In 2015, West Monroe Partners approached its leadership community in advance of our annual directors’ retreat with a simple question: What inspires you?

The common theme throughout was that our directors are inspired by the people they get to work with every day—in our office, at our clients, and in our communities.

In some ways, that’s not a surprise. West Monroe is a business and technology consulting firm. Our people are who deliver our services, and we do our best work when we build strong, long-lasting relationships with our clients and community members who rely on us to help them with some of their toughest organizational challenges.

Since the firm’s founding in 2002, West Monroe has strived to build a “people first” culture—one with a flat hierarchy that allows employees of all levels to take on active roles in company leadership, professional development, collaboration, and fun.

When we are aligned to this purpose, our work takes on higher meaning and provides greater benefits than solely achieving of business outcomes. In harnessing our collective talents, we not only create real value for the people we impact, but nurture and motivate those who will lead us in the future.

Thus, in 2016, energized by our directors’ shared inspiration, we formalized our purpose into a new mission statement: Building the Next Generation of Leaders. We believe all of our people can demonstrate leadership, and we are committed to developing everyone at West Monroe to their highest potential. This commitment is not limited to just growing our people but also inspiring leadership development at our clients and within our communities.

We define this leadership philosophy as follows:

• Committed to extraordinary results.

We are dedicated to the shared success of our people, our clients, and our firm.

• Conscious of our greater mission.

We strive to “do good” for our people, clients, community, and firm.

• Collaborative across the firm.

We work with others to create a culture that promotes inspiration, inclusiveness, and growth.

• Credible to all our key stakeholders.

We are recognized externally and respected internally for our unique ability and expertise.

Putting it into practice

Of course, it’s not enough to simply state we want to grow the next generation of leaders. We’ve also invested significant resources to make our mission come to life. We built our three-year strategic plan around four key stakeholder groups who are connected by our mission – our people, our clients, our greater Los Angeles community, and owners (as an ESOP, that’s everyone at West Monroe). Some of the tangible actions we’ve taken include the following:

Focus on mentorship

Career equity is a framework that supports our employees to own their own careers at West Monroe. One way we support this process is through our mentorship program that pairs an emerging leader from our manager ranks with a director in another practice. This program encourages cross-collaboration; gives both the manager and the director exposure to other practices, perspectives, and ways of working; and creates an opportunity not only for the manager but for the director to learn from someone he or she may not have interacted with frequently prior to the program.

Focus on strengths

As the firm has grown to more than 850 employees nationwide we’ve seen the need to expand our definition of leadership and what success looks like. While the traditional path to leadership typically meant you’d become a people manager, have client delivery responsibilities, and strive toward business development goals, we identified the need for defined leadership paths for others:

1) those who are interested in becoming deep experts in their subject matter of choice,

2) directors who enjoy partnering with clients to solve complex issues, and

3) those that aspire to lead a national practice, run an office or head a region.

We’ve embarked on a revision of our career model that allows for more flexibility on the path to leadership, with specific key performance indicators for each.

Focus on inclusion

Finally, we continue to work on strengthening the culture of inclusion at our firm. Inclusion and diversity are vital to our firm’s ability to deliver consistent value and differentiated services and solutions, and more importantly, are embedded in our core values. As we’ve grown to more than 850 people in 11 offices across the United States, fostering an inclusive environment has become more challenging.

We have focused our efforts on inclusion, understanding that you cannot have diversity of thought, experience, and approach without inclusion. We started by gathering feedback from employees, former employees and clients, and enlisting outside partners to help us establish where we are today and where we want to go. Some of the initiatives we launched as part of this effort includes revising our interview training with the goal of building awareness around implicit bias, and formalizing a flexible work arrangement policy to provide support for employees who have different schedule needs.

The ultimate results

By focusing our mission on building the next generation of leaders, we want to develop people who can better serve our clients in the Los Angeles area and create innovative solutions to their toughest business and technology problems—this provides opportunities for our people to grow and be challenged. However, our ultimate goal is to have a broader impact: We want our firm to grow and contribute to the economic vitality of the Los Angeles area. And we want to equip our people with skills they can bring beyond their client work, to contribute to the boards they serve on, the schools their children attend, and community groups they care about. That’s how we will define success. We hope by sharing our process we inspire other organizations to consider what being “people first” means to them.

Ken Siegman is a senior director at West Monroe and leads the firm’s Los Angeles office. West Monroe is a progressive business and technology consulting firm that partners with dynamic organizations to reimagine, build, and operate their businesses at peak performance.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.