Building Better Coaches, Reinforcing On Site Training: How Textron uses Lighthouse Lessons

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

How do you support and impact tens of thousands of employees? What does it take to scale teaching great leadership skills across hundreds of leaders? 

And how do you make what you teach stick with your leaders long after you’ve had them on site to learn?

These are the kinds of questions that Sean Riffenburg, Global Leadership Facilitator at Textron, thinks about every day. For over 5 years he’s been developing and delivering Textron University internal training and development programs.

Today, we take a look at what Sean’s built, how the training programs work there, and how we’ve been excited to be a part of their leadership development curriculum with our Lighthouse Lessons Courses.

leadership training textron lighthouse lessons sean riffenburg endorses

Scaling Your Leadership Training with Sean Riffenburg of Textron University

“I do a lot of research around our leadership programs because I'm not only delivering, but I'm also designing, and I'm always looking for external content that can connect philosophically to what we're doing at Textron.”

Like many leaders who run training programs or work in leadership and development, Sean is always looking for inspiration and material to add to and improve his work. 

And if you’ve been reading the Lighthouse blog for long, you won’t be surprised that an expert trainer like Sean found a lot of our content resonated:

“I read through all your material for the first time and thought, ‘they get it, we're on the same page when it comes to people being our focus of leadership.’ ”

Before we dive into how Lighthouse Lessons fit into Textron’s bigger training plans, we want to tell you a bit more about what the complete program looks like, because it’s impressive and well thought out.

How Textron trains its leaders

Textron has built a sophisticated process to help set their leaders up for success through their training programs. The peak of each cohort going through a program involves 3-5 days on site at one of their dozens of facilities, but it starts well before that. 

8 weeks before training, they provide books and executive summaries for managers to read, and conduct assessments to benchmark where managers are at currently. 

Then, 1 week before Sean leads a webinar for each cohort to set expectations for the program, answer questions, and get people ready for the big week all together for training. 

From there, Textron trains their managers with 3-5 days of on-site training depending on the program. During this time they cover key topics including what it means to be a leader at Textron, key skills around performance management and soft skills, as well as a lot of self-reflection.  

leadership training textron lighthouse lessons eat dinner together

A focus on food & community.

Sean recognizes the power of building rapport and connection during this kind of training, and designs that into the programs as much as the curriculum modules. 

To accomplish this, each training program includes a group dinner to get to know each other, and lots of small group work to go through the training and tasks together.

Eating good food with your peers definitely builds strong connections, and the self-selected groups really take it to another level:

“We're covering hard-hitting topics and giving them major reflections to do with their learning partners each and every day, typically two or three different times a day, so these people build deep bonds in the class.

I hear all the time organically, even people years after the class, they're still in touch with their learning partners from that class.”

Creating these connections are a powerful way to not only get managers supporting each other in the program, but build bonds that can be valuable years later as the leaders advance at Textron.

The Post Training Gap 

After all this work developing and then running the programs, Sean and his team recognized there was a gap: could they really finish the program and that’s it?

“We spent a lot of time previously developing materials and plans leading up to the class. We do these pre-class sessions and then during the class obviously there’s a lot, but there was very little beyond the class, which left us asking: What's next?”

Knowing how important it was, and the next logical step in the evolution of their programs, it became a key objective for Sean and his training team this year:

“One of our objectives was to add program materials that reinforced the content that we were covering in class. And [Lighthouse Lessons] worked out optimally to do that.”

A first attempt: Webinars

Continuing to build on the programming they’d created, their first instinct was to continue to create the programming in house. While they wanted to develop something, the time commitment made it daunting for Sean and his team:

I personally host all of our pre-class webinars, and quite a few classesthe idea of doing something like that post program was daunting.” 

Despite this, they still gave it a shot, because it seemed the easiest thing to try first. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out:

“We tried hosting post program webinars. For many of the reasons, they were a heavy lift for us.

We were also having a problem getting people to attend and share. And the content felt a little more academic than it should have been. So we've tried that. And after that, we had nothing for a long time.”

Still feeling there was a crucial gap in their program, Sean was on the lookout for something that could help the leaders they were training, while not overloading his team with more work. 

leadership training textron lighthouse lessons

Enter Lighthouse Lessons. 

Like many managers and people in leadership & development who find Lighthouse, it started by searching. Sean was looking for more great material on how to motivate teams, and came across our Lighthouse Lessons program called, Mastering Motivation.

He signed up to try it for himself, and found a kindred spirit in the quality of our content and our philosophy on leadership, as he wrote to us:

sean riffenburg from textron

When Sean reached out, we were intrigued and excited to help. 

