Rockwell Collins Inc. is a pioneer in the development and deployment of innovative avionics, communications and electronics solutions for commercial and government applications, headquartered in Cedar Rapids Iowa USA. The company’s expertise in avionics, electronics, communications, information management and simulation and training is delivered by more than 20,000 employees, and a global service and support network that crosses 27 countries.

100 + managers from Rockwell Collins Germany gathered for their bi-annual development meeting in the picturesque town of Weinheim, close to Heidleberg. Their challenge in 2014 was to consolidate steps ‘to become the company our customers want us to be’. Following a shift to a matrix structure the continuing challenge is behavioural and cultural. Customers want a one Rockwell Collins culture with singular relationship access and a consistent experience across all European and US operations.

They agreed with the Engage for Change mantra that the customer experience reflects the employee experience.

In a highly interactive session the 100 + managers explored:

  • From our customer’s perspective how integrated we are today in Germany, across Europe and the US
  • How employee engagement will enhance customer experience
  • How engaged are our people in the context of best practice provided by Engage for Change
  • The manager’s role in engaging their people day to day operationally and in big ticket change and strategy
  • Insight about the kind of leader we are

The issue with getting managers to adopt more effective ways to engage their people lies in enabling them to think beyond a skills focus where they can add more techniques to their way of managing, to insight about the kind of manager/leader they have become.

In our ‘Heroes and Rogues Gallery’ exercise people looked back over their childhood and career to identify the role models, the heroes and the rogues, that have tacitly influenced their style of leadership and their pattern of engaging their people. We are all mimics to a degree and we do so largely unaware of the patterns we are repeating. Taking responsibility for the ‘minutiae of our personal presence’ requires insight about our presence that our people experience. Many of us never reflect on the impact of our presence and the influences that have contributed to it.

With some insight about the presence we provide or inflict we can explore the two key ingredients of more effective engagement:

  • The pattern of our decision making (a largely invisible cognitive process)
  • And the styles of performance we unconsciously adopt when we interact with our teams (a social performance)

Individual managers can then validate their own perception about themselves with their teams and determine what subtle or dramatic shifts in behaviour will result in better team performance and their own sense of achievement. Many managers will view all of this as a skills exercise and will benefit little at all. Contrastingly those who seek insight about their presence and pattern of decision making will benefit as will their teams and colleagues.