• Organisation: Ballance Agri-Nutrients
  • Programme Participants: 65 Leaders
  • Location: Head Office, Mount Maunganui
  • Core Business: Manufactures and supplies farm nutrient products, providing specialist services, advice and technology to more than 24,000 customers across New Zealand
  • Opportunity: To create a change leadership programme that provides Ballance leaders with the capability and agility to be authentic leaders of change

A bit of background

Ballance Agri-Nutrients is a New Zealand owned co-operative with 800 employees and a major contributor to our primary sector. Following a long period of stability, Ballance began to experience a time of disruption with a new CEO and strategic focus amidst a rapidly changing business and market landscape. They needed to have leaders who could shift to the demands of this challenging new environment.

Blacksmith joined them as a development partner for their people leaders to equip them with awareness, tools, mindsets and confidence to engage with and shape the changing environment effectively.

Blacksmith used an understanding of Ballance’s context and it’s people to develop a powerful Change Leadership Programme and collaborated with the internal team to continue shaping and evolving the content throughout the initial delivery phase to ensure relevance with the ongoing change and with Ballance’s vision for their leaders.

What did we do?

True to Blacksmith’s core philosophy of co-creating the leadership development experience with our clients, we partnered with key stakeholders at Ballance to build a leadership programme that involved immersive real world workshops, peer coaching groups, lead team mentors, TakeON! Team Talks and an on-line resource centre and collaboration platform.

The programme is delivered in cohorts, each over a five-month period, and to date 5 cohorts have rolled out over the first year involving 65 members of the top two tiers of the Ballance leadership community.

Ballance were keen to adopt a “Freedom within a framework” approach that would provide their people with a less bureaucratic process, enabling them to operate in an agile and responsive manner. Blacksmith sought to incorporate this model within the programme design building a base of deep connection, trust and personal responsibility.

What emerged was a creative, edge-thinking, collaborative programme that delivered more value to Ballance than they had initially identified. Since taking part in the programme, leaders have reported being far more engaged, with an increase in ‘informal’ conversations driving deeper connectedness across the organisation.

What were the results?

Employee engagement is a key metric for Ballance and they have seen a major positive shift in several results over the period of the Change Leadership Programme. Senior leaders believe the programme has been a key contributor to that shift.

Looking at the movement in specific results between their full annual survey in May 2016 and then a follow up Pulse Survey in December 2016 the data shows that there has been a:

Increase in Employee Net Promoter Score (ENPS)
  • 5 point increase in the level of confidence in senior leadership with a 6 point increase amongst the participant audience and 7 points amongst their direct reports;
  • 7 point increase in the perceived sense of common purpose across the organisation; and
  • 6 point increase in total engagement of the participant audience and a 6 point increase amongst their direct reports.


These are fantastic results when one considers that a 2 point shift is statistically significant and these shifts occurred in just a 7 month period in the early stages of the programme roll out.

In addition to this data, anecdotal feedback supports the creation of:

  • A fundamental shift in leadership culture and behaviour across the organisation;
  • Stronger relationships between leaders and each other, and leaders and their teams;
  • More informal conversations between staff has increased across the organisation; and
  • Customer engagement has increased as a result of being more connected at a human level.

What clients say

The power has come, not from the programme, but the way people talk about leadership now…how we lead now has changed as a result of the programme

Edith Sykes, General Manager People and Capability - Ballance Agri-Nutrients

Without the tools, skills, and training, we would not have been able to achieve what we have, so far

Richard Hopkins, Chief Financial Officer- Ballance Agri-Nutrients

Don’t dilute them. They do great work. They will challenge you and they will push you to the edge, but really work collaboratively with you as well

Rochelle Spillane, Organisational Capability Leader - Ballance Agri-Nutrients