How to Introduce Leadership Principles at Your Company

Portrait of Kevin Peters
Kevin Peters

Creating a culture at companies is hard. There are questions like what do employees value and what is Leadership like at the company? These are the core questions about the growth of companies and their employee’s behavior. Finding the values of the company is a tricky process. In this blog article, we will show you how to find values in your current company and also showcase some examples of larger companies you can look at. It does not matter if you work in a small or big company. These Leadership Principles can get applied to every company. I have worked at startups, 5-person companies, and at a bigger company and at all of those companies the values and leadership principles influenced the companies positively.

Get a Feeling What is out There

Most of the companies in this world publish their vision on their website. These visions are quite unspecific in most of the cases and do not reflect how employees should act. Most of the employees at a company want to grow their careers for different reasons. It could be the title they were always chasing or the promotion and the salary raise that is coming with it. Most of the companies do not bind the career progression to their values, unfortunately. It is hard to figure out how employees want to grow although there are several resources for progression or growth frameworks out there. We will cover three of the most prominent frameworks out there that can help you to see what personal career growth is like and how a company can support the employees with that said framework.

Every position in a company has different levels. For example, there might be a Junior Marketing Specialist, a Marketing Specialist, Marketing Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Vice President (VP) of Marketing, and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Every position comes with its responsibilities and skills someone has to acquire to fulfill the job. Every one of these positions can be outlied differently throughout different companies. As a company without these requirements, you might want to check how other companies define these positions.

Intercom

Intercom is a customer messaging tool that can be integrated into every website. It is a technology company. It also offers a public document on how Product Managers can grow inside the company. Product Managers in the company need to concentrate on the five Skill areas that include the following list.

  • Insight Driven
  • Strategy
  • Execution
  • Driving Outcomes
  • Leadership Behaviors

Each of the skill areas has different focus areas. For example for "Insight Driven" there are the focus areas:

  • Customer Focus
  • Analytics Focus
  • Competitive Insight

Each skill area has specific focus areas to give employees a clear path on what their responsibilities are. Each focus area has a small description and gives employees clear expectations of what they need to do.

Intercom also offers different kinds of positions for product managers depending on how good they perform. These positions are:

  • Associate Product Manager
  • Product Manager
  • Senior Product Manager
  • Principal Product Manager

Depending on which level or position an employee holds, expectations and requirements will be impacted regarding the skill areas and focus areas. You can find the full Product Manager Job Ladder under this link.

Monzo

Monzo, a challenger bank from the United Kingdom, released their progression framework to the public at the beginning of 2019. It is called Progression at Monzo and covers most of the competences in the company.

Monzo also offers a generic framework that people can inspect. The framework can be adapted quite well to create job ladders for every competence in your company. The generic ladder includes the skills:

  • Knowledge
  • Teamwork
  • Impact
  • Conduct
  • Communication

Monzo also has different expectations based on the level of your position. There is a Level 1 that is rather a junior position, and the levels go up to level 6 that are C-Level positions (for example, CEO or CTO).

For example, on "Level 2 Knowledge" these requirements are stated:

  • Identifies areas/subjects they do not know and proactively seeks out knowledge
  • Increased domain knowledge
  • Aware of their weaknesses

These are generic but can be applied to every position. For example, for Software Engineering the first example could be put into a situation where a Software Engineer is assigned to a task. This task involves dealing with a part of the software that the person never interacted with. The person knows another colleague of another team that dealt with this technology before and asks for help.

Increasing domain knowledge can happen in different ways. Everyone is different, but Software Engineers could share how they solved a code-related problem with everyone in the company if it could get applied to different places.

Being aware of weaknesses can be solved, for example, by asking for peer feedback for a simple task or project that got delivered. Asking for feedback is critical regarding this point.

You can find the Engineering Progression and all other departments of Monzo in their web application.

Square

Square is an American company that offers products regarding payments like a terminal where customers can pay with their card.

For their Engineering department, the company published a career ladder for the different Software Engineering positions they offer. They also got a leveling system that starts with L3 and goes up to L9. With L5 there are two different paths for engineers: Individual Contributor (IC) or Engineering Manager (EM). This is because the responsibilities between higher-level employees differ a lot. Square also mentions that the amount of years of experience is not a hard criterion to be rated for one level. They also acknowledge that not every criterion must be accomplished 100%, but Scope & Impact must be fulfilled.

For L3 and L4 employees the skill areas are:

  • Scope & Impact
  • Technical Execution
  • Ownership
  • Collaboration

With L5 the split between individual contributors and engineering managers becomes clear. Individual Contributors have the skill areas:

  • Scope & Impact
  • Technical Execution
  • Ownership
  • Collaboration
  • Team Building

Engineering Managers have the following skill areas:

  • Scope & Impact
  • Prioritization & Execution
  • Technical Excellence
  • Leadership & Collaboration
  • Team Building & Hiring
  • Coaching & Development

You can see that the difference in what employees should concentrate makes sense and will drive the engineering employees of Square in the right direction. You can find Square’s Engineering Career Ladder in their published spread sheet.

