apt-400x400 APT Travel Group

APT Travel Group

Case Study

APT Travel Group

The APT Travel Group (ATG) is a global business with an extensive portfolio of touring and cruising brands including APT, Travelmarvel, TravelGlo, Botanica World Discoveries, Captains Choice and Antarctica Flights. As Australia’s largest locally owned tour company and most awarded, it maintains an unparalleled commitment to innovation in defining what travel means, not only in Australia but the world.

The APT Travel Group (ATG) is a global business with an extensive portfolio of touring and cruising brands including APT, Travelmarvel, TravelGlo, Botanica World Discoveries, Captains Choice and Antarctica Flights. As Australia’s largest locally owned tour company and most awarded, it maintains an unparalleled commitment to innovation in defining what travel means, not only in Australia but the world.

Situation

Ashleigh Smith, Chief Customer & People Officer for ATG engaged The Leadership Sphere to deliver a senior leadership development program to better connect the senior leadership team and other leaders across the business with the overall strategy of the group. Whilst the strategy for the group was clear, it was felt that investing in leadership capability development was the next important step for the leadership group. ATG wanted to reinforce to leaders the importance of leadership development and that everyone had a personal responsibility to be the best leader they could be.

Objectives

Establish a framework to move from clarity to capability

The central purpose of the leadership development program was to move beyond the clarity phase and into capability development. It was to include leaders at every level of the business, not just the senior leadership team. The innovation required from the group to continue to be the leading tour company in Australia was equally a leadership challenge as it was a technical challenge. Given the size of the group involved, the complexities that the travel industry presents and the importance of getting the program right, ATG knew they needed a highly credible partner with the know-how, strength, and character to make it work. The Leadership Sphere had come highly recommended as a partner that would fit the business. A partner that could relate to the culture of the group and establish a safe environment to challenge everyone to become better people and stronger leaders.

“We needed a highly credible partner with the know-how, strength and character to fulfil the requirements of the brief and we knew The Leadership Sphere were the right fit.”

Develop the right leadership mindset

The objective of the initial stage of the leadership development program was to make everyone mindful of their role as leaders and to provide a leadership methodology and framework to guide the right behaviours. It was all about developing a leadership mindset for reflective conversations with self, others and across all functions of the business.

Enable transformational change and innovation

The executive was aware of the transformational challenges that the group were facing. It was realised that innovation was required at every layer of the organisation for the group to better deal with the risks and opportunities that lay ahead. For that reason, a broader leadership responsibility and capability was required to ensure fresh ideas and challenges were coming from all levels and roles within the business.

Approach

Self-reflection

The first part of the leadership program was to establish a leadership framework as a basis for self-reflection. This was a structured approach to explore what leadership meant and to have a strong methodology and consistent approach to leadership at each layer of the organisation. This was all about the opportunity to become better leaders. The leadership workshops helped people realise that leadership started with the individual, teams and then across the whole organisation. The Leadership Sphere through a combination of pre-work, individual assessments and practical examples, were able to help everyone to self-reflect, challenge and understand their own leadership mindset and how that fit with the overall culture of the leadership group. It reinforced the importance of maintaining a safe place for people to present their ideas, challenge the status quo and to openly give and receive feedback.

“The journey that The Leadership Sphere took everyone on was one of self-reflection, challenge and realisation.”

Empowering others

The second part of the leadership program was to view leadership as a way of empowering others to be the best they could be. Executives believed that the strategy was sound and that the purpose of ATG was clear. The focus was about helping and that transformation had to start with each person in the room. The leadership group needed to create, maintain and consistently work on building a culture that was supportive and that could innovate in the right areas and for the right reasons. The work that was undertaken in the leadership workshops allowed people to move beyond self and to think about the leadership styles that would help others, in their own teams and across functions. This presented enormous opportunities for the group to get in touch with who they really were and the way in which they went about their day to day. Each person was able to understand their own leadership style, what was working that they could maximise and areas for improvement. For many of the leaders in the group, this was the part of the leadership training that had most impact.

“The work that was undertaken in the leadership workshops enabled people to move beyond self and to think about the leadership styles that would empower others, in their own teams and across functions.”

Driving action

The final part of the leadership workshops was to put together an action plan. The rapport that The Leadership Sphere had gained with the leadership group was pivotal to being able to challenge the group in a constructive way and to build a practical action plan. It was commented on by several of the senior leaders that Phillip Ralph, the main facilitator from The Leadership Sphere, was able to combine a strong level of intellect with practical application and made the leadership development program unique and one that was accepted by everyone.

“The Leadership Sphere were able to combine a strong level of intellect with practical application and that was what made the leadership development program unique and one that was accepted by everyone.”

Outcomes

Connect strategy to personal responsibility

ATG felt that leadership capability development has helped improve all key metrics across the business. As one of the most established Chief Customer & People Officer’s in-country, Ashleigh Smith had worked with the executive to understand that having a clear strategy was important and that workplace culture was fundamental to delivering with impact. The leadership development program delivered by The Leadership Sphere played a pivotal role in connecting business strategy with the personal responsibility of every leader in the organisation to drive that strategy. It gave everyone the confidence to self-reflect and engage with others in a meaningful way. Several months after the leadership workshops it was recognised that everyone involved in the program were a better version of themselves because a stronger connection was made between their role as a leader and the overall direction of the business.

“Everyone involved in the program was a better version of themselves because a strong connection was made between their role as a leader and the overall direction of the business.”

Establish business impact teams

The leadership development program also helped the leadership group to align their mindset and approach to the challenges that were being faced on a day to day. It enabled the group to go beyond their own projects and goals and to think more creatively about leveraging the diversity and expertise within their own teams and other functions of the business. The establishment of business impact teams and the framework for them to operate in was one of the best outcomes of the program. It was recognised that this initiative alone resulted in more innovation, drive and engagement at all levels within the organisation. Ashleigh Smith commented that the introduction of business impact teams was one of the key initiatives to reinvigorate subject matter experts and empower those that are closest to our customers and to challenge better ways of doing things internally.

“It has been one of the key initiatives to reinvigorate subject matter experts and empower those that are closest to our customers and to challenge better ways of doing things internally.”

Build the foundation to move from capability to contribution

The leadership capability development program was all about moving beyond strategic clarity and purpose to developing capability within the leadership group. The goal was achieved and the frameworks that were established has enabled further development activities to be undertaken. This has contributed to continued operational growth. The senior leadership team also believe the program has given them the confidence to invest further in the people across all business units, as the organisation moves from capability development to the contribution of every role within the organisation. The results have gone beyond the internal capability development of the leadership team. It has resulted in improved customer service and brand recognition for ATG. This was exactly what ATG had in mind when they engaged The Leadership Sphere to help in the first place!

“The success of the program has given us the confidence to move from capability development of the leadership group to contribution across every role within the organisation.”

The Leadership Sphere

The Leadership Sphere is one of the most highly regarded leadership development partners for small and medium business and larger organisations in Australia. This includes leadership development programs, building high performing teams, executive coaching and other leadership tools and services. We are grateful of the opportunity to work with Ashleigh Smith, Chief Customer & People Officer and the leadership team at the ATP Travel Group and for the commitment and actions taken from everyone involved in the program.

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