49ers Case Study

CASE STUDY: BWLI History with the San Francisco 49ers

BACKGROUND: This organization has a long and storied history of success, on and off the field. They were faced with, and focused on, a short term and large-scale goal: the building of the new $1B+ stadium and relocation to a nearby city (from San Francisco to Santa Clara, CA). This tangible outcome led to a singular focus aligned to project completion. However, once the project completed, leadership of business operations recognized the need to articulate a purpose deeper than a relocation, one winning season, or the finishing of a construction project. To make the situation even more chaotic, the organization went through a transition of staff and leadership positions both on and off the field. Compounding this was a large shift in focus from the singular goal of building the stadium, to the day-to-day running of the team and business enterprise associated with the stadium. The makeup of the team changed to a larger and younger talent pool. With the on-field team in a “rebuilding phase,” there was an absence of wins and this was translating into the culture of the business operations team of ~300 full time employees with another 900 part-time during any given event. With the business team having no ability to impact what happens on the field, the 49ers President was seeking a deeper sense of purpose. The other factors impacting the culture were the high cost of living in the Bay Area, a new stadium location that required a build-up of a new fan base, employee commuting time, relatively young tenure of the staff, new leadership, and an expectation to perform at the high levels typical of the organization’s past. The business was seeing a high turnover among the full and part time employees, low engagement scores, lack of teamwork across the various departments, dissatisfaction with overall compensation and benefits, and a frustration of the systems preventing employees from doing their best work. Enter the partnership between this organization and BWLI.

BWLI ENGAGEMENT: We began with Why. Regardless of wins and losses on the field or short term goals (project completion, wins, revenue collected, etc.), what does the organization stand for? Inspired, and in collaboration with Simon Sinek’s work and his team, we delivered a ‘Why Discovery’ event for the organization. This engagement is typically a two-day event with a cross-section of the organization to distill who the organization is on their best day. The result of this engagement with the president, and a representative senior cohort of the organization, was an understanding that the franchise existed, “To go one step further for someone so they feel a part of our family.” This would be the touchstone upon which future business and culture decisions would be decided. But writing an inspirational purpose statement is not enough.

Newness abounded: New leadership. A new staff. A new team. A new building (stadium). A new city. A new customer base. Where to begin? We started with a leadership training and team-building event called “Inspire Like a Leader” for the president and his senior team of 25 personnel. This event married individual leadership competencies to the organizational purpose and the behaviors that bring inspiration to life. Through a construct of knowing your purpose, sharing your purpose, building trust, growing your people and connecting, the leadership team came together to reflect and share on how they were going to show up to each other and to the people in their span of care. The result was aligned efforts towards a common purpose and a culture that drove the business. From this engagement came a desire to assess the current culture and make changes to align the work and behaviors to their purpose and values.
The organization was already running the typical engagement assessments and receiving data on said topic. BWLI conducted focused ‘Listening Sessions’ of groups up to 25 people per session throughout the organization to hear detailed and actionable stories of where the organization was living its purpose and values and where it was falling short. From a representative sample of the organization, an “Organizational Health Assessment” was produced, articulating quick fixes and medium and long term projects. This assessment isn’t just data, it highlights actual events for leadership to understand context and make appropriate changes or address communication deficiencies. And in any organization those gaps exist in two areas: behaviors and systems (the work itself). BWLI made recommendations to changing small things such as to-go boxes for the staff, to medium term projects such as the time accounting system. While these system changes were ongoing, building trust each step of the way, we worked in collaboration with the organization to close some of the gaps on the leadership behaviors of listening, coaching, emotional connection and building trust.

Over a three year (and ongoing) period, BWLI has conducted the following events:

  • Inspire Like a Leader event with the senior leadership team: we brought together all C-Suite leaders to work as a team and discover individual purpose and values, learn and interact with behaviors that lead to the belief of trust, grow individuals and organizational problem solving through coaching and connect with people and let them know that who they are and what they do matter through the leadership behavior of recognition and celebration.  From this event, the organization requested all leaders have this training.  Of note, this course sees a 100% repeat rate.  Each and every organization that’s ever taken this course has asked for more of it and more courses from BWLI for their leaders.
  • Inspire Like a Leader event with the senior leadership team:  we brought together all C-Suite leaders to work as a team and discover individual purpose and values, learn and interact with behaviors that lead to the belief of trust, grow individuals and organizational problem solving through coaching and connect with people and let them know that who they are and what they do matter through the leadership behavior of recognition and celebration.  From this event, the organization requested all leaders have this training.  Of note, this course sees a 100% repeat rate.  Each and every organization that’s ever taken this course has asked for more of it and more courses from BWLI for their leaders.
  • Trained organizational personnel on the ability to conduct focused listening sessions themselves in a train-the-trainer format.  As a result, the organization continues, to this day, to use this tool in their continued assessment methodology.
  • Represented the organization to their major sponsors with a keynote and Q&A on the competitive advantage of culture.
  • Conducted small team focused listening sessions to address tactical concerns within teams of the organization (legal, community relations, business analytics)
  • Facilitated an emotional intelligence course, Connect, to the leadership team.
  • Led several courses to the organization on better listening, discernment and relationships via the experiential course, Relate.
  • Ongoing leadership coaching and assistance designing and leading strategic annual meetings of the organization.

RESULTS: For the 4th consecutive year the organization is listed on the “Bay Area Best Places to Work” list. Turnover of personnel is markedly down. Engagement scores are increased across the board. Work systems have been changed to remove the frustration. Additional resources were brought to bear in the most necessary places, resulting in increased organizational performance. BWLI continues its long-standing relationship with the organization in supporting ongoing leadership development of new hires and facilitating continued learning and team-building with the senior leadership team.

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