Plantronics went to Berkeley University of California at a time when the company was in the process of evolution and transition. Plantronics faced disruptive innovations that were impacting the business and it came to Berkeley to prepare their leaders for a world of disruptive innovation and really transformational change. The problems they wanted to address was As leaders, how can they adapt and evolve their own leadership persona, how can they move their teams and their organisations and really think more into the future, rather than relying on tried and true practices from the past. And the custom programme was designed on this basis.

According to Marguerite Kunze, VP, Talent management, “We were really trying to think about the leader for the future. We didn’t necessarily have a gap currently. But we are thinking about changing our strategy, we want to be more innovative. What is the type of leader that we need for the future? And when thinking through the type of curriculum that we are looking for, we thought Berkeley would be a perfect fit for us. I know about Berkeley, but I didn’t know much about their leadership curriculum. I did know about the boot camp and was impressed with that. But once we met with Dr Homa Nahrami the Faculty of Executive Education it was kind of a done deal. She shared with us some of her research, the latest thinking around leadership, she shared with us some of the other faculty members and the insights that they could provide. She is very much a thought leader and I just knew she would connect with our employees.

The Target Group for the Programme

The programme was designed for middle management that has a lot of frontline teams and responsibilities. They are the one driving and moving the execution of the strategy and the implementation of many of their change initiatives. And as you appreciate, its one thing for senior executives to go to a programme, but at the end of the day, transformational change does not happen if those who are really driving frontline initiatives are not involved. So this was the target population for our programme.

What Were You Expecting from the Programme?

Clare Tibbits – Head of marketing and inside sales: When I was told I was selected to go on the Berkeley programme, I was really excited. It’s been 22 years since I have been at university and of course, it is such a fantastic reputation and I was really excited. I did have quite high expectations of what I would learn and more importantly I was hoping what I could bring back and implement and make me a better manager.

James Foster – Global service manager: You know, UC Berkeley is a very famous place and it was you know I was very happy that my company was willing to sponsor me to do the course. From a professional perspective, I really wanted to understand a bit more about how to manage global teams. Because I have got a team that is located everywhere across the globe. Lot of different cultures and we don’t get that much face to face time. So I was really hoping to be able to get some insights and some better understanding of how to make my team more effective and how to interact with them better. That is really the main thing I was really hoping to get from the course.

Souley Ongoiba - Manager Supply and Demand:  love the Berkeley spirit of challenging the status quo because really to me as a leader that is really one of the things really I value a lot. So that was really part of the excitement. Knowing that you look at things differently and that is really the expectation that I am seeing and have seen in many ways.

How was the Programme Designed?

According to Dr. Homa Bahrami, “The way we customise our programmes is, we have a team here on the Berkeley side and we have a team on the Plantronics side. And the co-creation happens through the interactions between the two sets of teams. So we have a three-member core team over here at Berkeley in our Centre for Executive Education and we have a team at Plantronics led by the individual in charge of their learning and development. And we bring in other players as needed. So other faculties, other executives. As we customise, somebody like myself who is the faculty Director interviews all the senior executives to get an understanding of the context, the opportunity that we have for learning for this particular target population.

And then we sit down with our Plantronics co-creating team and we brainstorm together and we put together the programme. So it is very much a partnership”. The Talent Management VP, Marguerite shares “Maybe what is a little bit unique is the time that Berkeley and Homa have taken to really get to know us. We have spent a lot of time with the faculty members in advance of the programme. They met our senior leadership team, they met with some of our associates. So they really took the time to get to know us and understand what our needs were. We spent a lot of time talking about where we are headed in the future, our growth and a lot of the breakout sessions and the activities were designed very custom specific to us and our needs and even some of the topic areas. We are going through a significant change in a positive way as a company. So Homa introduced her concept of adaptive DNA and it really was a great fit for us”.

What did you get from the programme?

Clare Tibbits: The course was actually devised that we had to do some pre-reading too. I think to get our brains cells working and also introduce us to the subjects that we were going to cover. I think what was really important is our first day was spent on self. So it was our own DNA, our own leadership style, us as a person and that really got you thinking. Day 2 was then about teams and how you fit within your teams and how you can manage a well-functioning, great performing team. I actually think the combination of lectures, really fantastic examples from companies that you have heard of and that you admire were just fantastic throughout the day.

Marguerite Kunze: It was a really dynamic three days. It was a mix of pure coaching, lecture, assessment, self-reflection, presentations, and practice. It was really, I thought very well-orchestrated.

James Foster:    Definitely identified areas where I can be a better coach, listen more and not kind of dictate solutions and answers by being too forceful as a mentor. So some of those things have really, I have seen some great opportunities for me to improve how I manage the team, how I communicate with the team and also how I allow my team to come up with the answers on their own.

Marguerite Kunze:    It has completely exceeded our expectations in every way from content to the experience that they provided to the participants on campus to just taking the time to even do small things like, think about what are the places that people can go in their free time and downtime. So everything has just been a great experience.

What Happens Next?

Dr. Homa Bahrami: After they join us, they are expected to go back and cascade these learning to the broader community. We actually do a survey of the participants who go to their workshops. We have office hours to help them basically design and deliver the workshops and to really take the learning and cascade it to a much broader population. We also have series of webinars after the programme to see what they have done, how things have worked, what are their questions and to really reinforce the network and the community spirit that we hope to build. One of the real intangibles benefits that we find is particularly helpful, in a company like Plantronics, you know has many virtual global teams. They are a global company. So many of these individuals work together but may not see each other on a regular basis. By being immersed in a learning environment for 3 days, interacting very intensely, they really build relationships of trust that will carry beyond the programme itself. And we hope to create this learning community that can sustain itself through these network relationships beyond the duration of the programme.

Marguerite Kunze: I think Berkeley is definitely the perfect partner. Primarily because they are based on steep research and important concepts and really well versed in the area of leadership. But also important because they took the time to really get to know us, understand our specific needs and really weave that in and incorporate it into the programme.
Souley Ongoiba: I feel like I have changed. I have grown and I can see in many ways and I know I will be able to go back and add value to our business. Really looking forward to bringing it back to people. I am excited.

Clare Tibbits: I have done other programmes, I have done a lot of self-learning. We have done a lot of online webinar-type. Nothing compares to actually having experts in front of you sharing their experience. There is a lot of information I have learned, but more importantly, takeaways that will empower me as a leader to take back and I am sure, make my team better performing. And I can’t wait to share my learning with my team and I hope this is going to make me an inspirational leader. Because that is what the course is about.

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