Learning to Lead in Uncertain Times With a Customized Leadership Development Initiative

NACCO Materials Handling Group (NMHG)
CLIENT:NACCO Materials Handling Group (NMHG), one of the world’s largest lift truck manufacturers
LOCATION:Headquartered in Frimley, United Kingdom
SIZE:1,000+ employees

Client Profile & Challenge

NACCO Materials Handling Group (NMHG) is one of the world’s largest lift truck manufacturers, with a comprehensive line of products produced under the Hyster® and Yale® brand names. The company has more than 1,000 employees in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), which is one of several regional operating divisions around the globe.

In late 2008 as the global economy experienced unprecedented turmoil, the manufacturing industry found itself facing significant challenges and uncertainty. NMHG EMEA was not immune; as the level of ambiguity and volatility rose, the company’s sales fell. Even as the economy began to recover, there was a lingering impact on NMHG’s business. NMHG EMEA found that on-going complexity in the marketplace and the rapid pace of change made it more important than ever to build highly effective relationships with key external stakeholders – in particular the dealers representing the company’s products. Executives decided that to grow and sustain their business, they would need sales leaders to evolve their role and to focus more clearly on each dealer’s needs and experiences.

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NMHG partnered with us to design and deliver a customized leadership development intervention called “Leading in Uncertain Times.” The multi-layered initiative targeted sales leaders and their direct reports. It included:

  • A diagnostic phase to identify key business challenges and translate them into leadership capabilities;
  • Development of a structured learning experience for business directors, territory managers, and key account managers on the NMHG EMEA sales team; and
  • Support for learning and application of new skills, with measurement of effectiveness, behavior change, and business impact over time.

The structured learning experience was viewed as critical. As course developers worked on content, they paid particular attention to what surveys showed were gaps in leadership skills important to NMHG’s future success:

  • Ability to evolve in uncertain times and as the business context changes;
  • Spanning boundaries and working across brands, regions, and cultures in a more unified way;
  • Building and maintaining relationships with internal colleagues and external stakeholders; and
  • Acting, thinking, and influencing as collaborative leaders.

The collaborative leadership development initiative adopted by NMHG included a series of 2-day working sessions tailored to the various levels of sales leadership. There were opportunities to share business challenges, explore leadership requirements, and create a tangible action plan to increase leadership impact across the company and with external stakeholders.

A typical session included:

  • Organizational leadership content, including NMHG leadership diagnostics, trends in leadership development, and techniques for leading through uncertainty; and
  • Individual leadership content, including self-assessments, coaching, and action planning for impact.


Interviews with key stakeholders and a post-program evaluation survey show that “Leading in Uncertain Times” has been well received and is producing positive results for individuals, teams, and NMHG’s business.

During feedback sessions on the impact of “Leading in Uncertain Times,” participants have provided compelling examples of how their behavior has changed in the workplace. They say they are:

  • Involving people more and communicating more to promote awareness,
  • Collaborating more within the group and with others outside the group,
  • Working together collectively in response to the demands of the organization,
  • Taking a productive approach to difficult discussions,
  • Deliberately involving and communicating with those who previously might not have been part of the conversation,
  • Becoming more aware of opportunities,
  • Trusting team members and no longer becoming a bottleneck for decisions and actions,
  • Working together more closely as a team, and
  • Exhibiting more self-awareness and adapting more effectively.

Participants Say

“We determined that we needed to make a greater investment in those members of our team who execute our strategy and are crucial to our success as a business. We knew we needed to strengthen their leadership capabilities and help them adapt to uncertain conditions and changing business needs.”

Alison Richards

Global Organizational Development Manager

“I recognized that communication and relationships are most important in leadership. Alignment and commitment can be achieved just through positive relationships and trust.”

“Sales & marketing, manufacturing, and the community of dealers have energy linkages between them. These 3 parts have to be interconnected and linked with the help of individuals and groups who share a common goal. If you have good exchange in the organization, you get a better bottom line.”

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A high-quality leadership development program can have lasting positive impacts on your organization’s ability to adapt and even thrive through uncertain times. Give your leaders the training they need to move your business into the future with a customized leadership development solution tailored to your needs. 

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