Today’s leaders are global and leadership development has to take into account and bring to life this global dimension. As part of the Philips Octagon leadership development program, I spent a week in Sao Paolo, Brazil as part of a year-long program preparing the company’s top leadership.
26 leaders from the company from all corners of the world (Australia, Brazil, China, India, Netherlands, Germany, USA) came together in Sao Paolo for the second week of the program.
The best way of learning is learning by doing – and Philips has one of the best programs I have seen in this regard. The leaders work on a project together. The results are presented at the end of the program to the CEO, CFO and head of HR of Philips. Project presentations in the past have developed into real businesses. For the project members themselves, these project presentations can have significant career implications.
There could hardly be a more global approach than the 4 projects being prepared this year: Lighting Strategy in Brazil, Expansion of Oral Healthcare Products and Services, Domestic Appliances in Africa, and Home Health Service in India. In addition, each of the teams is global in its composition.
Participants spent most of the day working on their project ideas, taking advantage of being physically in the same place at the same time and not having conflicting matters to attend to.
Today featured a field trip into Sao Paolo to better understand the local market conditions in this fascinating fast developing economy. The field trip was well organized by local Brazilian Philips staff. It included visits to retail establishments, discussions with store managers, directors of hospitals and most memorable of all for me was a visit to an average Brazilian household. Local Brazilians opened up their homes (receiving credits for Philips products in return) to the Octagon participants. The purpose of such visits was to get an insight into the “typical” consumer.
Having grown up in Mexico, the environment that we visited was certainly not foreign to me. Nevertheless, having lived in Germany for a couple of decades the exposure to this kind of reality is always eye-opening. We visited a family with 5 daughters living in a space which at best was 80 m². The family was extraordinarily gracious and from the looks of it, living a contented and rich existence. Despite modest means, they had a plethora of appliances, including a microwave, blender and fully equiped kitchen. We asked the wife what was the most valuable piece of equipment they owned and were surprised by the answer – a rice cooker (saves a lot of time!).
Spent the rest of the day reflecting on the learnings from the day’s visit.
The inauguration of the new 360° instrument Global 6 (see my blog from Jan 26 and Feb 2). Octagon leaders got direct feedback from bosses, direct reports and peers on how their leadership style works or does not work in a global context.
We also included an interactive group activity – The International Trading Game. The purpose of the game was to show how barriers and boundaries create difficulties in creating genuine collaboration. Everyone cognitively understands the benefits of collaboration, but when put to the test, competitive, non-collaborative behaviors automatically come to the fore. For the Octagon participants this was no exception. We need to be constantly reminded how difficult collaboration is to achieve.
Much of the rest of the day was spent looking at leadership tools to enhance collaboration including aspects of influence tactics and political savvy.
Spent mostly with local Philips Brazilian managers discussing what has been learnt so far and learning more about the local Philips businesses.
One of the highlights of the day was a presentation by an external speaker – an entrepreneur who has started an online distribution business selling baby products in Brazil. This presentation led to a lively debate about how to incorporate elements of entrepreneurship into Philips.
Wharton professor David Wessels looked at project finance as an input for the project teams. The teams then proceeded to present the current state of their projects. Final presentations will be in Amsterdam in May. Stay tuned…
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” Pele