Zurich Financial Services : Creating a groundswell for change

Between 2003 and 2006, Learning Quest implemented a cutting edge leadership program for Zurich Financial Services Australia’s top 125 leaders from its general insurance, life insurance and investment businesses.

Former Zurich Human Resources Manager Kristen Miller says the four-year leadership program not only created a groundswell for change in the company but was a life-changing experience for many of its senior managers.

“Learning Quest’s program was really quite radical and pushed the boundaries,” says Kristen, who is now Head of Human Resources for Westpac Pacific Banking. “It was way ahead of its time and best practice for Australia.”

“From a cultural perspective, the program had a huge impact on our company. It created a groundswell that got buy-in from leaders at all levels, from the CEO down – so much so that anyone who didn’t step up to living the organisation’s values stood out. So it became a platform for change and managing poor performers.”

“In my whole career, this was the only time that I had participants coming up to me, sometimes years after the program, and saying it had really changed their lives and made them into better people.”

Learning Quest’s program incorporated a residential component, various offsites and ongoing coaching with 360-degree feedback. Kristen says one of the great things about the program was that it allowed people to systematically increase their self-awareness and embed new skills over time.

“It was powerful because it allowed participants to put a mirror up to themselves, via peer feedback and simulation exercises, and what they saw wasn’t always pretty,” says Kristen.

“There were some serious trust issues in one of our leadership teams at one stage, so we asked Connie Henson to organise an offsite for them. Her brief was to sort out the elephant in the room; there was no agenda. Connie was amazing. Her mediation approach enabled the team to sort out their issues and function normally again.”

Off the back of the leaders program, Learning Quest also implemented a customised leadership development program for Zurich’s intermediaries (insurance brokers and financial advisers) and a self-leadership program for more than 350 of the company’s senior subject matter experts in 2007 and 2008.