Case Study

Creating clarity and focus at Sabio

LeaderSpace worked with the shareholders, Board and key senior staff to create a greater sense of unity, clarity and purpose for the whole company. The changes the Board made as a result increased focus and accountability at the top and had a noticeable effect on the company’s bottom line.


When Sabio and LeaderSpace first met, Sabio was entering a new phase of its development as an organisation. It was no longer a young start-up, focused purely on growing its capacity and market presence. It was an established brand looking to create sustainable long-term value in the face of a global economic downturn. To do so, Sabio’s Board believed they needed to create a greater sense of shared ownership throughout the organisation. They wanted their specialised middle-managers to work more collaboratively across departments to make delivering innovation and high quality customer service more efficient and cost effective. But the top team also recognised that creating a shift in their staff would require them to make a similar shift themselves.

The approach we took

To fully understand the business and its need for team coaching, we spent time with the Managing Director Seb Henkes and his three fellow founding shareholders – all of whom also held roles on the Executive Board. We chose to work with them individually and collectively – to see the team in action, to gather their shared views and to understand their points of difference.

We then spoke one-on-one to the other two members of the Executive Board and key middle-managers from across the business. Each individual also completed two questionnaires: one about their team and one about themselves. This gave us a wealth of data, which informed the design of bespoke interventions at all three levels: shareholder, Board and middle-managers.

The first of these was an event for the Board and selected middle managers, aimed at providing them with an opportunity to work collaboratively outside of their usual day-to-day activities. The middle managers focused on exploring their dynamic as a collective: their strengths, challenges, shared frustrations, uncertainty as to their purpose and who should be included in the ‘team’ – uncertainties that are almost always present when middle managers come together. The Board focused on their own interactions with this group: they set the scene for the work, provided additional clarity where needed and received feedback from their juniors, while giving the group space and privacy to find their own ways of working together. And work together they did, with the help of various business-focused activities that helped them generate recommendations for the Board: practical input on the key things they felt Sabio should preserve in its current ways of working, and the things it should change to be more effective.

We also worked on the interface between the four founding shareholders and the Executive Board. As with all of LeaderSpace’s work, peer feedback played a key role. Another critical component was helping the four shareholders find a means to address the conflicts arising from each of them occupying multiple roles with competing priorities and reporting lines. From two perspectives – as friends and founding shareholders – the four were equals. From another, as board members, three of them reported to the MD. This was reducing clarity around authority and accountability, which was impacting on operational and strategic decisions. It was also affecting the dynamics with the other two board members and how they were perceived by the rest of the business. Clarifying these various roles helped the shareholders create a clear three-year remit for the MD and hand him the necessary authority to deliver on that remit. They literally rewrote their shareholder agreements to reinforce the culture of accountability that’s critical for any high performing team. They then cascaded accountability by redesigning incentive structures for key staff.

I have to admit to being a little sceptical beforehand but the execution and adaption were especially effective. The end result speaks for itself in my mind. We could not have achieved more in the time we had. Congratulations on a job well done.
Paul Began, Technical Director, Sabio

The impact we had

Sabio’s work with LeaderSpace created a shift at the top of organisation that helped boost the company’s performance the following year with a 19% increase in revenues whilst also delivering 120% of their PBIT target. “One of our biggest take-aways was the discipline instilled by the team coaching,” says Managing Director Seb Henkes, looking back. “And one of our biggest mistakes twelve months later was to let some of that discipline slip. Without it, we made some flawed decisions as a leadership team that hit our bottom line and put us back a step in our strategic plans. Thankfully, we’re learning from that mistake. We’ve also learned how valuable it is as a leadership team to have someone external be there with us on an ongoing basis, both as a sounding board and to help us maintain that all-important team discipline.”