Acorn Speeds Carillon telent's Rising Stars into Orbit

Acorn speeds Carillion telent's Rising Stars into orbit

The Carillion telent JV was facing challenges with both the scale and the complexity of the Openreach programme. In order to meet this challenge they wanted to retain and accelerate the performance of their emerging high potential leadership talent, who had previously received little strategic development and were learning ‘on the fly’, and ensure adequate support and development of their capability.

The programme was aimed at personnel who demonstrated leadership potential, and were either in junior managerial roles or had been identified as future leadership material. Selection was by line manager nomination: there were thirteen participants from across and at different levels in the organisation.


The Rising Stars programme spanned one year, and was structured around a blended approach comprising five elements:

  • A one-day launch event: to fully engage participants in the process. The day was introduced by senior managers, and was composed of workshops on leadership and the introduction of the 360-degree feedback process to be used in the programme.

  • 360-degree performance feedback: to facilitate informed development goal setting.

  • 3 x 1-day workshops: focusing on enhancing personal leadership capability. Each workshop included input of relevant leadership theory but was largely focused on the application of the learning to personal leadership challenges.

  • The three workshops comprised:
    1. Identifying leadership challenges to date, including analysing feedback. Moving out of ‘reaction’ mode: prioritising, time management and delegation.
    2. Running effective meetings. Managing a team through change.
    3. Succession planning, feeding the leadership pipeline. Setting personal developmental goals.

  • 6 x 1:1 coaching sessions: to clarify aspirations and develop skills identified in part by the 360-feedback process.

  • Active encouragement to seek and form mentor relationships within Carillion.


    The participants stated a genuine appreciation of the company’s investment in their development, and the opportunity to learn. They reported increased capability, confidence, and understanding of the leadership process, and feeling more appreciated and ‘settled’. Approximately half of the delegates went on to be promoted during the lifetime of the programme, one participant twice.

    Response to each element
    Launch Event
    Participants showed appreciation of: being selected for the programme, the opportunity to meet and hear Senior Managers’ perspective on leadership, and the chance to identify, discuss and clarify their own leadership challenges.

    360-degree feedback
    All participants gained insight on how they were perceived: reactions varied from surprise to feeling challenged to being pleased with the feedback. All participants used the feedback in setting personal development goals.

    Participants appreciated the factual inputs and valued the open discussions around applying those inputs to their own context. From a networking perspective many also used the workshops as opportunities to develop support across the business.

    1:1 Coaching
    The personal coaching sessions spanned the duration of the programme, and were very well received, with 98% of available sessions taken up. Participants reported increased clarity of professional goals and direction, and added confidence to meet their leadership challenges with the support and guidance of the coaching.

    Active Encouragement of Mentors
    The majority of the participants initiated a search for mentors, and went on to establish mentor relationships.

    value gained

    "The programme has made me think a lot more about my own development, which I probably took for granted. I am now able to effectively set development goals and measure myself against them whilst harvesting those outputs to then identify new areas to work on. It has made me much more conscious about how important the perception of others affects my ability to lead."

    The most common areas where value was derived were:

    • Learning how to delegate, and succession planning for their own roles.

    • Understanding and implementing effective communication practices.

    • Increased use of the talent and potential within their teams in preference to problem solving themselves.

    • Reduction of a ‘reactive’ leadership style, with an increased ability to distinguish and prioritise the activities that aid forward planning within the business and for their own development.

    • Increased awareness of the impact of their personal style and where that style helps or hinders.

    • Many demonstrated a willingness to seek opportunities for working outside of their ‘comfort zone’ in order to learn new skills, and raise their professional profile.

    • Awareness of the need to set boundaries on work. Many participants of the programme spoke of long hours dedicated to work be it at the office, from home or for the majority of the weekend. A common cause was the inability to prioritise, delegate or be assertive to test whether requests were genuinely urgent.

    participant testimonials

    "I have emerged a more polished article. I am able to offer clear direction and understand the importance of making decisions quickly whilst balancing them with potential impacts. I am more effective in what I do, and the people who work with me are more effective."

    "I have supplemented the performance feedback by spending more time on feedback to others on their approaches: the manner about which they approach things, the attitudes they demonstrate and the way they engage others. This is through open and frank one-to-ones using careful explanation of how they could have used a different approach to their advantage. I have also been clearer on what I expect from people."

    "I have taken the time to think more about my own decisions within the team and got the team more involved in the decision-making process. I have held more structured meetings and regularly ask for feedback to improve my own personal skills as well as my team leaders'. I have continued to hold regular one-to-ones with my team leaders to discuss performance in order to support them and let them manage their own teams. This has given them the confidence and skill set to succeed, and three of the team leaders have now progressed within the industry."