The right program at the right time.

With everything else Sean and his team do to train managers at Textron they were looking for something simple and effective. Lighthouse fit the bill, in an unexpected way.

While there are many large, complex LMS systems out there, ultimately the bite-size, actionable, straight-to-manager-inboxes structure of Lighthouse Lessons was the perfect fit after such an intensive, on-site program:

“It seems so obvious now, but at the time, it was really counterintuitive to a lot of what I've seen.

In the L & D world, we have all these fancy e-learning stores, we have our LMS where people can go and click two or three times to get what they’re hopefully looking for, but being able to find something to put right in front of them in their Outlook inboxes was revolutionary.”

Lighthouse Lessons stands out as different than other programming options for a few reasons that resonates with managers and trainers like Sean:

  1. Bite-sized: Each lesson takes about 15 minutes to read through. This keeps the program bite-sized, so even busy managers have time for it.
  2. Healthy pace: With one lesson per week, managers can easily keep up, while having plenty of time to learn one concept and apply it before moving onto the next one.
  3. Actionable: Lessons are filled with key insights from great leaders as well as the latest workplace research, but most important is that it also makes it clear what actions a manager can take to immediately apply it to their teams.
  4. Focused: Each program has a theme, which allows for each lesson to provide depth on a specific aspect of the topic, while also having them build on one another. Managers understand the purpose of the program, while having the chance to build a variety of skills.
  5. Flexible: The lessons come straight to a manager’s inbox, where they already do a lot of their work. It also allows them to choose when they take the lesson, while not having to remember yet another log in. As Sean put it, "this shows up and they can do it on their own… I love that aspect of it.”

Equally important to the benefits of the program to managers, Lighthouse Lessons was easy for Sean and his team to evaluate. 

They looked at our content options, tried a course for themselves, and then we were able to quickly set up a pilot with a group of their managers. We added their branding and set up a cohort of their spring participants to try it out. The results speak for themselves.

What do managers say? 

After our pilot with Sean and a cohort of Textron managers, we checked in to see how they went, and we learned that they loved the lessons as much as Sean’s team did:

“They really liked the content. That was their initial reaction.

We sat them all down and
we had close to an hour-long discussion around it, and they found it just as valuable as I found it.”

And the convenience and structure really stood out for Textron managers, too: 

It was at their fingertips; it was in Outlook where they were…and [compared to other options] Lighthouse Lessons is a lot more actionable; your program deals with real world everyday stuff our managers face.”

Knowing this, we were able to roll out Lighthouse Lessons training to every manager attending their front line leadership programs. 

leadership training textron lighthouse lessons

Choosing the right program.

Since starting our Lighthouse Lessons programs in 2018, we have built a library of 8 unique courses focused on a variety of the most important skills and strategies for leaders to master including:

  • The Mindset of Great Managers: A deep dive into servant leadership model, and the mindsets new managers must learn.
  • The Secret Habits of Great Senior Leaders: A collection of skills that rising mid to senior level leaders must learn.
  • Remote Management for the Long Haul: Helping managers with the extra challenges of managing people you’re not colocated with.
  • The Coach’s Clinic: Teaching managers a wide variety of tactics and tools to help them give more effective feedback and praise to their teams.

For Textron, the Coach’s Clinic was the perfect fit for them:

“One of the defining features in your Coach's Clinic series is praise

Focus on what people are doing well and focus on what you want more of….that element of people leadership really intertwines quite nicely with what we're doing at Textron

We may be a manufacturing company, but people are our greatest asset and we need to propel those people forward."

This is more than simply a passion of Sean’s, or a talking point for their CEO. It’s an important part of how they train their managers:

A big push in our company is around the topic of coaching. We see that as fundamental for leaders in developing other leaders.

When I came across [Lighthouse’s] material, that coaching piece really met a need that we were looking for as a key part of our entire program to expand on how we quickly cover feedback in our in-person training. 

The Coach’s Clinic helps us to nurture and emphasize the importance of the role of the coach as a leader with Textron. So that was big for me when I saw this series.

Now, it’s your turn.

Are you looking for a light-weight, actionable, and cost-effective way to train and grow your managers? Then, Lighthouse Lessons may be the program for you. 

As Sean told us: 

“I think it's a simple solution to an otherwise complex problem. And the crazy thing is, too, I feel like there's fear around giving people more material, but a lot of times that's what's lacking. 

Don't be afraid to try something new. That would be my advice. And I'm definitely grateful that I did.”

If you’re ready to try one of our programs, click here to request a call to answer your questions and get help choosing the right program for you and your managers, or explore all our program options here

Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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