Two years ago, I took over leadership of adidas in Latin America (LAM), moving to the regional headquarters in Panama. Part of my role was to centralize a decentralized region, to get closer to our consumers and give them the best possible brand experience.
Looking around the table, I saw lots of white males in their fifties. Basically, I was looking in the mirror. I knew things had to change if I was to develop a successful LAM team for the future. This is how we’ve gone from two women at the senior leadership table to three, from eight passports to 12, from one religion to five.
I decided to tackle the drive for diversity as I do with my passion for climbing, and went about building a team that could get us to the top of the mountain together.
1. Be transparent
Firstly, identify your goal and share it with everyone. I told everyone what I wanted to do and why and wasn’t shy about setting clear goals for market leads so they too had clear direction on what was to be achieved.
2. Look at your own strengths and weaknesses
I’m a big believer in being genuine and not playing a role. To diversify the leaders in LAM, I had to have a high level of self-awareness and then find partners to cover my weakness and others to develop my strengths.
In mountaineering you need someone in charge of the ropes, someone who checks the materials and someone who has the talc. People should be strong enough to hold you if you fall. They have to remain focused, be able to react quickly to avoid a bad outcome and cover for your weaknesses.
3. Instill trust in your team
I can’t climb to the top if I don’t trust my partner; my performance is in his or her hands. I can’t make it happen on my own because there is too much complexity, too many variables. To do it alone you are either a genius or a fool.
And the outcome of this diversification across our business in LAM? Attitudes have changed, tolerance has increased, our customer knowledge has improved and we are now richer when it comes to decision making.
You will miss your goals if everyone is the same, if the skill sets are all the same. Have the courage to try something different, take the risks and embrace diversity to get to the top of the mountain.