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Interview with Liam Butterworth, President of Delphi Powertrain Systems and alumnus of IMD's Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives
November 2016

Six months after following an IMD program with a stron - IMD Business Schoolg focus on change management, Butterworth implemented a major reorganization of the division that he heads at Delphi, a leading supplier of technologies for the automotive markets.
“The Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives helped me translate the theme of breakthrough into my business. It was very powerful.”

Choosing the right executive leadership program

When Butterworth was appointed in 2014 to his present position as President of an important unit of Delphi, he was engaging in a new role in a much bigger business. The coach who was appointed to support him suggested an executive leadership program and said that IMD’s was “one of the best”.

Butterworth admits that he feared a repeat of the materials covered during his MBA in Business Administration and Management at Lancaster University several years earlier, but says that “IMD’s real life approach opened my eyes to what’s going on in business and in industry.” In particular, he was pleasantly surprised to discover:

  • The latest thinking in strategic and financial management
  • A good mix between theory and practical applications, with interesting case studies
  • Different perspectives from other executives facing similar business challenges

But where the breakthrough program really helped him was the insight he gained in cultural change management. “I’m very focused on execution and moving quickly. What I’ve learned is the ability to stand back and think about change.” Butterworth says he wanted to develop the “softer side of leadership” and says that the coaching aspect was incredibly useful to him. He admits that it gets pretty lonely the further up you move in an organization, and he found it helpful to exchange with other executives facing the same challenges.

Feed back and way forward

Not unusually, the 12-day breakthrough program didn’t benefit just him, it also benefited the company and his colleagues. “The feedback helped me develop some ideas I had prior to the program and translate the breakthrough theme into my company’s environment.” Within six months, he had created a new, separate business unit to deal with up-coming major technological changes in his business.

Impressed by the quality of the executive coaching that he received at IMD, he has worked with his HR team to ensure that the same people and talent development he experienced can continue at Delphi Powertrain Systems and hopes to be able to send other people from the company to IMD. And when he reaches the next level, he may even return himself.

About Liam Butterworth’s accelerated career in the automotive industry

Butterworth has an unusual profile. He joined Lucas Industries as a toolmaking apprentice when he left school at the age of 16, but within five years he had worked his way up to the commercial department as a technical sales engineer. It was during that time that he completed an Executive MBA in Business Administration and Management at Lancaster University which led to a major career move: he joined FCI Automotive, a leading supplier of electronic and electrical interconnect systems and moved to Paris a year later, where he became head of the marketing segment. Always looking to expand his experiences, he was given the opportunity to move into purchasing where he soon became the Global Purchasing Director. This was then followed by a move to Global Sales Director, before being promoted to the position of VP Strategic Marketing & Business Planning.

In the meantime, FCI had been sold by Areva to Bain Capital and Butterworth was promoted again, this time to the position of President of FCI Automotive, a division that generated approx. USD $1 billion in revenue in USA, Europe and Asia. Shortly after his promotion, the automotive industry was hit hard by the 2008 economic crisis and a major turnaround was required to redefine the industry’s footprint. By 2011, Bain and FCI had succeeded with the transformation and decided to sell the business. In October 2012 they closed the deal with Delphi.

Butterworth was asked by the new owner to help integrate FCI into Delphi and run the combined company which had a global sales revenue of USD $2.5 billion, which he did for about a year, before being asked in 2014 to take on his current role leading the Powertrain Systems division, which is a USD $4 billion business with its headquarters in Luxembourg.

Find out more about the Breakthrough Program for Senior Executives.