“Human motivators are all the same at the core” says Alfredo Jacobo, HR & Organizational Development director of the fast-growing Mexican conglomerate FEMSA at the FT | IE CLA event in Monterrey, Mexico as they discussed with senior learning leaders the challenges facing organizations across the globe today, and sought to identify the best practices to overcome them.
Jacobo who recently returned to FEMSA from being Learning & Development Director at Coca-Cola University’s Talent & Development Centre in Madrid, oversees the executive development at the Monterrey based company which is doubling in size every five years. This global expansion is achieved largely through acquisition and Jacobo’s challenge is to integrate senior management into the FEMSA values and culture.
Focusing on the core human values and motivators of executives from a wide range of cultures and business backgrounds has been central to his success. “…if I want executives with different mindsets to work together, I need to get to their similar cores”, he continues “if this sounds a bit of a romantic notion, I have actually done this, and their eagerness to work together [having connected] is immense”.
The FT | IE Corporate Learning Alliance is a new company that is bringing together CLO’s and senior development professionals to share their understanding and experience of how to build better organizations fit for 21st century challenges. This series of thought-leadership discussions is central to their model of engaging and partnering with the needs of businesses across the world. Launching with their Mexican partner EGADE Business School the FT|ie CLA, under the leadership of CEO VanDyck Silveira, is looking to create a new force in executive education with a model that sits somewhere between the traditional business school and a global consultancy.
Business schools generally have a poor track record of working collaboratively on custom programs, struggling to integrate faculty and maintain quality unless tightly managed by the client. The FT | IE CLA approach of building the partnership first, and attracting the clients to that, rather than the client typically demanding that two school’s work together, is a disruptive change to the status quo, and according to Silveira will allow them to offer clients a genuinely global service but drawing on deep local knowledge from their regional partners.
The business communities in Mexico City and Monterrey are both close-knit and highly influential. The Mexican economy is founded on these strong and dynamic family run businesses, led by the well-known global building materials giant Cemex, and food manufacturer Bimbo, but with a large number of less familiar but highly successful b-2-b and b-2-c businesses, such as car parts manufacturer Proeza, which has recently acquired a German competitor as it expands across Europe, and cookie manufacturer Gamesa, as well as beverage to retail conglomerate FEMSA.
As Lourdes Dieck, Dean of EGADE and former Mexican ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the EU as well as respected economist and board member of Pemex’s gas division, noted all these companies face a crisis of lack of leadership skills, both in Mexico and across their fast expanding overseas markets. “Lack of leadership competencies was one of the 10 global business challenges identified at Davos this year” says Dieck, highlighting the scale of the problem and the need for new initiatives in tackling the deficiency. Part of the solution is sharing and discussing the issues broadly between academia and the corporate sector, so scalable, applicable and effective leadership interventions can be designed and run.
Alfredo Jacobo, and his counterpart at Proeza, Cesar Calva, were both cautious about the efficacy of e-learning for senior leaders. Calva admitted to having “recently failed an online training course” as he did not have the discipline to find time and sit down and do it, a complaint highlighted in other recent research too. More significantly both Calva and Jacobo saw that leadership programs are ultimately about social learning, not just the networking benefits – though that is vital (rather than a positive side benefit) – but that learning from peers, often in intangible ways, constitutes a large part of how senior executives learn and change behaviours. This plays directly to Jacobo’s view that the identification of common core values is critical for creating a common culture in an organization, and that well designed leadership development is about as good a way of imparting these values as currently exists, through the structured conversations and knowledge sharing that leads to sense-making opportunities for experienced managers.
Jacobo observed that while FEMSA is growing very fast, they have managed to retain the core corporate FEMSA values even though they are absorbing cadres of management from their new acquisitions. “We have not done anything ‘deliberate’ to achieve this, but nor have we ignored it. But it happens because these values are are so central to how we operate that as long as we really ‘live them’ they get picked up through the socialised learning that happens on the job and is reinforced by the formal development activities as well”.
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