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  Brief Cases


  Client: Federated Department Stores
  Participants: High-potential leaders
  Destinations: • Hone leadership skills
• Collaborate under pressure
• Allocate people, time, and budgets
• Create coachable moments
  Leapfrog Path: During a customized Novotran™ simulation, team members collaborate to build a motorless vehicle to meet a set of demanding (and shifting) customer specifications. Along the way, they catch themselves being themselves—and learn from it.

Federated Builds Leadership Bench

Linkage/Leapfrog partnership helps 2004 hi-po’s create momentum

Federated Department Stores actively builds the bench strength of its leadership. Great talent exists for current roles. However, challenges facing the department store industry— competing with mass merchants and specialty retailers—create an even greater need to strengthen and retain an internal talent pool to fill emerging new executive roles.

Federated launched its first Accelerated Leadership Development Program (ALDP) in 2001 to hone the leadership skills of its high potentials (hi-po’s). Four years later, Federated reports an increased awareness organization-wide of opportunities for advancement within Federated and a common framework for identifying future senior leaders.

Developing Leaders is a Process
At Federated, developing individual leaders is not a training event, but a multi-year process involving leadership assessments, coaching, development plans and opportunities to “Step Up” one’s leadership skills. Senior executives and top management play an active role designing the process and actively coaching program participants. And, as a way to indoctrinate leadership principles into the culture at Federated, all ALDP graduates are invited to participate in learning activities with future hi-po groups, continuously feeding and growing the alumni network.

Leapfrog’s Novotran™ Simulates Creating Momentum
Experiential learning, involving action and application, is a key approach utilized in the design of Federated’s ALDP curriculum. Each year curriculum designers are challenged to build upon key themes from previous years to integrate and fully engage the returning alumni participants.

Analyzing the leader’s role in the development of high performing teams is a leadership challenge explored each year. A pro cycling “spin” was applied for the 2004 program. Participants learned about pro cycling strategies and tactics and utilized Lance Armstrong’s compelling comeback story as a metaphor to frame their conversations about leadership and team development in the retail industry.

Linkage, Inc. - ALDP curriculum designers and a global organizational development company that specializes in leadership development—reached out for Leapfrog to bring this teamwork analogy alive for Federated. Leapfrog and Linkage have partnered on a variety of client projects, including learning simulations and community service projects to activate leadership development content for each of the seven years of Wyeth’s Global Leadership Program.

For Federated, Leapfrog’s simulation Novotran™ was customized to fit the cycling metaphor and to provide an opportunity for participants to practice leadership and high performance teaming in a compressed timeframe.

In Novotran™, participants develop a strategy and work plan to allocate their people, time and budget resources as they tackle the challenge of building a motor-less vehicle to meet a set of demanding (and shifting) customer specs. As a team they can see how their leadership skills, teamwork and implementation stack up against a competing group of equally capable peers.

“It’s like getting a small taste for being a member of a senior leadership team,” said Betsy Koonce, Linkage’s Director of Consulting, Central Region. “The beginning warm-up exercise led by Leapfrog’s Chris Olex was surprisingly successful at getting this hi-po group to loosen up and have fun before they focused on the simulation challenge. It’s the simple things that you do as a leader – like encouraging having fun – that really get people performing at their best. Leaders who deliberately build relationships accelerate the performance of their teams.”

Debbie Friedman, Operating Vice President, Federated Leadership Institute, adds: “The Novotran™ simulation was highly engaging and thought provoking. The hi-po’s got an opportunity to ‘catch themselves being themselves’ in leadership roles and team situations. Afterwards, with the help of one-on-one coaching, they were able to apply what they’d learned from the simulation to enhance their leadership skills.”

Lessons Learned
In the debriefing immediately following Novotran™, participants examined their experience and used the metaphor of the Lance Armstrong success story to bring to life five key insights regarding leadership and creating momentum. So how do leaders create momentum? According to the hi-po’s at Federated they:

• Convey a compelling vision;
• Develop a clear strategy to bring the vision to life;
• Invest themselves;
• Engage the right team; and
• Create the environment for synchronized, disciplined execution.

David Giber, Senior Vice President, Linkage, Inc., summarizes: "These leadership lessons are applicable across many industries, especially those where there is a challenge in building and maintaining momentum and where the cycle of business is like a stage race— sometimes you are sprinting; sometimes you are huffing and puffing as you climb a hill; and once in a while, it’s a great downhill ride and you have to hang on so you don’t lose control."

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2007 UPDATE:
Check out Debbie Friedman’s recently released book, Demystifying Outsourcing: The Trainer's Guide to Working with Vendors and Consultants (Pfeiffer, 2006).

The book focuses on the partnership that is required between vendor/consultant and internal training manager to ensure project success.
  Client: JetBlue
  Participants: JetBlue General Managers
  Destinations: • Break down barriers
• Build a vibrant corporate culture
• Learn via active collaboration
  Leapfrog Path: The customized Leapfrog program, Takeoff™ helps foster collaboration by having teams, design, build and deploy model airplanes—learning by doing.

Down-to-earth JetBlue GMs Takeoff!™ Serving others is rooted in JetBlue’s culture

In the struggling airline industry, JetBlue stands out. JetBlue clearly distinguishes itself in the marketplace. With similar clarity, JetBlue leadership carefully crafts the corporate culture. Leapfrog facilitated a custom program designed to help JetBlue General Managers build deeper relationships to foster even greater collaboration between crewmembers in different cities.

