A severe downturn in 2008 caused MGP Ingredients (MGPI), an Atchison, Kansas-based producer of ingredients and distillery products for food and non-food applications, to make sweeping changes in order to refocus its business. These included eliminating business lines, laying off nearly 60 percent of staff, and replacing many members of its executive and senior leadership teams with leaders recruited from companies with cultures MGPI wanted to emulate. As expected, in the aftermath, employee morale and productivity were impacted. To position the company to not just survive, but to rebound and succeed at a higher level than before, MGPI enrolled its top 31 leaders—from the CEO to the company’s corporate directors—and high-potential employees in a six-month Leadership Academy.
The Leadership Academy curriculum, which included 14 courses from DDI’s Interaction Management: Exceptional Leaders . . . Extraordinary Results® leadership development system, was strategically chosen to address the key behaviors required to turn the company toward a successful future. The classes were delivered by a DDI facilitator and held off-site at a location near MGPI’s headquarters. A variety of helpful tools were introduced throughout the six-month training that gave participants a common language and a set of behaviors to practice back on the job in their daily interactions with their team members and peers. Learning was reinforced when they discussed their progress or setbacks at subsequent class meetings.
MGPI is seeing signs that the key concepts of the training are taking root. Leaders are beginning to model the targeted behaviors and apply the language used in the courses. To increase accountability, each leader is now required to report progress on his or her performance management plan. Also, the organization plans to cascade the concepts down to the next level of staff and to high-potential employees below them. In addition to supporting a needed culture change, the Leadership Academy served as a retention and talent management tool. The Academy provided high-potential employees with the skills they need to progress to future leadership positions within the company. It also motivated leaders to plan more mindfully for their employees’ career paths and to choose assignments that support growth. Says president and CEO Tim Newkirk, “Today, we have a more energized culture. We are more proactive than reactive. We are not wasting time trying to work through the different aspects of change.”