The Art of Leading Teams program: developing our leaders
Every leader at GetYourGuide completes our leadership training program, The Art of Leading Teams. To learn more about the program and the kind of leaders we aim to develop, we sat down with its creator and leader Kevin Groen.
How did you become a trainer?
I was born in South Korea then adopted by a Dutch family, and I grew up in the Netherlands. Growing up in a different culture with parents who didn’t look like me made identity a really important part of my life. This interest in personal identity served as a through-line in my path towards becoming a trainer.
After graduating with a degree in international business, I got a job working at an NGO in Spain. The NGO was founded after World War II, and its mission was to help prevent wars by creating global awareness across cultures. We worked to help people understand one another despite differing backgrounds. This mission resonated with me because of how it played with the question of identity and how we define ourselves in opposition to or in relation to one another. During those years with the NGO, part of my job was to run workshops. Over time, I realized I was most engaged when planning and running these workshops.
Eventually, I wanted to make the move from NGO to corporate sector, and I knew I wanted to have a job that was 90-95% focused on learning, people development, leadership, and change. My first role in the corporate sector was at Booking.com as their Head of Training and Development. During my 3 years there, I watched the team grow from several hundred to several thousand..
How did you begin working with GetYourGuide?
I was introduced to GetYourGuide in 2015 when the company had about 120 employees. At the time, there was little support for employees with people-management responsibilities and many employees new to their leadership roles. They had a lot of potential, but little experience, so GetYourGuide wanted to create a leadership program that would provide support. Working with Eva Glanzer, the VP people, we defined GetYourGuide’s ideal leadership profile and designed the program from there.
The initial aim of the program was to build a strong leadership foundation, create a community amongst the leaders, and equip the current people managers with the tools to become better managers. From the beginning, it was clear we couldn’t achieve these objectives by simply sending the group on a one-week offsite, so we got to work designing a multi-module leadership program called, “The Art of Leading Teams”. Following several months of development, we launched our first training class in January 2016.
What is the structure of the leadership training?
The training is made up of 4 modules which take place over the course of 9 months. It contains individual coaching sessions with me, virtual work, leadership assignments, and small-group “mastermind” meetings between participants. Each module incorporates different elements from behavioral science, my own experience, and GetYourGuide’s expectations.
Recently, we’ve developed a follow-up component which takes place a year after the participants complete the program and a mentorship program so previous participants can mentor current participants. The mentorship program provides current participants with a sparring partner to talk and share with and gives the mentor a chance to refresh what they learned in the training.
What are some misconceptions people have about being a leader when they first enter the training?
There are several:
Vulnerability is a weakness and emotions are bad.
Leadership is a title.
Leadership comes with experience or age.
Understanding something intellectually means you can implement it in practice.
Over the course of the training, we tackle each of these misconceptions. Participants learn vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength and one of the best measures of courage. Emotions should be recognized and explored. They understand that leadership is not a title, but a verb. Anyone can exhibit leadership, regardless of their age or experience level. And, finally, they realize intellectual understanding of a concept isn’t enough. They must follow-through and change their behavior to truly become a good leader.
How do you see people develop through the trainings?
Those who begin the training on the quieter or more reserved side tend to become more vocal and take the lead within the group over time. They also become more comfortable inviting emotions into the conversation. While initially they might be scared or uncomfortable being upset or showing how they feel, they begin to explore and express these feelings openly. Their feedback also gets sharper and shorter. They develop better relationships in- and outside of work through increased empathy, setting clear boundaries, and inviting vulnerability. And, finally, people develop strong bonds with the rest of the group even if they didn’t know each other before the training.
What do we hope participants walk away with?
If you look purely at the content of the modules, the expectation is that at the end of the training, all of the participants address conflicts head-on, coach their employees, and make conscious choices about their own careers and future aligned with their values, beliefs, and life mission.
At its core we want participants to understand that their primary responsibility is to enable the people in their charge to do amazing work. And when they do that everyone wins: the customer, the company, team members, and themselves.
We also hope they walk away having formed a strong community with the other leaders in their group, so the lessons can continue without the program’s intervention.
Why is the training successful?
What makes the work with GetYourGuide and the training itself successful is that GetYourGuide believes leadership development is a long-term investment in terms of time, resources, and attention. It’s quite unique to start working with a company willing to look beyond a one-size-fits-all solution. My conversations with the Talent Development team are consistently focused on long-term methods to improve leadership as opposed to band-aid solutions.
Also fundamental to the program’s success is the focus on behavioral change. Anyone can read a book and understand the concepts, they can know everything they need to know about leadership, but the key is turning all of that existing knowledge into behavioral change. Every training class, the Learning and Development team and I work on strengthening this.
What resources would you recommend for developing leadership skills?
If you could give only one piece of advice for being a good leader, what would it be?
Cultivate your self-awareness and your social-awareness. Be critical of yourself, your experience, and the impact of your behavior on others. Recognize what you know, what you don’t know, and where you need to grow. Read the room, demonstrate empathy to others, and provide an individualized approach to all of your employees.