Total x SBS - Training Leaders Worldwide

Jean-Pierre Aerts, Academic Director of TMP3 (Total Management Programme – level 3) at Solvay Brussels School 05/08/2019 Leadership

In 2013, Solvay Brussels School was selected by TOTAL to deploy a worldwide leadership programme. Since then, no less than 35 sessions have taken place, and participants are thrilled. What is the secret behind that success? 

When a corporation looks for a university to conduct such a strategic programme, it looks for excellence at all levels.

TOTAL contacted 12 institutes to seek the best proposal to rejuvenate their ‘Total Management Programme – level 3’, or TMP3. Level 3 means the programme is intended for ‘managers of managers’, mostly country directors, business unit directors, and the like. It aims at giving them new and actionable leadership skills to help them meet the current challenges faced by the company.

TOTAL is part of an industry undergoing radical transformations due to the rapidly decreasing share of fossil fuels in the energy mix. In this context, leadership is all the more critical to help the company evolve and adapt to this new reality. 

TOTAL eventually chose Solvay Brussels School over our competitors for two key reasons: 

  1. Our distinctive approach to leadership training
  2. A single training team operating worldwide

A distinctive approach to leadership training

While most universities focus on interpersonal skills, we develop four complementary dimensions of leadership: 

  • Personal leadership, to help participants understand their personality and drivers, build a vision for themselves and leverage their potential to the fullest
  • Strategic leadership, to analyse their ecosystem, ensure strategic clarity and engage colleagues at all levels 
  • Interpersonal leadership, to help people better understand each other, to improve communication and to develop influencing skills to maximise the impact of this communication 
  • Operational leadership, to translate strategy into action, manage complexity, innovate and implement change with agility

One of the most important role of managers, we believe, is to make sense for their teams, and to help the members of these teams make sense for the teams they manage. We are convinced that managers need these four dimensions if they are to fulfill that role in a meaningful way. 

A travelling team to foster worldwide corporation

A second reason for being selected was our focus on building ‘ONE TOTAL’.

Instead of having different trainers covering different locations, we proposed the idea of having one single team delivering the programme worldwide. This means that Solvay Brussels School is totally aligned with the strategy at TOTAL: 

  • We are able to deliver extremely consistent messages across the globe
  • We build an in-depth knowledge of the company, enabling us to build bridges between over 90,000 TOTAL employees 

On-demand coaching

As a follow-up to the programme, we also regularly coach participants with maximum flexibility, as they choose their coaching moment whenever they need it most. Some take it right away: I remember a manager who had tensions in his team and who wanted to solve this issue immediately. Others wait longer, sometimes two or three years, and come back to us when they are facing a particular challenge or taking on new responsibilities.

This on-demand coaching is something participants appreciate a lot. 

Humility as a virtue

Another reason our programme works so well is that we see ourselves as facilitators, not as professors.

TOTAL is an outstanding company, with a long and rich history. It would be very presumptuous to imagine we can teach them lessons. Our approach is therefore based on humility: we question, share and enthuse, to help participants ask the right questions, gain insights, and enrich their repertoire for agile leadership. 

Of course, we are also constantly adapting the programme to reflect the changes in the company and in the global economy. And it works: our programme is in its 7th year, and it is one of the best-rated programmes in TOTAL’s catalogue. We get a lot of emails from participants who tell us that they apply in their everyday life what they learned from our programme.

To me, that is the best evaluation they could ever give us.

Want to know what Solvay Brussels School can do for your company? Request a tailor-made programme!


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