Aligning the it human Resource with Business Vision: The Leadership Initiative at 3M



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Personal Leadership Curriculum Implementation and its Impact


The Personal Leadership Curriculum, consisting of seventeen 90-minute sessions and two longer workshops, was developed with a vendor, a small company of 3 people, two of whom are psychologists and the third coming from an education background. They designed the program to meet 3M’s goals: get people to take responsibility, to handle change in the workplace, and to learn to be continually adaptive. These goals are based on the behaviors in the Personal Leadership Model. The seventeen 90-minute sessions are designed to help people exhibit these behaviors. Session titles include: “Are You Good Enough for the Dream Team,” “Bambi vs. Godzilla: Dealing with Difficult People,” “Conflict: Obstacle or Opportunity,” “Listening: The Heart of Communication,” and “Working for Yourself at 3M.” Two longer workshops, Eagles and Self-Managed Career, are designed to help people first understand themselves, particularly what they are passionate about, and prepare them to make contributions to the company. The central message is this: “You have control of yourself. You cannot wait for others.” Moreover, these workshops work toward aligning individual interests to the needs of the business. [See Appendix 2 for a brief description of each of the seventeen 90-minute sessions and the two workshops.]
The Personal Leadership Curriculum has been offered for more than a year now. The program is not free: each 90-minute session costs $35, Self-Managed Careers is $275, and Eagles is $250. Employees work it out with their coach/supervisor, and the appropriate department gets billed. Various measures attest to the breadth of implementation of the Personal Leadership Curriculum and its success. The seventeen 90-minute sessions have had 2,482 registrations from January 1, 1997 through March 31, 1998. Personal testimonials from attendees are overwhelmingly positive:

  1. I like the concept of being aware of each other's "gifts" so that we can understand and appreciate each other.

  2. This was an excellent class--one of the very best I've had at 3M. The instructor gave interesting, relevant examples from all aspects of life. It was thought provoking and empowering! An excellent, valuable use of 90 minutes of my time.

  3. Really caused me to think about my demeanor and provided me with valuable tips to use at work and even at home.

  4. This course offered me some good insights into myself and my conflict management style. There are some things about myself that I'm going to work on improving as a result of what I've learned. It's great to have courses like this that deal with 3M employees on a more "human" level and can help us grow both at work and in our personal lives.

  5. I walked away feeling like I learned something that I could use in my interpersonal relationships and learned a few things about myself.

  6. Thank you for allowing me to attend the Eagles class last week. I experienced and saw in others two specific results occur in the class: 1) a clearer understanding of overall purpose, and 2) more clarity around how that purpose may be expressed even in the current job situation (regardless of whether the current job directly ties to that purpose or not). Please continue with your efforts to offer this class to the IT folks. Thanks again.

  7. Put me in the correct direction to start managing my own career more efficiently.

A more indirect but nonetheless critical measure is the single digit (3-6%) turnover that 3M IT enjoys. Although turnover could potentially increase as people exercise personal leadership in managing their careers, an increase beyond single digits has not occurred. IT management believes that its continued focus on building quality leadership has positioned IT to sustain single digit turnover.


A core strategy for recruitment and retention during the same time period as the Personal Leadership Initiative has been the hiring of college graduates and interns. The intern program has grown from single digit numbers in 1994 to more than seventy in 1998. There is an explicit objective to train employees, including interns, in personal leadership. Tanis Beadle, who shares responsibility for new college graduate hiring and the internship program, notes:

Personal leadership applies to everybody at every level, including interns. Many interns attend personal leadership classes. In weekly get-togethers we share the tenets and examples of personal leadership and how to use these while still a student or a new 3M employee. Many past interns shared with me that they could have done more…they weren’t sufficiently challenged. Now, we try to get the message across early in an intern’s experience that it is THEIR responsibility, not their supervisor’s, to assure that they are challenged, working to their full potential, and getting what they expect from their internship. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs, do something about it! We’ve also addressed this with intern supervisors, coaching them on providing work objectives, leadership, and mentoring rather than narrowly focused expectations and task assignments.”


The acceptance rate for full-time job offers this year for those who had been interns was 100%. All rejections came from people who had not been interns. When 3M offered a voluntary separation package during the Imation spin-off in 1995, no one who took it had been an intern. It has become obvious that the internship program provides potential candidates valuable insight into how 3M works and what kinds of opportunities there are for personal contribution and career growth. Success with interns, as indicated by the fact that most interns who are offered full-time positions accept and stay, helps 3M buck the industry-wide hiring challenge. The Personal Leadership Initiative, at least indirectly, contributes to this success.
Other indirect indicators of success are requests for IT’s expertise. For example, attendance in the 90-minute sessions and workshops above include non-IT people; IT attendance is probably between 30-50%. Other areas of the business were “beating on our doors” to take the classes. Lyla Campbell gives this assessment of the impact of the personal leadership initiative:

Now the IT employees are in a better place than others in the rest of the company. It feels right. It’s a different place. It’s the way people should behave. HR, benefits, and other divisions see that what IT is doing in their leadership journey makes a difference. People from the IT leadership development group are being asked to be on corporate level HR teams, such as resiliency, careers, and change. The Leadership Development Center at corporate level is asking the same IT folks to participate in developing mandatory supervisory training. Other areas of the corporation are seeing what is happening in IT. They are beginning to come to us to talk about what is going on and to see how what we have to offer can be leveraged for the corporation.”


Implementing personal leadership is not without challenges. Cathy Muckala, who is responsible for the Personal Leadership Curriculum and facilitator for the Self-Managed Careers and Eagles workshops, thinks it is going well but wishes it were going better. She would like to see the curriculum viewed as one that works for everybody, not just those without supervisory responsibility. Participants need more practical guidance, more overt guidance from their coach. Some do not have a good working relationship with their supervisor. She would like to see more of this relationship built. Better mentoring skills on the part of supervisors would provide an opportunity for long-term alignment of IT people and their interests with the needs of the business. Recognition of the importance of these mentoring skills is part of the discussion that occurs in the Positional Leadership Initiative, another essential component of the whole system of development activities that need to be integrated.

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