Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Program: From Grass Roots to Performance-Based



The Malnati Organization is a growing restaurant group with just under 50 stores in the Chicagoland area and their first new store out of state. 


The Malnati Organization was in  the process of opening their first out-of-state store in Arizona. The COO came to me concerned that their in-house leadership development program was not keeping pace with their growth. Trainers were not able to learn the program fast enough and the process was taking too long. The program was integral to their culture, and especially important to the COO.  Their goal was to be able to deliver this leadership development program faster, in order to keep pace with organizational expansion.


Major challenges included:

  • No source materials

  • Limited experience working with outside consultants

  • Disagreement among stakeholders on program standards and related processes

  • Perception bias resulting from the program’s original model and lack of employee buy-in

  • Lack of in-house training talent

  • Gap in people’s understanding of how the program applied to their jobs

  • Emotional investment in status quo and fear that changes might undermine the client’s “special sauce”


Our team came onsite and performed a thorough assessment to gather data and make a recommendation. To ensure buy-in, we partnered closely with the client and adapted an agile-like approach to the design. 


  • synthesized a vast amount of information,

  • traced the program's philosophical and theoretical origins to ensure any changes were grounded in the original context, and

  • led the client and consultant teams to arrive at a design that aligned with the culture, represented the client's unique point of view; while mitigating potential risk for the client and tying skills to job specific behaviors.

Deliverable included:

  • a branding strategy that re-positioned the program to gain employee buy-in

  • a toolkit to be used as a principle resource for new coaches

  • a performance improvement process and tools for participants to self-evaluate their leadership skills and for the organization to measure application of those skills

  • two training courses:

    1. one for new participants

    2. one for new coaches

  • train-the-trainer sessions to equip in-house trainers

Despite the fact that the client was under intense pressure due to a new store opening, the project was completed on time and on budget.


The program was rolled out in the summer of 2016 at a leadership summit and received positively by the organization-wide leadership team.  The COO reported, “We think we really hit a home-run here.”

Measurement data to be collected.