How Mercury empowered over 150 managers

The business issue

With over 800 employees spread across a wide geographical area from Taupo to Auckland, Mercury has an organisational structure that reflects its heritage. Different teams focus on different parts of the business, including those teams directly supporting and interacting with customers, geothermal and hydroelectric power generation and head office functions and specialised divisions such as Metrix.

Mercury CEO Fraser Whineray could see the opportunity to strengthen the business through investing in the company’s managers, giving them a clear view of what good leadership looked like at Mercury, and enabling them to deliver those leadership skills within the business.

The company’s 150+ managers are a diverse group. Building a common language around the management basics being explored was key to bringing these diverse managers together, making expectations clear, and enabling discussion across the entire business, thereby lifting performance.

What we delivered

Working closely with Mercury’s leadership and capability manager, The Learning Wave created a core leadership programme: StepUP.

In its first phase, StepUP was delivered to a total of 13 groups across all business units over 9 months. Groups comprising of 12 to 15 Mercury managers attended facilitated workshops, and also received one-on-one coaching.

Setting the tone up-front, each group was addressed by a member of the executive team at the first workshop. Seeing how committed senior leaders were to their development helped instill a positive attitude towards the programme. Mercury’s managers could see this was important stuff.

The StepUP programme commenced with a 180-degree feedback survey completed by managers and their direct reports. This was followed by 2 x two-day workshops, facilitated by The Learning Wave, with a one-month break between each workshop, to allow managers to apply their learning back on the job. All participants also received a one-on-one coaching session one month after the second workshop.

Six months after the final coaching session, managers and their direct reports were re-surveyed.


The results of the final feedback survey were revealing. Measures such as ‘aligning my team to our business direction and purpose’ leaped from 63% to 83% over the course of StepUP. Participants also recorded a big improvement in their ability to develop and coach their direct reports – from 59% to 81%.

Mercury’s managers developed new powers of communicating with their team – a critical skill for leaders. Overall scores for the ability to tailor communication to suit different styles improved from 55% to 81%.

When asked how effective StepUP had been in improving their ability to perform their jobs, 83% gave a strongly positive rating to the programme.

Anecdotal feedback was also revealing. One participant had this to say:

“In the past I have felt more like a captain trying to repair the ship instead of inspiring and developing my team to repair the ship. The programme has allowed me to recognise this and given me the tools for change.”

Another outcome of the programme which was less anticipated by the business was the support it provided for people leaders’ career development, and how it supported them in identifying any work challenges their employees may have.

The programme is now offered to new managers when they join Mercury and to internal employees who are moving into a management role. The impact of the programme has been long-lasting and this can be seen in engagement results that continue to improve year on year.