Corporate training is usually something that’s relatively forgettable. Yes, it is totally necessary to understand and follow company policies and procedures, but much like learning grammar, it can be a bit boring. West Monroe Partners has a training team that does a great job of making sure that this isn’t the case, but it is still not too often that I leave a training excited, motivated, and inspired.
As part of our BearingPoint and West Monroe Partners Global Network, I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Yale leadership training for Senior Managers in New Haven, CT. The group was about 34 people, from 11 different countries. As a Midwesterner, it is not often that I get exposure to people from other countries and cultures. What an awesome experience. By the end of the second night, we were saying things like “our team”, and interacting like old friends. I’ve been to many countries as a tourist, but getting a chance to interact with people in the same profession from around the world helped me see how similar, and different, we really are.
I learned as much through building these friendships as I did in the classroom. I’ve given myself a couple of weeks since we got back to reflect, and many of my “lessons learned” are due to the high quality interactions with experienced and passionate professionals from other parts of the world.
In my opinion, the unspoken theme of the week was “passion with purpose”. Every single person in the program wanted to be there, wanted to learn, and was ready to open up and share their experiences with the rest of the group. Passion for solving problems, doing what is right for our clients, focusing on family, and loyalty to our organizations.
The Key Takeaways
Don’t underestimate the value of starting a conversation.
My biggest take away was that starting a conversation was always worth it. Normally, I’m a fairly extroverted person, but I doubled down this week to get as much out of this as I could. Every conversation I had was worthwhile. I learned something, made a new friend, or was humbled by how little I knew about other countries and cultures. It makes me wonder how much I’m missing out on with silent train rides to and from work focused on my phone, rather than asking the person next to me how their day was.
In order to lead, you have to have followers.
The Yale training proved that there are many techniques that you can use to become a better leader – work on your EQ, motivate your teams, cooperate with competitors, create a space to foster innovation, etc. The common thread beneath this was driven home with an assessment of each person by their peers, managers, and clients. This showed the person’s leadership profile, along with strengths and weaknesses. This was both a punch in the gut, and powerful motivator to improve key areas deemed to be crucial for leaders. The key take away here was that in order to be a leader, people must want to follow you.
What makes us different is the good stuff.
No topic seemed out of bounds with our group, which fostered all kinds of discussion. Learning about how taxes work in Norway, the importance of relationships when selling in Sweden, M&A deal nuances in Switzerland, fashion trends in Germany, views on technological disruption in France; these perspectives were both fascinating and completely different from anything I could have learned by talking to a bunch of people in Chicago. These different perspectives are invaluable.
As our world becomes more and more connected, I’d challenge you to stay open minded about what you can learn from people different than you. It is easier than ever to reach out to someone in another country to get their perspective on a problem or opportunity. You might be surprised by what you’ll find.
Thanks to my new friends at BearingPoint, from all over the world, for opening my eyes to a set of perspectives that I would have never otherwise seen.