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Diageo Women’s Virtual Leadership Programme

"…she’s completely authentic, totally honest and unafraid to share her view, even when it’s at odds with yours. That’s exactly what I need and look for. I’d use her again in a heartbeat."

“When I started in my current role at Diageo, someone said to me “you are now the most senior woman in this part of the business – what are you doing about diversity?” And that’s how the idea started. I could’ve left it to our HR team to design and source, but I preferred to take a more active role in it – which is why I turned to Oonagh.

I’d known Oonagh and her colleagues through their coaching on our leadership programme. We started with a planning session on the premise of: if I was starting my career again today, what are all the things I’d want to know first and what are things I’d want to better? From there, we built up the programme, using bits of Diageo’s existing programmes together with some pieces I wrote. Oonagh took this away, and very quickly turned it all into a coherent programme of nine workbooks for me to deliver online, on camera to women across the business, all around the world.

In the first year, we delivered the programme to 400 women at junior and middle management level, and in the second year, 280 more. It’s been a huge success, with more than 80% of the participants’ line managers reporting a noticeable difference in performance and confidence. It couldn’t have happened without Oonagh.

Not only was her own passion and work ethic key to getting the programme ready so quickly, but her personality and communication style had a big part to play in making it so effective. There’s no jargon to wade through or highfalutin language to figure out. Everything was clear and engaging, and really resonated with our audience. It’s the same in person: she’s not someone who will simply tell you what you want to hear – she’s completely authentic, totally honest and unafraid to share her view, even when it’s at odds with yours. That’s exactly what I need and look for. I’d use her again in a heartbeat.”

Pamela Scott,
Global OpEx Director, Strategy & Standards

The project


Supporting women in leadership roles across the world
Worked with more than 70 women over three years
An unusual project for Down to Earth – delivered virtually, via video conferencing and online facilities

The aim

To develop a leadership programme that would work for women across all of Diageo’s locations globally and would help participants:

  • Understand more of who they are and what they bring;
  • Focus on their personal and career possibilities, creating a clearer sense of what they want to do and where they want to go;
  • Understand more about the business, how it works, what the opportunities are and how to make the most of those opportunities;
  • Build their confidence, presence and impact to create their future.

As such, it had to be effective without the usual face-to-face coaching and facilitation that are normally such useful tools. And not only did it have to be accessible as an online resource using Diageo’s internal networks, but it had to work for women from different nationalities and cultures, too. It also needed to complement and sit alongside existing performance and development processes.

The work

The first step was to understand the need – what did this intervention have to achieve? The conversation with Pam was inspiring and engaging. She saw so many talented and capable women coming in to Diageo and working well in the organisation, but, in common with many organisations the numbers started to drop as you looked at more senior levels in the organisation. Pam wanted to create a set of resources and tools that would energise women and enable them to explore and exploit more opportunities. At the same time, Pam worked with her leadership team, other senior women in the business and line managers to create a strong supportive context for the programme.

Once we were clear about the need, we went about shaping the overall programme design. Working with robust, well-tested frameworks of personal growth and change, we designed 9 programme blocks that could be delivered over a 12-month period. Given it wasn’t face to face, we weaved many elements as we could through it to make it “stickier” learning: working with buddy groups; senior women hosting webex’s relevant to the module topic; senior women coaching individuals or buddy groups.

The biggest part of the work was making up for the lack of face to face engagement – usually a crucial element of our work. So, I wrote the programmes in the same way that I would say to a group or individual in the same room as me. Finding direct, clear ways of helping people understand influence, impact, leadership, organisational politics, create their personal vision, understand their own values and strengths and capabilities.

The outcome

Over three years the programme reached over 700 women in Diageo globally, with line managers typically reporting noticeable differences in confidence and performance. Less tangibly, we felt that we had lain the foundations for a community of women who aspire to higher roles or look to broaden their leadership in their current roles.

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