Acorn Coaching and Development

Improving business performance

HILL International

Raising the performance of Hill International’s high powered teams in the Gulf

Hill International has developed an international reputation for innovative approaches to preventing and resolving time and cost overruns on major construction projects worldwide. It offers clients a range of construction dispute resolution services, enabling them to complete projects on time and within budget, while minimising claims and other problems.

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The company’s operation in the Gulf region has grown rapidly over recent years based on its successes in supporting some of the world’s highest profile construction projects.

Hill’s highly qualified multi-national team is undertaking increasingly complex commissions that involve managing larger teams of highly qualified professionals across a range of disciplines.

This brings with it new challenges which call for a broader range of enhanced leadership skills to align the teams and ensure the consistent high quality of service.

The organisation identified that staff would benefit from building on their existing capability with the aim of enhancing customer delivery and extending the scope and scale of the business.

Acorn was engaged to support that performance enhancement because of the company’s unique experience in the construction sector, and the ability of its principals to quickly understand the client’s business and define the core issues.

Director Keith Longney explains: “The focus of the activity was about equipping the leadership team to respond to the development needs of Hill International and to help the business meet the management challenges presented by increased competition.”


Delivery was through a series of integrated activities designed to engage and extend the leadership and key personnel.

The process began with a series of telephone interviews conducted by Acorn with key personnel to further clarify where issues existed.

Presentation of the key themes and outcomes from those interviews assisted the senior vice presidents of the business as to where investment of development should occur.

Workshops were commissioned in Abu Dhabi and Dubai to gain engagement to the process from key staff, and the sessions also provided further information on the need for development around leadership and direction.

Activity was then rolled out to involve more than 80 people who attended from across the Middle East including Turkey, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The participants ranged from directors and associate directors through to consultants at various levels in the business.

The results of 360 degree feedback from direct reports, line managers, clients, peers and colleagues were fed into one-to-one interviews with each of the senior management team and helped to provide the focus for a 2 day leadership skills programme.

The programme resulted in a series of defined actions for each individual. Those actions were implemented and then reviewed 2 months later in a further series of 1 day one-to-one sessions.

Concurrent with this activity Acorn also ran a strategic alignment event for the heads of each country. This ensured that teams in each country were aligned and clear about their responsibility for business growth.

The on-going programme included further one-to-one coaching for key individuals, and workshops for business development designed to positively impact business performance, such as consultative selling and presentation skills. Those workshops would form the basis of master classes to be run within the organisation.


Feedback from the senior management taking part has been extremely positive; David Brodie-Stedman, Senior Vice President and Asia & MEA Managing Director commented:

“Hill International had undergone a period of rapid expansion across its Middle East region. Management recognized that behaviours, attitudes and practices of staff within the consulting team had not developed to the extent required to properly service the needs of the expanded business. This ‘gap’ in skills was considered to be having a detrimental impact on team and business performance.

Recognising a need for change, management appointed Acorn Coaching and Development to undertake a study of the business, draft recommendations and implement solutions to effect improvements in:

  1. leadership;
  2. team performance;
  3. internal relationship management;
  4. business development (awareness and practice) and;
  5. internal technical coaching.
Acorn approached the task with great awareness of the business needs and staff sensibilities, delivering tangible, measurable business and staff performance improvements across the business. The improvements were achieved through a structured review process, open communication, individual coaching and group workshops.

The success of the Acorn solution in the Middle East has led to a further rollout of their development programme to Hill’s Asia and Africa regions.”


Feedback from participants was also positive. One member of the senior management team commented: “This has forced me to challenge my actions and take feedback on-board. I can find it easy to sit back and let others lead and will now try and address this with the things I have learnt today”

Another described the activity as: “Challenging yet informative. Lots of new ideas. Different to previous management/team leadership courses I have been on”

Keith Longney said he was extremely pleased with the progress that had been made, and the outcomes so far for the client: “In business terms Hill International has subsequently seen an upturn in profitability and more effective utilisation of the staff and skill sets they have to offer. They have been able to demonstrate to their clients the benefits of extending the scope of Hill International’s involvement – which is a key requirement for growing the business”.

“Acorn is now looking to the opportunity to work with Hill International on the next stage of its management development and performance enhancement strategy.”

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HILL International

"The success of Acorn's solution has led to a further rollout of their development programme to Hill’s Asia and Africa regions"

David Brodie-Stedman, Senior Vice President, Asia & MEA Managing Director, Hill International