A whole day of team building?! Quite honestly, we were skeptical that JetBlue’s General Managers would fully engage for a full-day program we dubbed Takeoff!™. We imagined high-powered executives ducking out into the hallways whenever they got a chance to make VIP calls on their cell phones. After all, each GM is responsible for managing all of the crewmembers and external relationships for a JetBlue destination city. (How interesting that in the JetBlue vernacular “crewmember” is used to refer to every employee regardless of rank and signifies that everyone belongs to the same team.) Instead, we were greeted by casually dressed, down-to-earth people who were open to experiencing whatever the day brought them. This was impressive at the time and even more so now looking back.

A recent interview with David Neeleman, JetBlue Chairman and CEO, published in Harvard Business Review provides a view into the JetBlue egalitarian culture.

(“Lessons from the Slums of Brazil: David Neeleman on the Origins of JetBlue’s Culture”, Forethought Conversation, Harvard Business Review, March 2005)

In the Harvard Business Review interview, Neeleman references two insights from his personal experience 20 years ago on a mission in Brazil for his church that helped him shape JetBlue’s culture:

- Eliminate noticeable differences in wealth and status (based on Neeleman’s observation, the poor people he met in Brazil were happier than the rich and more likely to share what they had); and

- Provide opportunities to serve others (from Neeleman’s realization that he derived great pleasure from helping other people).

If you’ve flown JetBlue, you may have even been served snacks by Neeleman, who uses his business trips as opportunities to serve customers directly. JetBlue planes have only one class of seats and all signs of class distinction are absent from JetBlue offices. JetBlue crewmembers are also very caring and supportive of each other. JetBlue runs a Crewmember Crisis Fund that all crewmembers contribute to and is used to provide financial help beyond standard full benefits for crewmembers during difficult times. Supporting each other and serving customers blend together.

Reflecting now on our day with the GMs in March brings to mind the matter-of-fact way a few of them unobtrusively excused themselves from the activities for an hour or so. At the end of the day they explained to the entire group that they had received a call that a “crewmember” had a health “crisis” and they wanted to call the hospital to check in. It really gives you the sense that crewmembers are treated like family.

From our perspective (albeit limited), JetBlue is as successful branding its corporate culture as it is marketing its services. Leapfrog sincerely looks forward to serving JetBlue again in the future!

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  Client: Wyeth
  Participants: High Potential Leaders
  Destinations: • Put leadership into action
• Build teams, networks, and relationships
• Create coachable moments
• Collaborate with the community
  Leapfrog Path: This custom, ongoing program builds teamwork and
leadership skills by helping a community in Trenton, NJ—revitalizing the Academy Street Community Garden.

Doing Good Work with Wyeth: Team-building and Re-Building a Community Garden

Last year on October 22nd, Leapfrog joined 35 Wyeth volunteers and 12 YouthBuild students to rebuild Academy Street Community Garden in Trenton, New Jersey.

After passing the impressive state house, the bus eventually weaves its way through the increasingly rundown and densely populated neighborhood streets of Trenton. The bus arrives at its destination. It’s October 22nd and 35 high potential leaders from Wyeth step off the bus and are greeted by others who have already arrived at The Academy Street Garden. Present are:

- Representatives from Isles (, a nationally recognized nonprofit community development and environmental organization with the mission to foster more self-reliant families in healthy, sustainable communities;

- Twelve 16-24 year-old volunteers from YouthBuild who are learning construction and life skills by building affordable housing for homeless and low-income people;

- Representatives from Linkage Inc. ( a global organizational development company specializing in leadership development; and

- A handful of others including employees from Wyeth’s Leadership Center and corporate Facilities Management function, Trenton’s landscape architect, workers from a landscaping company and some neighbors.

And Leapfrog is proud to have been at The Academy Street Garden on that day too. By working together, this collective group created an oasis for local gatherings as well as a garden that will be maintained by four neighborhood families and yield a harvest to be shared by several city blocks worth of families.

For the best 7 years, Leapfrog has played a key role in activating the content of an 8-day leadership curriculum designed by Linkage Inc. for Wyeth’s Global Leadership Program. And for the second year in a row, Leapfrog has created a community service experience that brings to life the 360 degrees feedback tool the Wyeth’s leaders use to enhance their leadership competencies by experiencing leadership in an entirely different way than they do at work. One participant said: “It gives me an opportunity not to just learn about leadership, but to do leadership…to put leadership into action.”

Like the way all big projects should be tackled, work was broken into smaller doable bits. In a fun, energizing session the prior evening, Wyeth leader participants competed as teams to select and emotionally commit to achieving the goals spelled out on various “project cards” that became their team’s work assignments the next day.

Exhausted and elated at the end of the day on the bus ride back, everyone was absolutely amazed that in 8 short hours, the old garden areas was cleared, 10 raised planting beds were rebuilt and planted, a storage shed was constructed, picnic tables and a brick entranceway to the garden were installed.

Afterwards, Jeff Peris, Wyeth’s Chief Learning Officer, marveled at the power of this type of experience: “Participant comments following last year’s Community Service project can be summed up with one I’ll long remember: ‘This wasn’t just the best Leadership Development and Teambuilding experience I’ve had…it was one of the most remarkable days of my career! Thank you for this opportunity to demonstrate leadership in action.’ When you realize the impact made personally on participants and in parallel the greater community, it’s no wonder why Wyeth and Leapfrog already have plans underway for another Community Service project next year.

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