By Corinne Williams, Senior Vice President, Organisation Solutions
Great Growth Leaders are adept at looking outside their organisation, understanding what is happening, and interpreting what it means for their business. This external focus helps them innovate, be more strategic, and respond to market dynamics. For this type of ‘outside-in thinking,’ they need a strong external network to help them gather intel and spot trends. However, busy leaders often have little time to nurture their external network.
Meeting and learning with leaders from other companies is a great way to gain this perspective; therefore, it seems unfortunate that many leadership development programmes only include participants from the same company.
With this in mind, on 17 April 2018, Organisation Solutions brought together over 100 leaders from 11 of our clients and partners for our second not-for-profit, cross-business speed mentoring event. Participating companies included Microsoft, Shell, Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hewlett-Packard Inc, 3M, Johnson & Johnson, GE, Standard Chartered Bank, Thomson Reuters, and Unilever.
Our fast-paced, high-energy speed mentoring format maximised the number of people that participants were able to connect with, whilst having meaningful conversations with mentors and mentees from outside their own organisation. It was also a lot of fun!
We particularly focused on accelerating the development of female talent as growth leaders in their companies due to the current imbalance in speed of women coming through the talent pipeline. However, this format could be used for any talent group, broad or narrow, as a rather different way to help leaders think differently.
Here are some ideas to get the most out of an event like this:
Focus on Growth Leader Capabilities
Our focus for this event was clearly targeted on building capabilities that will help women become better, more capable growth leaders. To get a sense of what was going to be meaningful for mentoring conversations, participants self-selected their preferred topics and focus areas from our Growth Leader Framework ahead of the event based on what they saw as their personal strengths and development areas.
For this group, two big development areas emerged. The first of these, building external networks and orientation, made the format of the event especially apt. The second, influencing stakeholders, was a bit more of a surprise. In particular, participants identified acting with political savvy as an area that they needed to work on.
Political savvy can influence long-term career success and have a direct impact on perceptions of performance. In the case of female leaders, whilst they are often rated the same or higher on leadership capabilities than their male counterparts, this does not translate into higher performance ratings or faster track careers. If this pattern is consistent across other women, then this may help to explain this difference.
Other topics for mentoring sessions included leading innovation, maintaining focus, and building resilience. All critical capabilities for Growth Leaders!
Turn Focus into Action
Each company provided amazing mentors so that mentees could learn from leaders across companies. They had senior leaders sharing incredible insights that lead to ‘a-ha’ moments. As that insight doesn’t automatically turn into action, we used our FAST framework to help participants decide where and how they will apply what they have learned to their current challenges at work.
That ‘a-ha into action’ is what’s in it for the mentors too. They not only build their relationship with other senior leaders, but they help mentees become even greater future leaders, opening possibilities and growing the value of the companies they love.
The benefits of fostering a supportive community are not only to help leaders develop great external focus and ‘outside-in’ thinking. Leaders with strong support networks are also more resilient in the face of adversity, a critical capability for Growth Leaders.
To maintain intra-company connections, each organisation huddled together after the mentoring sessions to create a shared approach to take back to their work. Many groups decided to extend the community by sharing their insights with other leaders and talent groups. For example, one organisation will use a similar approach with their ‘Young Talent Network’.
We’re also focused on keeping the intercompany links together through a LinkedIn group, and events that each company will take it in turns to organise.
Bringing leaders together from different organisations is a brilliant way to provide an external view and accelerate development. However, even without large-scale, cross-company events, you can make growth leadership a core element of your approach to growing future leaders by following some of the tips above and helping leaders to understand the importance of ‘outside-in thinking’.
Special thanks to Microsoft for hosting us at their Asia Pacific Headquarters in Singapore for this exciting event.
Get in touch with us if you would like to know more about this type of event.
Corinne Williams is Senior Vice President, Leader Services at Organisation Solutions. She has extensive experience in building organisational capability in global companies. Corinne has deep expertise in leadership development, culture change, and a special focus on executive coaching and assessment. She previously held senior roles at Standard Chartered Bank and Shell. Contact Corinne