Rising stars in the east

How young managers can deal with lots of change, rapid growth and high turnover Customer inquiry

An Austrian bank wants to give the senior executives of its Eastern European subsidiaries the opportunity to jointly further their leadership skills. The general managers and department heads of this region are between 30 and 40 years old, have excellent technical knowledge and have, within a few years, assumed positions with high levels of responsibility. The customer wants to design a leadership development seminar which teaches leadership competencies and sensibly deals with cultural differences. In addition, the client asks us to offer a seminar component that will help leaders maintain a healthy work-life balance, as in the past, a few managers have left the organization because they were burnt out.

Clarification during the consultation

During the consultation, the client describes the difficulties that come with so many restructurings. Some of the subsidiaries have changed their names three times within a period of two years. The managers are very motivated and show an extraordinary amount of commitment towards the organization. They don’t always use their resources effectively. They run too many projects at the same time and cannot say "no“. These regional organizations are growing very rapidly and cannot be solely managed in a friendly and collegial way. The client wants the senior executives to give their staff clear goals and to measure their performance by the meeting of the goals rather than by the amount of overtime worked.

Established goals and contents

Recognizing strengths and weaknesses
Determining long-term development goals for work-life balance
Being able to deal with intercultural situations
Being able to professionally handle changes within the organization
Leading one’s own boss
Using key figures to lead staff
Proactively shaping one’s own role in the international environment
Fairly giving praise and criticism
Dealing with conflict in a confident and calm manner
Managing project groups in a commanding and tactful way

Program design

We follow the client’s wishes and apply the notion of achieving a good work-life balance to the duration of the entire program. The program consists of three modules, where a part of the first and a part of the third part are used to determine the levels of physical fitness. Some models from the area of sports and performance diagnostics make excellent metaphors for leadership. For instance, we use the first module to, in conjunction with the fitness test, go through a definition of one’s position in terms of values and goals. A question is present throughout the program: how can I consistently achieve better results in the long run with less effort?

Implementation

This pogram was designed and conducted in cooperation with Christian Baudisch an Really Effective Interventions.

As early as the first seminar, it is evident that the intercultural differences are much deeper than expected. A portion of the participants have, thus far, learned exclusively in a lecture environment. These participants are neither familiar with team work nor with role play that incorporates other participants’ feedback. These participants feel that the proposed methods really put them on the spot and snub them. Some of the participants are hurt and pull back. Through an open dialogue about the learning methods, it is possible to uncover the cultural differences. This leads to relief and laughter. Consequently, all participants very intensively participate in all exercises and highly value each others’ feedback.

Evaluation

The client’s evaluation of the participants, in conjunction with participants’ managers, is challenging for this project, as many people have assumed different positions in the midst of the significant amount of restructuring.
During this program, we learned that our methodology cannot ignore cultural differences. It is not necessarily resistance to the learning per se that causes participants to resist certain methodologies, which they are not familiar with from their own national or organizational culture. For future programs, we prepare plenty of materials for theoretical input and discussion, which enable us to use other methodologies to achieve our goals should it be necessary

 

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