An American Fortune 50 company was unexpectedly running into competitive challenges in countries around the world where they’d dominated the markets. Although their offerings were limited, the local competitors were positioning themselves as understanding local needs. When the company’s CEO requested a seminar on diversity for division executives, we assumed they would attend. I met with some of the prospective participants to elicit case studies for building a two-day simulation of a global crisis: executives would select people from their teams to travel to key sites around the world and plan ways to prepare them to work with diverse populations and cultures.
But there is one problem I’ve encountered: as I interviewed the first two executives to build a realistic case, while warm and welcoming, they were strangely more interested in just chatting. One executive was so relaxed, that his feet were upon his desk. Can you say “stall tactics”?
I warned our Project Manager that something was up. Turned out division executives were insulted their CEO thought they needed training in diversity and inclusion. They planned to suddenly miss the conference because of emergencies. I had to pivot and create a new type of training that I’ve used in other executive development programs since: a “Strategy Conference” similar to a “cohort course” but no use of any training terms.
We invited the executives to exchange experiences with global competitors and contribute ideas for retaining expanding global markets in a “Strategies for Meeting Global Challenges” conference – structured as an actual online, onsite or hybrid conference, with clear, timed Agenda items:
|Opening to heighten awareness of need (e.g, stats about how many Fortune 500s five years ago are out of business now)
|Key questions to consider (3-5) in small group discussions, e.g., What are your:
|Division goals related to delivering or supporting global products/services?
|Concerns about challenges that may undercut success?
|Strategies for preparing your staff to meet those challenges?
|Digital set of resources -guidelines, best practices, and benchmarked strategies for handling global business challenges positioned as optional resources for screen sharing (or handouts/links to project, if onsite), e.g., relevant trend reports, links to short recorded interviews, highlights articles with links.
|Full group discussion, guided by conference leader, to combine groups’ strategies into the report.
|Time for each executive to outline their presentation on ways to meet global challenges and achieve needed on-the-job results.
|Short practice presentations to show how they will brief their teams on the conference.
|Closing – feedback, and plan for regular follow-up via online 1-hour check-in meetings to review what’s working well and ways to handle unanticipated challenges.
The only negative feedback was a complaint about 30 minutes when a conference leader regressed to telling what solutions to use… instead of asking questions and listening/guiding. And a surprise: the executives had some better ideas than the ones in the resources.
Ray Jimenez, PhD
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”
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