Putting Our Leadership Development to the Test
When the latest group of employees graduated from adidas’ leadership development courses, they had no idea that what they’d learned would soon be put to the test under the most challenging of circumstances.
1,500 employees annually. 37 countries. 7 languages. A global network of managers hungry for self-improvement.
Anyone at manager or director level at adidas can apply for a place on our internal leadership development programs: The Management Development Experience (MDE) and Director Development Experience (DDE) provide practical tools that leaders can apply day-to-day, centered on mindset, practice and performance. Thanks to a quick transition into a fully digital experience, the courses continue to support our leaders’ development during the coronavirus pandemic.
“One of the biggest opportunities these courses gave me was dedicated time for personal reflection. It helped me to document my personal habits, strengths, weaknesses and reflect on how they directly impact those I’m leading.”Jordan Willing, Director Purchasing at adidas – Portland, USA
The business situation created by the global pandemic has created huge challenges for our latest set of graduates. They were immediately required to apply their new skills whilst reacting to the fallout of COVID-19. We asked them to share which part of their leadership development had benefitted them most during the last few months.
James Bean, Director Information Security, Finance & IT – Portland, USA
The personal assessment phase of the course revealed to me what professional attributes I most needed to work on – specifically trying to be mindful of my team’s sentiment when leading, rather than always applying a ‘roll the sleeves up and get the job done’ approach. This insight became extremely valuable whilst working through the COVID-19 crisis.
The course showed me that it is essential to lean in and show genuine compassion in complex and difficult situations, whilst at the time ensuring that our team goals were being achieved. I found this required a careful balance of being both a thoughtful leader and a reliable source of listening and understanding. Creating a safe space for team members to share their experiences, and the subsequent impact on their responsibilities, was key to ensuring that the team was set up for success.
When all of the above is combined, there is a sense of relief and happiness that occurs as we begin to see each other as not just work colleagues, but as other human beings. We care more about what happens, we become more open to different opinions and thoughts, and most of all, we become more successful as individuals, as teams and as a company.
Ishaani Nathoo, Manager Treasury ＆ Controlling – Cape Town, South Africa
Prior to the MDE program, I had a fixed mindset. I liked routine. The most valuable thing I learned on the course is the importance of having a growth mindset and the development that can be stimulated by getting out of my comfort zone.
When the COVID-19 situation hit us, I tried to apply this new mindset to the challenges I then faced. Facing an increased workload, I was quickly able to find ways to create efficiencies and do things better. MDE has helped me to not accept the status quo and think outside of the box. I now work more smartly which has been especially pertinent during lockdown.
Tiankai Feng, Director Digital Analytics – Herzogenaurach, Germany
I completely agree with Ishaani. Never has a growth mindset been more important than in the time of crisis. Having learned how to deliberately practice this mindset, I saw all the changes and new challenges that came my way as opportunities to grow and lead, rather than as unexpected difficulties. The result was that I turned the focus of my team around from working on long-term initiatives to identifying short-term actions that led to timely success. By doing so, we’ve helped the organization to better understand how our consumers think, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first step to growth is identifying and admitting your own weaknesses. The MDE taught me how to improve on my weaknesses to become the best possible leader. I now make sure to regularly self-reflect and set up goals to improve myself.
Salvador Mothe, Senior Director Retail Operations – Panama
One of the main insights from the experience is the importance of communicating a proper purpose with everything we do. As a leader, it is especially important that I provide this sense of purpose to my team members when we are embarking on a project.
The course helped me to realize that my team and I were sometimes missing a strong reason or purpose behind our tasks, which was ultimately leading to poor execution. If a team member doesn’t understand the broader context of where their task fits into the bigger picture, they are not going to be motivated to complete it to a high standard. As a leader, it is critical for me to provide this transparency to my team.
Annelies Koster, Senior Manager Fiscal Compliance – Herzogenaurach, Germany
The aspect of the MDE that I found most enriching was the focus on mindset, including motivation and generating energy. Especially during the most challenging times of the COVID-19 crisis, it was extra important to apply this to my daily life. The course made me aware that you can easily generate a lot of energy if you focus on some key basics: sleep, nutrition and exercise. Whilst I couldn’t change the situation in lockdown, I did have control over these basics, which in turn helped me bring energy to my work.
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There are a lot of things that I've learnt from it and applying esp. during this more difficult time, but the one thing that stood out for me is keeping a growth mindset - yes, these times are challenging us with rapid change, new processes, habits and problems that we need to find a solution for, but when I look back at the year so far, I learnt a lot and in a fast pace as I was trying to tackle the situation with a growth mindset (at least I tried very hard ;)) and see it as a learning opportunity.