Developing Leaders

Milo’s Tea Company Introduces Leadership Program to Fuel Growth

2023 Best in the Biz Award Winner

Best Leadership Program - The Summit Award
Company Size
Accommodation and Food Services
Use Cases
  1. Who is Milo's Tea Company?
    Milo’s was founded as a restaurant in 1946 by Milo and Bea Carlton after Milo returned from serving in the military during World War II. Milo’s philosophy was simple: use high-quality, natural ingredients, listen to your customers, and never sacrifice taste. Seventy-five years later, Milo’s is still a family-owned business and a Certified Women-Owned Business with corporate headquarters in Bessemer, Alabama.
  2. Primary Challenge
    As the number one refrigerated tea company in the U.S., Milo’s Tea Company realized that to continue to fuel growth, they needed to roll out a formal leadership program to equip leaders with the skills needed to develop their direct reports.
  3. Results
    Using a blended learning approach with on-demand content and virtual Coaching Circles, Milo’s Tea Company has had 120 participating leaders go through the program with 96% of them reporting that their participation has helped them advance in their career.

It’s All About the Climb  

Committing to a hike can be easy. But when you pull into the parking lot and stare at the mountain before you, this idea doesn’t always seem great. The way up looks steep, rocky, and not to mention long. But you know the only way to get there is to start, so you tighten your laces, position your backpack, and get moving. You’re repeating to yourself the classic, “Just one foot in front of the other!” while stopping to take in the views, get a sip of water, or refuel.  

Eventually, you realize you’re nearing the top, so if you keep putting in the work, you’ll make it! While the air is getting thinner, perseverance and persistence are not because you know the feeling at the top is going to be unmatched. 

Finally, you reach the summit, and you couldn’t be prouder of yourself for not giving up. While the journey to get there was tough, taking in your accomplishment is what gets you thinking, “pushing past my comfort zone was well worth it.”  

Sometimes growing into a new role at work can feel like a daunting hike, especially when it involves responsibilities you’ve never had before. At BizLibrary we know this often happens with employees that move into leadership positions. The list of skills needed to be a great people manager seems endless, like giving feedback, delegating work, empowering team members’ growth, strategic planning, and much, much more.  

One of our clients, Milo’s Tea Company, wanted to prioritize leadership training for employees with direct reports to further Milo’s people-first culture. One of Milo’s proudest accomplishments is becoming the number one refrigerated tea company in the United States, and they know they achieve this through growth fueled by their people. Because of this mentality, Adam Roderick, Manager of Learning and Development, wanted to create a formalized leadership program in order to scale their leaders to continue to fuel growth. 

Mapping the Route  

Knowing how busy employees are with their day-to-day responsibilities, Roderick sought out leadership buy-in to ensure this program would be seen as a company priority. He mentioned that it was important for him to show the RAW value of the program in his presentations.  

The ‘R’ stands for relevant. When designing the program, he kept in mind how this program could be relevant for someone personally and organizationally. To accomplish this, he aligned the program with Milo’s HAT values of working hungry, agile, and together.  The ‘A’ stands for actionable. He made sure to provide a toolkit for implementation to help with any questions on roll-out or design. And lastly, the ‘W’ stands for within reach, articulating how a program like this can be attainable and achievable by all.  

Seeing the clear value this program would bring to the people at Milo’s, the CEO, additional C-Suite members, and other executives determined that the Leaders as Coaches program would become the 2022 annual priority. This helped to emphasize the importance of the program since every leader participates if they have at least one direct report.  

Hitting the Trail  

After doing research into successful program delivery models, Roderick and the learning and development team determined that the Leaders as Coaches program would have several different program mechanics.  

  1. Blended: Everyone learns differently, so diversifying the delivery styles like text-based, auditory, and visual, led to increases in retention. 
  2. Flipped: To have interactive discussions, known as Coaching Circles, custom content was assigned prior to the conversations.  
  3. Microlearning: The team was cognizant of wanting to be efficient in time spent consuming content because they know space and bandwidth are limited while leaders are also performing their role responsibilities.  
  4. Subject matter expert: Leveraging leaders at different levels and in different departments allowed for different perspectives, but it also gave opportunities for them to share their knowledge.  
  5. Peer-elevated: Ensuring that everyone was staying engaged and contributing to the conversation so that conversations dove deep into the practical application of the content topics.  

