Love Every Drop: How ‘Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?’ is helping Anglian Water develop leaders to address the future challenges of water management.
What do you do if the product your company supplies is perceived to fall from the sky, for free?
And how do you handle the seemingly contradictory requirements of having one department that sources and supplies your product, and another that actively encourages customers to use less of it?
Such are the challenges of the water industry in the UK. “At face value it seems a peculiar business model,” says Phil Brown, Head of Leadership Development for Anglian Water in the UK, “but when you consider the extremes of weather that we’ve had to endure over the last two years, with record drought followed by historically unprecedented rainfall, it’s hardly surprising that people are unclear about whether we’ve got enough water to go around or not.”
Such challenging conditions – and their increasing frequency – mean climate change is far from an academic discussion at Anglian Water. It is fundamentally altering the focus of the business. In the 18 months leading up to March 2012, the East of England (where Anglian Water’s six million domestic and business customers are based) experienced its driest period in over 100 years, leaving reservoirs, rivers and groundwater levels exceptionally low. What followed was three months of the heaviest rainfall the region had ever seen. “It really was from famine to feast,” says Phil.
“Naturally, we expect water simply to be there when we turn on the tap. We expect it to work, and people have come to expect little interaction with their water supplier – unless something goes wrong.”
The first job of the 4,000 people working on Anglian Water’s team is to focus on what is needed to secure water supplies into 2013 and beyond. “We are always working at least two years ahead of the water supply,” Says Phil. “If the recent droughts become a pattern and occur for two or three years on the trot, groundwater doesn’t get replenished, rivers run dry and this affects our ability to supply our customers, as well as damaging ecosystems.”
Anglian Water is looking well beyond that 2013 milestone, though. Today the role of leaders in a utility has changed, from a civil engineering focus to being advocates for water conservation. This is a message Anglian Water must bring to its customers, its employees and its stakeholders in the community, and the leaders in the organisation have to initiate and drive campaigns internally and externally to deliver this message.
Anglian Water is currently running several high-visibility campaigns around conservation of this precious resource:
- The company’s Love Every Drop initiative provides the umbrella under which all future campaigns can help customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders think differently about the whole water cycle. Love Every Drop is not simply a campaign, but sets out how Anglian Water does business.
- Drop 20 encourages customers to set themselves a target of saving 20 litres each day out of an average consumption of approximately 150 litres.
- The FOG Campaign – Keep it Clear – raises awareness of the impact of poorly disposed fat, oil and grease on the sewer infrastructure – and how this affects communities.
Leaders in the water industry need to deal with yet other tensions: “We might be a heavily regulated industry, but we are still a privately owned company,” says Phil. “Our regulators encourage high standards, but also put pressure on us to keep costs down. These things aren’t mutually exclusive, but meeting all these needs creates interesting tensions for our business leaders.”
“And so we asked ourselves, who will be helping us develop this strategic context, think through the challenges, articulate the message and engage our customers and our stakeholders on these vital issues? Who are the people delivering the message?”
Developing the leaders
Leaders in water utilities have traditionally come from engineering backgrounds. Many have long tenures of 20 years or more. “People are proud to work for this organisation,” says Phil. “Our leaders have a public service ethos, and know we deliver a vital service that people completely rely upon. So there is a strong sense of mission and a lot of motivation. Anglian Water enjoys a low attrition rate; people join and they don’t want to leave. One challenge from a leadership perspective is not necessarily inducing a sense of purpose or retaining people, but ensuring a commercial focus as well as a public service ethos.”
This strong culture is a great asset, but it does mean that Phil’s team had to carefully craft leadership development for this audience. Phil’s team at Anglian Water runs numerous development programmes, all connected directly to the business’s strategy. “We avoid a ‘sheep dip’ approach as they never work. What we wanted to achieve was for these leaders to have the tools and techniques to think differently.”
Through revising the leadership behaviours within the performance management framework, Anglian Water redefined what leaders were tasked to do in a behavioural sense and how their effectiveness would be measured. Linking this back to the business strategy they created the Inspire programme, which was to be offered to their top 100 managers. Integrated into the Inspire programme is BlessingWhite’s Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? leadership development programme.
“The Inspire programme starts with the individual leadership assessment, creating a personal development strategy for each individual leader, ” says Phil. “Based on a conversation with individual managers we tailor development opportunities based on topics that were common across a large group of people… this may include commercial awareness, strategic thinking, stakeholder management and so on. We use multiple development approaches, from formal instructor-led programmes to individual coaching.”
The principles of Why Should Anyone be Led by You? are taken beyond just dealing with direct teams. They have enabled the leaders to think about their audience, other parts of the business and outside communities (including regulators and customers). This represents a whole network of people they have to communicate with and influence. Leaders no longer feel they need to refer to a management book to deal with all these situations; they can just apply the Why Should Any One Be Led by You? authenticity and communication principles.
“Management is a task but Leadership is a behaviour. Many of our senior managers, with their engineering background, understand the ‘task’ aspect of their work. Their instinct is to ask Where’s the plan, who’s keeping a log, where’s the data? So getting them to think about the behaviour is really what we achieved through the programme.”
“Things have changed a lot since their early-day management training. These are tenured professionals with a strong legacy in this organisation, and we don’t expect or want to change them fundamentally – what we wanted was to open their minds. The strong message in Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? is that they should be themselves and bring their 20 years of experience to bear in a slightly different way. To be themselves, more, with skill. The whole concept of authenticity is very strong. It says: don’t change, don’t try to be somebody else. Just think about how you are yourself and do it a bit differently, in a skilful way. We value who you are and what you bring. Let’s investigate how you are using that and helping others to do their jobs, so we as a business get the best out of you. New graduates also need help in developing their technique, asthey don’t come to this with such grounded experience but they still greatly benefit from the sessions.”
“We want the model in Why Should to become the standard leadership model for Anglian Water.”
Phil sees significant changes in the behaviours of leaders who participated in the programme: “They are more effective now than before. They have not changed personalities, but through Why Should and the Inspire programme, they are thinking differently when they are approaching certain situations and they are more effective as leaders than they were before. They trust more, delegate more and lead more.”
“How can you lead this organisation to deliver strategy? This is how you can do it.”