Zenger Folkman + Harris Corporation

Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader Helps Harris Develop Strong Pipeline of Mid-Level Managers Poised to Handle Changing Government Acquisition.

The Problem

Harris Corporation is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 125 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the company has approximately $5.5 billion in annual revenue and about 15,000 employees—including 6,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best-in-class Assured Communications.

It’s also dedicated to developing strong leaders for years to come and providing all employees with opportunities for growth. “Failure to do either truly limits attracting and retaining talent,” said John Roy, Vice President of Human Resources in the Government Communication Systems (GCS) segment at Harris Corporation.

“When I started in this role in 2011, I told our group president that whether we are in our jobs for one year or ten years, we will have failed if we haven’t left a legacy of leadership,” Roy said. “One of my priorities was to figure out how to instill the right behaviors and capabilities to grow leadership in our employees and to ensure they continue to have jobs at Harris as long as they want them.”

GCS faced several challenges in this quest. First, with the senior workforce heading towards retirement, the organization needed to develop a strong pipeline of mid-level leaders to replace them. Second, with 75 percent of the segment’s revenues coming from the U.S. government, it was critical that GCS prepared all leaders to handle the changing government acquisition process. Many projects are now a fixed-cost model, so when a price is bid and accepted, no additional funding is allocated. Third, GCS needed to be prepared to deal with the potential for government sequestration, which might require the segment to make strategic cuts as well. As a result of these changes, GCS needed to equip its leaders to use better judgment in bidding and be more agile and more diligent in how they executed their responsibilities.

Roy knew that GCS needed a focused leadership development program, but he needed to convince the executive team, including group president Sheldon Fox, that it would benefit the company. Fox focused on quantitative benefits, so Roy knew he would want to know they would get measurable results before he signed off.

The Solution

While participating in an event at the University of Southern California, Roy attended a presentation from guest speaker Joe Folkman, one of two authors behind the best-selling book, The Extraordinary Leader.

“What was most intriguing to me is that Joe works in algorithms and statistics, just like our segment president,” Roy said. “I thought he might have some quantitative measurements that would help companies understand how strengthening leadership adds value to the bottom line. I was right.”

Drawing on data from more than 200,000 individuals who rated more than 25,000 leaders in a wide range of companies and industries, Dr. Folkman and Dr. John “Jack” Zenger proved in The Extraordinary Leader that the effectiveness of an organization’s leaders has a direct impact on employee commitment, customer satisfaction, innovation, and ultimately, profitability.

The Extraordinary Leader program helps managers become better leaders by:

  • applying a cross-training approach to leadership strength development
  • understanding how extraordinary leaders can double profits
  • utilizing 360-degree feedback to identify key strengths/competencies
  • creating an action-oriented development plan that facilitates goal setting and follow through
  • learning to apply leadership development in daily, on-the-job activities

A Zenger Folkman client executive worked with Roy to fully identify the organization’s needs and overall objectives. Zenger Folkman then illustrated how the research and strengths-based methodology of The Extraordinary Leader could develop leaders that would take Harris into the future. The next step was to introduce the concepts to Sheldon Fox, gain his buy-in and ensure alignment with his vision of beneficial development. Fox agreed with the concepts and wanted his entire executive team of over 15 leaders to experience an abbreviated version of The Extraordinary Leader workshop as well as complete the 360-degree assessment associated with the program. During the executive program, each participant received their own personal feedback report and learned how others perceived their effectiveness on the 16 researched leadership competencies that differentiate the best leaders from their average or poor counterparts. They also identified their strengths and determined a focus for development.

“We have a leader in Sheldon Fox who was very candid about the feedback in his initial assessment,” Roy said. “He challenged himself, he challenged all of us and if you can get a leader who does that, it can be tremendous for the dynamics of that team because they see a leader who is authentic, who is vulnerable and who says, ‘Hey, look team, here are my deficiencies, let me see your deficiencies and let’s figure out how we can overcome them as a team.’”

After Fox’s candor and their interactive discussions, they recognized the benefits The Extraordinary Leader could bring to the company’s bottom line. They were sold. As a result, The Extraordinary Leader workshop became the “kickoff ” component of GCS’ year-long Business Leadership Development (BLD) program, which targets 25 mid-level managers per year.

“There are thousands of books out there that try to tell you what it really takes to be a great leader, but through their years of research, Jack and Joe have truly developed a very simple approach to developing people,” Roy said. “You focus on their strengths and what is truly important to them so they can go from being ordinary leaders to becoming extraordinary leaders to becoming inspiring leaders to hopefully becoming exceptional leaders. As a result, these leaders will be prepared to lead Harris for years to come.”

The positioning of the workshop is key. The participants start their year-long developmental journey understanding how they are perceived as leaders, learning how to leverage their strengths, and developing an action plan that will serve as the road map for their development over the next 12 months.

To supplement the year-long schedule of classes and organized development opportunities, GCS also provided interactive webinars and a newsletter to help these leaders recall and stay focused on their own leadership development plan.

The Results

“After participating in The Extraordinary Leader workshops, our people recognize the value of developing their individual competencies and feel better equipped to interact with business leaders and drive the positive change we need from a leadership development perspective,” Roy said. “They learned how truly simple it is to become a great leader by applying Zenger Folkman’s unique model and methodology.”

The strong partnership the two companies have created stems in large part from Zenger Folkman’s responsiveness, its willingness to accommodate specific requests, its competitive price point and the overall collaboration and teamwork. “All of these benefits came together to form an incredibly beneficial relationship for both Zenger Folkman and Harris Corporation. It’s been phenomenal and has generated tremendous reviews throughout the organization.”

GCS is preparing for another group of segment leaders to participate in BLD. Most of the leaders are “chomping at the bit” to start because of the excellent feedback and visible results emerging from the first two groups of participants.

“It’s only been two years, but we’re already beginning to see real leaders being created from these programs,” Roy said. “I’m now even more confident that we’re developing a strong leadership pipeline ready to meet the challenging changes within our industry. This will make Harris an even stronger company able to retain and attract the highest caliber employees.”

The Problem

With the senior workforce heading towards retirement, the company needed to develop a strong pipeline of mid-level leaders to replace them—and to better address the challenges set forth by the U.S. government’s changing acquisition process.

The Solution

  • Harris implemented Zenger Folkman’s Extraordinary Leader program.

The Results

  • Harris’ employees recognize the value of developing their individual strengths and feel better equipped to interact with business leaders and drive the positive change the company needs as the industry evolves.

About Harris Corporation

Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 125 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the company has approximately $5.5 billion in annual revenue and about 15,000 employees — including 6,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best-in-class Assured Communications®.

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