Leadership Thoughts from Rome

I was recently offered a unique opportunity. A large multinational corporation – having almost 200,000 employees around the globe – gave me the opportunity to deliver a keynote speech about leadership at their global retreat for their top 80 leaders. The meeting was held in Rome.

The focus of the meeting was how they could provide an even better work experience for their employees.

With leaders from around the globe, it was truly an international gathering. Yet what all of them had in common was the challenge of attracting and retaining high-quality talent.

I was particularly impressed with the CEO. In a room full of high-achieving, powerful individuals, it would have been easy to spend a good percentage of time congratulating one another and reflecting on all that had been accomplished over the past year. While the CEO was certainly positive and upbeat, he used the meeting to propel the company to even better performance, specifically focusing the attention of attendees on what steps they could take as leaders to make the work experience better for employees throughout their system.

They made use of a bold and innovative process I found to be flat-out terrific.

The company brought six employees, who had been hand-selected from throughout their massive corporation, to Rome to play leading roles in an experiential learning process for senior management that would take place the morning after my speech. Each of these younger employees was set up in a literal pod or tent that was large enough to hold about 15 people comfortably. They broke the global leaders into small groups of 12, and had each rotate from pod to pod in 40 minute intervals to listen to the stories and experiences of these young employees.

Each of the young employees were selected to share with these top leaders a less than satisfactory experience they had during their employment with the company. For example, one young man talked about his poor experience on-boarding with the company. Another young lady talked about the difficulty she had with the interview and recruitment process. Another employee talked with them about the difficulties she had initially learning the policies and procedures of the organization. Another talked with them about the stress he experienced when thrown into a difficult client situation without adequate training or support. Another talked with them about the stress of their first year and the loss of any sense of work-life balance. And another talked about how they felt there was little to no room for significant career advancement.

As you can imagine, these select, younger employees were a bit nervous talking so candidly with the most powerful people in their company. The CEO met with the six staff members the evening before they presented, however, to put them more at ease and to again request that they be open and candid.

After hearing the real life experiences of these employees, the global leaders then spent time in small groups discussing what specifically could be done to improve operations with respect to employee work experiences.

Changing or improving your leadership system takes a comparably massive level of energy and continuous focus. And so it was particularly heartening to see so much top talent and corporate energy focused intently on what MindSet believes to be perhaps the single biggest ingredient to long-term corporate success: the ability to create and protect a dynamic and healthy work environment for employees. It was encouraging to see a group who “gets it.”

On a more personal note, we had a fantastic couple days touring Rome – a stunning place. We also benefited from having a wonderful, private tour guide – a young lady from the United States who has lived in Rome for five years. If you’re ever headed that direction, please contact us (info@gomindset.com) and we will be happy to give you her contact information – you’ll be glad you did.