: But also it’s important to have your local leaders to support you and to make sure that you are also getting into new roles in your daily work so that it’s not only Momentum that is making it for the people.  You also need the support from the local leaders to give you feedback and push you into new positions. I’ve been in my role for just over a year now and yeah, very, very interesting. And I also knew that we had been talking about it in our management team, going back a few years, that we went from when Momentum was released, we knew that we always wanted to have at least one participant from Sweden.

Clara Grelsson: We’ve also had two participants during one year, and I’m also thinking about pushing forward too for the start of the 19th class. In my management team today we are 6, and four of us have completed Momentum, so I think that’s a really good track record of where my Swedish leaders have ended up that have taken part in this programme. And only one has left, and she left when she had just done the first module, so she never completed the programme.

Sharon Newey: No, no. That speaks volumes for the quality of the programme as well. And great to hear that you, in your CEO role, are now looking for how you develop your own leaders by joining the programme as well, so hopefully that speaks for some great success. Now I’m curious because obviously Ton, when you were starting out on this journey, you described earlier it was 2013, 2014. We’re now in 2019, so I’m curious, perhaps, how has the programme evolved over time?

Ton: Yeah, I think, continuing on Clara’s point that her leadership team are now a lot of people who are Momentum alumni.  It’s interesting that there is now more leadership focus in the different offices as well. The Momentum people talk about Momentum but also they stimulate more leadership development in the offices as well, so there’s more focus on this. And that comes through, leadership. You are not born a leader. It’s something that we can help our people with to develop, so there’s more… Let’s say the attitudes to leadership development is growing in Mindshare, which is good.

Sharon Newey: Yes.

Ton: And I think if I look at the programme itself… I think we will have a discussion with Excel before we start with the new year in June, so we have a discussion about the content and what do we have to change and whatnot. The interesting thing that I found out is the content itself is not changing a lot because it’s all very relevant content, and in fact you can say, “Well, leadership is changing in the last few years.” That’s probably true, but people are saying, “Well, it’s a volatile world. Leadership’s different.”

Ton: But at the same time, if you look at one of favourite books, it’s ‘In Search of Excellence’ by Tom Peters from the eighties. He mentions that successful leaders are those who learn to thrive in chaos. I think if I look back at the eighties, it probably was not as much chaos as it is now.

Ton: At the same time I realise leadership now is that you have to work with, let’s say the different generations in your workforce, so you have the millennials, you have the generation Zs. Their expectations for working are different than they were for other generations, so it’s different to lead. We have to adapt the programme continuously, although I say while the basis of the Momentum programme will not change, I think in fact the examples or the challenges that our people have are different.

Ton: We talk with our trainers about that, and it’s interesting to see how they adapt, let’s say the training of that. And another thing which is interesting, and I mention it because there’s so much more learning available now for our people through e-learning, but I think we stick to the fact that we feel leadership learning is better in a socialised environment. If you do this together… And I don’t want to call it classroom, that sounds very odd, but it is. If you bring people together then… And also for the network building but also for the leadership development, I think it’s better to have the training together or to have the role play. I don’t want to call it role play because role play’s always too odd, but you get the case studies that you can work on together.

Ton: At the same time, and that’s my last point, I think problem-solving as a leader is something you are not alone in. You have this collaborative problem solving nowadays, and you can do it together in a team as well, so that’s why I want to keep Momentum in this setup. And of course change what we need to change, but I think the whole setup is great.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. It sounds like it’s working and delivering results, so that’s great to hear. I think the other thing to pick up on what you said, is that it also sounds like you are, at the start of each year of Momentum, challenging yourselves and having conversations with the training team to make sure that the evolution of it is meeting the needs of this lovely chaotic world that we do live in, as you say. So it’s not like you’re just leaving it, you are constantly testing and challenging yourselves to make sure that the fit’s right for the next cohort of participants, by the sounds of it.

Ton: Yeah. Correct, yeah.

Sharon Newey: You’ve already actually answered my next question really, in terms of enhanced outcomes from the programme because you talked about the fact that there is a growing culture and awareness of leadership within the offices. Is there anything else that perhaps the organisation has realised as a benefit or outcome of the programme that maybe you haven’t anticipated, Ton? And it’s fine if not, I’m just curious.

Ton: Yeah. I don’t know if I’ll answer your question correctly, but I think what we get from the Momentum programme – and more and more people now in our organisation went through this programme – is what we call “a culture of feedback”. I think we have to be more careful and open to conversations with each other on our performance, or what we can do better. We create through this programme, also, a different kind of culture within Mindshare which is good, and there’s a lot of things which I can help support in markets on that as well. I don’t know if it answers your question.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. No, I think it does because you may not have set out to do that initially, but certainly that’s something that has been gained on the back of the programme. Very finally then, if I could just come back to you both, what would you say you most valued, perhaps, Ton, as a sponsor of a programme, about your partnership and your collaboration with Excel Communications?

