A customer success story: Harpercollins Publishers Australia

Change, as they say, is constant. Like death and taxes, you can count on the fact that change is unavoidable.

But change isn’t like death nor taxes.

We often think that change is happening to us, when in fact, change is happening for us. It aids our personal growth, allows us to evolve as a society and encourages us to continually add value to our organisations.

In fact, how we respond to change is a crucial determinant on our happiness, success and relationships.

But the fact remains: If you do not experience it often, it will feel uncomfortable, unsettling and quite often, out of our control.

The challenge

Such was the case for HarperCollins Publishers Australia – one of the world’s largest and Australia’s oldest publishing house.

Few industries have experienced change like the publishing industry has over the last 5 years.

Facing unprecedented disruption and margin pressure due to significant technological change, foreign competition and changes to consumer reading habits, the need to adapt and innovate has never been more critical.

Teams everywhere – regardless of industry – are now required to work smarter, with less people and at a rate never before experienced, and leaders everywhere have the very important task of keeping morale high while continuing to deliver through the constant disruption.

The Dream Collective were honoured to have been engaged to create a bespoke Resilience Leadership Capability program that would run over 2 separate sessions and address the 3 biggest challenges that they faced as a company. They were:

  • Stress Mastery
  • Change Management
  • Resilience

While the 3 consistent roadblocks to resilience that they shared were:

  • Time Management
  • Decision Making
  • Providing Feedback

To ensure long-term impact and ease of application, we needed to arm the cohort with practical tools for time management and decision making while shifting the collective mindset from “I can’t change anything” to one of ownership.

The solution

The program saw a diverse mix of seniority and job functions. We were joined by team members from all corners of the business from Sales and Marketing through to Editorial and Customer Service – many of whom had not worked together before.

We worked closely with the team – including participants, direct managers and senior management – to create a Learning and Development program that would not only address immediate growth areas, but to also do so in a way that would be easily transferable to the wider team and scalable to allow for greater impact.

Using this insight, we then developed a tailored program that addressed the business objectives in a way that would tie back to the needs of the individual participants and identify the deeper roots that were responsible for any resistance.

Through this discovery process, we were able to identify the following areas of organisational development:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Design Thinking and Growth Mindset
  • Adapting Your Communication Style and Courageous Conversations

Module 1: Emotional Intelligence

As is the case with any true transformational leadership experience, true growth starts from within. And in the case of our programs, that means through individual emotional intelligence assessments.

EQ as a leadership skill is fundamental to understand and develop as it highlights other factors outside of intellect that are going to determine how successful you are i.e. Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills.

Each participant answered over 120 questions to get to their personal assessment. The results were then shared back as a detailed analysis which then formed the basis of their leadership development plans to be shared with their direct manager.

While results can sometimes be confronting, a true understanding of where you sit on each scale, allows you to better understand and manage your own emotions and of those around you.

The session was framed so that it spoke directly to the EQ trends that had surfaced in their individual profiles. This group in particular had shown trends of low confidence, stress-tolerance and assertiveness which can be very common for industries where disruption is rife as teams tends to turn inwards and communication starts to break down.

The EQ test results were fascinating and provided a real insight into what areas I need to improve.”

“…I’ve been able to maintain a consistent focus on bettering my personal work habits.”

Module 2: Design Thinking and Growth Mindset

In today’s world, speed to change is everything. We are in the age of instant gratification. A new standard has been set and audiences will no longer wait for brands to catch up.

To be able to not only accept, but to also adapt and innovate in a changing industry, one must begin with a growth mindset.

HarperCollins Australia understood that they no longer had the luxury of time therefore, it was imperative that their culture reflected one of audience-centricity, innovation and efficiency so they could embrace hurdles, persist despite setbacks and see challenges as an opportunity to learn.

We turned this talk into action through a range of mindful exercises designed to create space between stimuli and response. This created the perfect launch pad for the Design Thinking session that followed which worked through the question, “How might we… Keep our teams motivated?”

From empathy mapping and ideation to prototyping, this session is always a favourite as it unlocks the innovator in all of us and excites all with the many possibilities.

“Through Design Thinking, I was able to identify different ways for the company to realise savings.”

Module 3: Adapting Your Communication Style and Courageous Conversations

Here, it’s important to begin with the understanding that we all have unique communication preferences. Where someone may be more task-oriented, their co-worker may be more people-oriented. What this lack of understanding often results in is frustration, impatience and a lack of clear communication. As leaders, it is not enough to simply share our message and hope that it has been heard correctly.

How to adapt our communication style to one that is best suited to the receiver (whether that be stakeholder, senior management or direct report) was one of the main areas of focus that came out through the pre-program participant survey.

Through identifying the key principles to courageous conversations, persuasion and intentional questioning exercises, the cohort were able to then share their reflection and insights and link these to their own individual experiences.

“Through educating my team on the change management wheel they have accepted the change in my new role and are much more supportive of the decision.”

“I’ve become more aware of recognising and acknowledging when I’m feeling stressed or under pressure and been working on respond over reacting.”

The results

Through the post-session survey sent to participants, we were thrilled to see that these groups average Resilience Capability rating had increased from 2.7 to 4.3 out of 5 – a 60% increase!

Further to this, participants shared the following progress highlights:

  • Being more considered before responding to a problem
  • Shift in attitude and not taking situations personally
  • Letting their team speak more and express their concerns (and successes)
  • Understanding the Change Management Cycle and coaching team members through the stages
  • Less context switching – better focus on one task at a time
  • Deeper understanding of EQ to know when making Emotional decisions vs logical
  • Using Design Thinking techniques to identify areas to save money


“The course was fantastic. It provides you with the tools to encourage, empower, and the ability to negotiate when needed. My sales team will benefit from what I learnt and experienced during the day. The EQ test results were fascinating and provided a real insight into what areas I need to improve. A great day worth experiencing.”


“Thank you to Alicia, Sarah and Lyndal for a brilliant team training day yesterday. Every person in the room felt empowered with a greater sense of purpose and knowledge and I know this will impact our business positively. I left with a greater sense of myself in how I work and what I can work on – a challenge that feels exciting and refreshing.”

Of course, we needed to ensure we’d hit the client brief:

“The feedback I have had from all the participants, their managers and what I’ve observed myself is the program was highly effective – and the positive energy and change it has created in employee behaviours has been nothing short of amazing.” Director of People and Technology, HarperCollins Publishers


We are honoured to have played such a part in the positive change and invite you to get in touch here if you’d like to learn more about our bespoke services or here to download the HarperCollins Publishers Case Study.


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