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.

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.

People sitting in a circle listening to a presentation from a man, adidas, employees. workplace, leadership, seminar, workshop, culture, MDE. DDE
This photo was taken before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The face-to-face course has now transitioned to a fully-digital experience, allowing colleagues to connect and work together remotely. ©Jonathan Danko Kielkowski

James Bean, Director Information Security, Finance & IT – Portland, USA

Man wearing a checked shirt posing with football in right hand, James Bean, adidas, employee

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

Woman wearing dark jacket smiling at camera, Ishaani, Nathoo, adidas, employee

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

Asian man wearing glasses smiling at camera, Tiankai Feng, adidas. employee

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

Man with beard and moustache smiling at camera with arms crossed, Salvador Mothe, adidas, employee

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

Woman with headscarf smiling at camera with arms crossed, Annalies Koster, adidas, employee

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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by Nina Weihrauch 09.10.2020
I'm a big fan of the MDE program, which I've completed already a while back!
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.

Nina
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