Ton: Yeah, I think we’re a good partnership, and it’s really an open conversation we continuously have with them. It’s not only with, let’s say, the management or account management of the relationship, but also on the spot with the trainers. I think that’s the value that I see from the programme that we also have that consistency of the trainers, so they know Mindshare sometimes probably better than I do through all their conversations. They use that back into the training, so I think that partnership is really strong with Excel and if I want to ask something from Excel and they know, I want them to be present all around the world.

Sharon Newey: Right, yeah. As you know, they have a global reach. I think I know what you’re saying. And Clara, from your perspective as a participant, if you could just summarise what you most value from being able to work with the trainers both in the group setting and one to one.

Clara Grelsson: The trainer that I had, Ruth, I just want to mention her because I thought that she was just awesome. She just put everything into our group, or that was at least the feeling that we had, and we cried, and we laughed, and it was so much emotion from all the group but also from her. I just think the trainer I get, that’s really important for you. From what I’ve heard from my colleagues, all the trainers from Excel have been great, just great. I’m just trusting in Ton that he’s continuing to develop the programme just so it’s constantly up to date, and also that we are giving feedback to both Mindshare and Excel to be able to improve it further.

Clara Grelsson: And I also want to send some extra positive things back to Mindshare, because I don’t know if that is a part of Excel or Mindshare, but if anyone that is listening and is thinking about doing this, Mindshare has done a really good job in connecting the Momentum participants with the current leadership in the different countries. So as a fifth part of the programme, the participants had been working on a project, and historically it has been presented on the European management meeting, which I also thought was very good and interesting for me as a future leader to meet the current leaders of Mindshare.

Sharon Newey: Yes. Yeah.

Ton: Yeah, thanks, Clara. That’s a great point as well from the programme, and success factor as I didn’t mention so far.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. No, good. Thank you for bringing that in.

Ton: When Clara’s mentioning her trainer, Ruth… For the listeners, I think there are a couple of trainers at Excel, so Ruth, Joe, Julie, Rubin, and Chris, but they’re all wonderful, so I got the same feedback from all the participants. If you think about a trainer before you go into a trainer, you think of someone as a kind of teacher but it’s not, it’s someone who’s really part of the leadership development movement. And also, I see them all giving a lot of themselves to the group and getting back. The love and the tears, they’re all there. I agree, yeah.

Sharon Newey: Yeah.

Clara Grelsson: And I also love the setup in the room because you don’t sit behind a table, you sit on your chair in a ring which is very much… Just the group gets so moulded into each other. It’s also around the setting of how it’s done that I think was really good.

Sharon Newey: Yeah. Sometimes small things can make a big difference, can’t they?

Clara Grelsson: Absolutely.

Sharon Newey: Yeah.

Ton: Yeah.

Sharon Newey: And so very finally then, Ton, I’m just thinking that there will be people like yourself with a global talent leader position or different versions of the title potentially listening to this within the wider creative industry that you’re part of within the WPP group, and also organisations outside the creative industry that will have been listening and valued a lot of what you shared.

Sharon Newey: I’m just wondering… Do you have any words of advice for if someone was in your shoes in another organisation experiencing challenges around attracting and retaining talent from a leadership point of view… are there any words of advice that maybe you’d like to share just as a closing comment, having had the experience you’ve had over the last few years?

Ton: Yeah, I think the success of the programme was a surprise to us, and by us, I mean the management team as well, because we always thought that we had great leaders in our offices, and they develop the leaders themselves, so they take care of the succession planning and leadership development. But I realised it’s so much better to take them separately and to treat them differently, to develop them through the concept of the Momentum programme that we have developed with Excel.

Ton: My advice was yeah, don’t take leadership development for granted. You have to make an effort to get it right, and especially with all the challenges in the business and in the new setup of the workforce in the coming years with all the generations, I think it’s worth every penny to invest in this kind of development. But it’s not selling people to training; it’s creating something in partnership with, in this case, Excel.

Sharon Newey: Yeah, fantastic. Well, thank you both for your insights and sharing your experiences about Momentum, the programme, and hopefully, we’ll get a chance to speak again. Thanks very much for joining us. That’s Ton Schoonderbeek and Clara Grelsson. Thanks very much for you both.

Clara Grelsson: Thank you.

Ton: Thank you.