Hotel Chocolat

Learn how senior leaders were developed with MBTI and FIRO

Luxury chocolatier and cocoa grower Hotel Chocolat has been selling original, top-of-the-range chocolate since 2004. Starting as an online retailer, they now have over 70 stores across the UK, Europe and America, as well as a top-notch hotel at their chocolate plantation on the Rabot Estate in St Lucia.

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat’s senior leadership team is comprised of 11 heads of department and three managing directors, all of whom are ‘home-grown’ leaders – progressing through the ranks of the organisation via their technical specialisms.

The company’s Head of HR Rasila Vaghjiani worked with the senior leadership team to identify areas for improvement. They were very aware that the team, whilst talented and successful, included no external appointments, and there was a feeling that this might have produced some blind spots, with each person grounded in their own insular departmental background. They agreed that a leadership programme focusing on the development of behavioural competencies would be extremely beneficial, and Rasila embarked on designing a programme looking at self-awareness, situational leadership and breaking down interpersonal barriers.

Rasila, who qualified in both the FIRO® and MBTI® instruments with The Myers-Briggs Company, devised an in-depth leadership programme revolving around these two tools for the key leadership group of 13 managers. By combining the two tools, she was able to get a dual view of how people experienced their MBTI preferences, and of how the FIRO needs motivated their behaviour.
The first stage of the programme was a 360-degree feedback appraisal process, where Rasila gathered information about the managers’ performance from their managers, their peers and their direct reports. This feedback would be used to benchmark individual performance, and give the leaders some honest information to use as a starting point for their action plans and development journey.
Individual MBTI feedback sessions then took place in preparation for a ‘how to apply the MBTI’ group workshop. This workshop focused on using the insights from the MBTI framework to address the actions coming from the 360 process, looking particularly at the self-awareness it gave the leaders about their own natural style. “It was very well received,” comments Rasila. “The team got a lot of value from the MBTI session, which, like the other sessions, was geared very much towards the specific audience, with a lot of new activities.”
Once the group had mastered the basics of the MBTI framework and started to see how this could be directly applicable to improving their work, the FIRO tool was introduced. Rasila says: “The FIRO concepts really stood out for this group. The results showed everyone why people do what they do, and why they behave in a certain way. It’s direct and honest – just like the company culture at Hotel Chocolat – taking away a lot of the mystery of why individuals behave the way they do.” This demystification of individual drivers and motivators really helped the group grasp what leadership behaviours they adopted by default, and started them thinking about different, more productive ways of operating as leaders.
Rasila backed up the personality and behavioural insights from the two psychometric tools with personalised coaching for each of the leaders, allowing them to keep monitoring their performance against the action plan.
In addition, the learning was cemented via a practical teambuilding exercise, where the group spent two days on three boats on the sea. They were challenged to learn how to do everything on the boat, from rigging to cooking to rescuing a dummy, and to keep the three vessels within 200 metres of each other at all times. Rasila comments: “It took people away from their comfort zone. It was a very wet and cold two days in which the lessons in self-awareness, understanding and mutual appreciation really came together. People couldn’t depend on their technical specialisms because they were in a different context – and their FIRO needs and MBTI preferences were brought into sharp relief.”

Rasila and the team of managers (as well as their respective teams) have seen considerable changes in behaviour. People are actively adapting their behaviour in the light of the insights from the sessions, with an awareness of other people’s needs, as well as the skills to incorporate a range of viewpoints to make the best business decisions.

“People’s approaches are now completely different. Their teams are saying ‘Something has changed, but we don’t know what it is!’ They have become more inclusive and understanding. Subtle changes have made big differences – for example, people have become aware, when giving feedback, how they would want to receive it.”

People now understand the science behind behaviour and are therefore willing to be flexible, to empathise and to not hide behind their default ways of doing things. One example of the change is that the emailing culture, associated with high FIRO-B Affection needs, has become more targeted, with people cutting to the chase, and saving time.

Rasila also emphasises the element of fun that helped build the relationships and collaboration in the team. Keeping the lines of communication open helps to unite and bond the management team – so people are more willing to talk things through with their peers and sort out any problems.

The positive effects are so obvious that other teams are now asking for similar development. Rasila plans to cascade a simplified version of the training. “These will be more focused on the basics: self-awareness in the areas of conflict management, change management and decision-making”, Rasila concludes.

People’s approaches are now completely different. They are saying ‘Something has changed, but we don’t know what it is!’ People have become more inclusive and understanding.

Rasila VaghjianiHead of HR. Hotel Chocolat