With the delivery methods established, it was time to design the two main components of the program, the curriculum blocks and Coaching Circles. Starting with the curriculum blocks, blocks were designed to align with Milo’s Tea Company’s seven pillars of authentic leadership. Taking feedback from some of their first participants in 2022, in 2023 they shifted some of the blocks’ foci to make them more actionable while also tightening them down from four to three. 

  1. Block one: Purpose empowering leaders to build a one-page, growth plan to help them outline what they’d like to achieve and dig deeper into identifying what they’re passionate about.  
  2. Block two: Strategic Thinking- leveraging the Eisenhower Matrix (a prioritization tool that helps you organize tasks by urgency and importance) leaders workshopped when to apply strategic thinking v. tactical leadership.  
  3. Block three: Delegation- utilizing the delegation matrix, leaders dove into understanding the principles behind decentralized command.  

After leaders complete their assigned content for the curriculum blocks, they then attend a one-and-a-half-hour virtual Coaching Circle that is made up of 10 to 15 peers. Meant to encourage, support, and offer accountability, the Coaching Circles are where the magic happens, notes Roderick. Roderick and the team at Milo’s believe in the power of peer influence, which is why they set these groups up cross-functionally. By including diverse perspectives, they are able to leverage and harness capacities that leadership application can stretch.   

During these Coaching Circles, they follow the GROW model for their conversations.  

  • G – Goal: what do we want to achieve? 
  • R – Reality: what is the current picture? 
  • O –Options: what steps can we take? 
  • W –Way Forward: what commitments can we make to take action? 

After their discussions come to an end, each leader writes down and submits their own personal commitment to a ‘One Way Forward’ that they will implement on their team between this circle and the next. 

The View from the Top  

One of the most rewarding feelings is making it to the summit of your hike. The views are incredible, you’re thankful for your friends and family who kept encouraging you, and you give yourself plenty of time to take it all in. At BizLibrary we know a similar feeling comes when learning and development professionals review their metrics of success and feedback from their learners and find that they are having a profound impact on the organization.  

Milo’s Coaches as Leaders program’s success metrics are incredible and show that when leaders show up ready to learn how they can improve in their role. Some of the highlights include:  

  • 120 participating leaders 
  • 60 total Coaching Circles Completed over 72 hours  
  • 415 commitments to a ‘Way Forward’  

Furthermore, Roderick sent out a pulse survey to leaders to get a feel for how they’ve been impacted by the Coaches as Leaders program, and the results are outstanding. Responses showed:  

  • 97% of leaders indicated the experience was positive  
  • 96% of leaders indicated participation advanced their professional growth 
  • 96% of leaders indicated they are more likely to engage in future learning offerings  

Some of the leaders even took the time to give written feedback and they are giving us all the warm and fuzzies, just like when you time your sunrise hike just right! One participant noted, “I came away from this session with tools to help me better manage the work of my team while fostering healthy productive relationships at the same time.” And another one mentioned, “The series allowed me to focus on areas that I needed to improve on, I got a sense of purpose out of each session and felt it allowed me to be more purposeful in my interaction with my team.” 

Giving employees opportunities to grow and develop their leadership abilities, so they can strive to reach new summits in their careers and encourage others to do the same is what makes a successful leadership program, and Milo’s is a company setting the bar high.  

Keep Climbing

So, what’s next for the leadership program at Milo’s you might ask? Well, like any avid hiker, they already have their next journeys mapped out. The training and development team is looking to evolve their Leaders as Coaches program to be set up as cohorts, so the same group of people stay together throughout the Coaching Circles all year.  

Additionally, they are in the process of developing their GROWTH pathways powered by BizLibrary content. The program will be focused on developing future leaders at Milo’s to help with succession planning and increase internal promotions.  

We can’t wait to hear about all the new summits Milo’s leaders will reach with their upcoming improvements and additions.