Ask the Employees

So now that you have learned how three other companies are structuring their career ladders or progression frameworks, it is time to learn how your current company reacts.

Finding out the values and what contributes to the growth of the employees is hard to find out. But you can create surveys to find these out. Every department should get a customized form of these surveys.

A good start is to look at Monzo’s generic framework. Take one department, for example, the engineering department, and adjust questions regarding the leadership principle. Regarding the skill areas you could ask something like the following:

  • "When and How did you get taught something lately technology-wise?"
  • "When and How did you get taught something recently company-wise? Think of business processes?"
  • "Did you know about our engineering blog where knowledge is shared?"
  • "Do you like the technical meetups we host, and what would you improve? Do you learn something by attending them?"
  • "Do you know who to contact if you ever have a question technology-wise?"

With answers to these questions, you will know if the employees value the skill knowledge a lot and if it should be established as one of the key skill areas or leadership principles. Of course, this should be extended to not just include Monzo’s Skill areas but also by other companies.

We, getworkrecognized, are committed to creating these survey templates for you to use. Stay tuned.

Analyze the Answers

After receiving most of the survey results, you can start analyzing them. See in which parts the company is most engaged to and choose these leadership principles or skill areas as core principles. This process will include a lot of reading and understanding of the answers by the employees extensively and can take a lot of time. Rate every answer on how much it attributes to the leadership principle from 0 to 10 and feel if people can resonate with it. After all, you can take an average of this score and assign it to each leadership principle. If one of the questions is different from the rest of the questions by far it might be worth it to split this question or skill area into a separate area. Normally you should target around 5-10 focus skill areas or leadership principles.

Do it over Again

After doing the survey once and figuring out the core leadership principles, it is time to do the survey again. We recommend doing this after around 4 months when the first survey was sent out to the employees. The results might differ and give you more insights into the progression of the company. Ask the different question that might be open to someone and you need to get insights of.

Summarize Results

After the second survey, it is time to summarize the results. Focus on your scoring system of the answers again and try to find the strongest leadership principles. Especially focus on the different departments and try to create some examples of how people resonate with individual leadership principles.

Make the Leadership Principles Part of Your Company

After doing all the surveys, it is time to figure out how these principles can be applied to the whole company. If you are not in a leadership position of HR in your company it might be worth it to book a meeting with them or the C-Level regarding this topic and your research data. Ask them how they feel regarding the leadership principles you have worked out and also validate your decisions with the data you have worked on. In the following chapters, we will give you examples of how these principles can be put into reality throughout your company and how it will help to form a clear path to success within the company.

Discussions and Decisions

All of the principles you have found should be applied to meetings and discussions. For example, Klarna’s Principles shine easily in there. "Start Small and Learn Fast" will describe that before deciding on a big project it should be started small. You do not have to plan everything through and through to push a specific idea. Come up with a big idea of what could be but focus on the smallest subset of the problem first.

Another principle is "Customer Obsession". This could be applied for example when deciding between two different ideas. The one that affects customers more heavily in a positive way should be preferred.

Career Path and Matrix

The most important application of the leadership principles in the company is probably the career path or career matrix for the departments. For every department try to layout the positions and levels. Levels can be defined in a numeric range, for example from level 1 to level 6, but can be also laid out with simple titles. The levels are listed on the x-axis and then list all of the leadership principles on the y-axis.

Now comes the hard parts. Write down the requirements for the position for each level and each leadership principle. This can take some time, but also ask for feedback by the employees how they feel about the responsibilities. This works best if you ask the employees individually on what they think regarding the level they are currently in, the level they were before, and the upcoming level. Even though you should take the next level with a grain of salt because employees will underestimate what is expected so they can get promoted faster. After creating all of these requirements publish this matrix at your company. It should be public for everyone and should get introduced as early as possible during the onboarding process of every employee.

Performance Reviews

Once the career matrix for every department is created, this matrix can be also applied during the promotion cycle. The promotion cycle is different for each company. In bigger companies, it is normal to have a period once or twice per day where employees can ask for a promotion and get a performance review. In smaller companies, individuals will ask their manager and will start the promotion process in the company. Normally the promotion process includes a round of peer-review. This means that every colleague of an employee rates the employee based on the leadership principles of the career matrix. Most of the employees forget what they have done in let’s say the last 6 months themselves, so remembering what the colleague has done is even harder. We recommend using getworkrecognized to track your work achievements and creating a brag document on what you have achieved throughout the last 6 months. This sheet can be then shared with the colleagues and these can rate your actions outlined in the self-review. It will help them to create an outstanding but true review of the employee.

After receiving the feedback, the employee has a good idea of how they were rated and if they are ready for the next level. Reaching the next level can be based on different criteria. For example, some companies require that an employee must fulfill 100% of the responsibilities outlined on the level they want to reach but others say that just some leadership principle must be fulfilled. This is something you also have to find out during the 1-on-1’s with the individual departments.

Summary

This blog article introduced you to the world of skill areas, leadership principles, career matrix, or career paths and gave you an idea on how to find the principles in your company if you have not already. Keep following our blog and make sure to use our tool to track your work achievements easily so you can focus on getting promoted rather than sitting in the same position.