Better leadership thanks to closer collaboration and a focus on change management

Changing customer wishes, stricter regulations, disruption in innovation and the volatility in the economy and markets mean that Rabobank is experiencing dynamic market conditions that require fundamental improvements in performance. In order to optimally prepare itself for the changes, Rabobank Walcheren/Beveland asked Vlerick Business School to compile a short, customised programme on the themes of leadership and change management.   

“Our bank is faced with the challenge of working on a future-oriented business model. That means there will be many changes in the coming years,” begins Klaas Roelof Hofman, Marketing, Cooperation and Communications Manager at Rabobank. “It goes without saying that our managers will be expected to be highly flexible. Thanks to the Vlerick programme we have already taken the first step in the right direction. The two modules on leadership and change are focused on objectives including: getting to know each other better; learning about and understanding each other’s leadership styles; improving cooperation and strengthening the management team’s change management skills.”

“We currently still use the action plans developed by the participants during one of the modules.”
Klaas Roelof Hofman, Marketing, Cooperation and Communications Manager at Rabobank

Two three-day events

In close discussions with Rabobank, Vlerick compiled two modules, each lasting three days. An important consideration was that the management wanted to get to know each other better considering the many changes they have undergone. The first module took place in December 2015 at the Vlerick campus in Leuven, and the second in late January 2016 at the Ghent campus. The first three-day event was centred on the theme of leadership. Using interactive methods, Vlerick professor Peter De Prins provided various exercises and mini-case studies on leadership styles, the difference between leadership and management, and the link between leadership and strategy. In particular the concept of Non Negotiable Rules was seen by many as a key point to take away. Klaas Roelof Hofman: “Through various assignments, in which someone different took the lead each time, the participants learnt a great deal about their strengths and points to be worked on as regards leadership. The group process and the group interaction also taught them a great deal about making decisions and implementing challenging assignments.”

Outdoor day, Active Learning

The second module focused in detail on change management. Peter De Prins went through the psychology of change with the participants and constructed a session around the new ‘batteries of change’ model. The fundamentals of change were covered and over the three days, they worked towards a personal action plan for all participants. During the preparations, Rabobank had stressed that the programme should also include an ‘outdoor day’ with ‘active learning’ elements. Klaas Roelof Hofman: “The outdoor day took place at the La Foresta estate in Vaalbeek where Outward Bound worked with the group on a day of experiential learning. The combination of theory, practical applications and exercises and an outdoor day focused on gaining experiential knowledge appealed to us greatly as a group.” 

Tangible results

“Beside the fact that we got better acquainted with each other and gained a better understanding of each other’s qualities, we also know where the barriers to successful change lie. We have learned how to deal with resistance and how you can promote change. It is great to see that the foundations for concrete actions have been laid during the course, which the departments worked with afterwards. During the second day of the first module, participants were asked to define action plans and develop them for implementing changes within the bank over the next three months. These are still being used today. They have thus proved extremely valuable. We achieved our goals; we have had a few good days together and have given a concrete follow-up to the action plan. The course was rated as very good to excellent, and that says enough.”

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