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Case Study | Telia Company

The SML® Programme is providing the ‘quiet’ foundations for Telia’s purpose-driven transition.

The SML® Programme is being seen as the magic ingredient in Swedish telecommunications company effort to ensure its employees feel powered by purpose.

Self-Managing Leadership® (SML®) online is the digital platform adaptation of purpose-driven leadership consultancy Oxford Leadership’s original SML® programme, used by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies.

Brian Bacon, founder of Oxford Leadership and creator of Self-Managing Leadership®, describes it as “a framework for effectively aligning people and culture with purpose and strategy.”

The 10-step model helps participants identify their purpose, values and vision in order to understand the particular focus and character which defines their leadership. Participants learn how to influence change at the individual, team and organisation level.

The dynamic leadership development programme has already seen 3,000 of Telia’s 21,000 people participate.

“As the owner of that programme internally,” says Magnus Gronblad, Telia’s Group Lead, People Culture & Experience, “I have the privilege of driving greater well-being and self esteem throughout our organisation.”

So certain is Gronblad of the impact of SML Online on his colleagues and the health and success of the company, he is determined to find ways to make it accessible to every individual across Telia.

“I’m a man on a mission, yes,” he smiles. “Part of my purpose is to reach the many.”

Telia operates across six countries, one of them being Sweden, where the management were so impressed with SML Online that it recently mandated every manager to participate.

“Obviously that’s a great result,” says Gronblad, “but it’s also a mixed feeling for me because ideally, nobody would undergo training in self-leadership, because they’ve been told to. On the other hand, the more advocates we have, the better.”

But why does Gronblad feel SML Online so important to Telia? For him, he says, it’s a personal thing.

“If an individual can articulate their own purpose and values – probably things they unknowingly developed growing up – they’ll better understand why certain things are more important to them; why they react as they do in certain situations. They can better handle those situations.”

“Being closer to what makes you tick also grows your sense of confidence and self-esteem and can help you be calm in moments of stress or when things are going wrong. Building stronger individuals and self-managed leaders benefits the organisation in extremely powerful ways.”

Gronblad says the most effective way to get his colleagues interested in participating in SML Online is to tell the story of how he discovered his own values.

“I was bullied in school and got beaten. I tried to be the clown, or be someone else, just to survive the day. I was excluded and didn’t belong to a group as such. My three values are belonging, inclusion and authenticity. That’s the very short version of the story that helps me get people involved with SML Online.”

Gronblad’s work is supported by Telia’s HR leadership and the various country management teams across all of its markets for one simple reason: they’ve all participated in the programme.

His next ambition is to get new CEO Alisson Kirkby and her management team enrolled but he’s prepared to be patient. 

“Alisson is hard at work reinventing our purpose which obviously requires a great deal of focus. But she’s also working her way through not just this brief but all the other programmes and priorities across our and of course she’s doing all that while the company responds to the changes caused by COVID19.”

In the meantime, Gronblad is working with Oxford Leadership’s team to enable deeper and wider participation and engagement in the SML Online experience. “Until now we didn’t have the online platform in all languages which needed looking at because in our markets in the Baltics, not everyone is comfortable in English. 

“We’re also testing the platform as a tool to work in teams on development across functions as opposed to just being accessible to individuals. So far we have reached the early adopters and it’s a work in progress but if we could connect SML Online to the team journey, offering it as a tool to strengthen the way teams collaborate and build, it would be a phenomenally powerful exercise.”

Watch Telias internal video for the SML programme

As a result of the Oxford Leadership partnership and its SML Online platform, people, says Gronblad, feel more proud to work for Telia. “Those that do SML Online,” he says, “are thankful to Telia for investing in them as a person – they feel looked after in their personal and private lives as well as in the way they perform professionally. They’re proud of our strong people agenda and efforts to become a purpose driven organisation.”

As Gronblad continues to follow his purpose of nurturing the ground for others to grow, one assumes it’s only a matter of time before his new CEO hears of the quiet but powerful influence his work is having on the organisation she leads.

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