Sally Elson (HR Manager – Asia, TWE) and Michael Eury (DeakinPrime facilitator)
When brands such as Lindeman’s, Beringer, Wolf Blass and Penfolds establish themselves in Asia, you know that the business is really taking off. But when your business is growing this fast, it is a challenge to know how to reach staff across three continents whilst ensuring that the brand is communicated consistently and is culturally nuanced for each country.
Since its demerger from Foster’s Group in May 2011, a key business challenge for Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has been to build people’s momentum and capabilities to drive top line growth, and to support expansion into new markets. As part of this plan, the Asia Management team has undergone some key leadership development training – not only has this training assisted in developing stronger internal capability, but it has also helped to bring about better team cohesion and networking within the group.
The workshop, entitled Lead to Perform, took place over four days in May 2011 and covered self awareness, entrepreneurship, leadership and action orientation. The participants were regional marketing, business and commercial managers from Taiwan, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. TWE engaged DeakinPrime, the corporate education arm of Deakin University, to run the workshops. DeakinPrime had previously worked with TWE in Australia in leadership training. Sally Elson, HR Manager – Asia, spearheaded the Asia Learning Initiative and commented on the benefits that she has seen thus far: ‘The investment we have made in our upcoming leaders is already paying dividends. We have seen a noticeable change in their leadership behaviours and a step change in the attitude towards taking ownership and driving our business in our biggest growth market – not a small task!’
Following the workshop, a Results Day session was held in Singapore over two days. Participants’ managers were given a briefing on what had been covered in preceding sessions. The initial focus was on self awareness covering the Johari Window concept according to which we each have:
- an open area of strength – the public domain (known to ourselves and others)
- a blind area of strength – the blind spot (known to others but not to ourselves)
- a hidden area of strength – the facade (known to ourselves but not known to others)
- an unknown area – the mysterious self (unknown to ourselves and others).
The program moved onto leadership and asked participants to consider what leadership qualities they had, particularly during times of change. As participants all held positions of considerable responsibility, they were also required to look at the business through a strategic lens and apply models such as Porter’s Five Forces to their geographical market place. A People Management component of the program was also included where participants explored ways in which to manage and inspire others. Particular acknowledgement was made of the fact that people learn in different ways and may respond to data and knowledge as activists, reflectors, theorists or pragmatists.
Experiential learning was used throughout the program both to illustrate a concept and to add interest to each session. When discussing team work, for example, participants were asked to spend some time playing a form of volleyball and were asked to move the ball from one end of the room to the other. Participants naturally assumed that the game would be oppositional, with two teams and two destinations for the ball depending on which team participants were in. The activity served as a keen reminder that often we are in situations where we assume that competition is the default state rather than looking at possible ways to collaborate.
The Results Day was particularly interesting as participants were not required to inform managers beforehand of their areas of action learning. Presentations did not have to be content-heavy, but needed to demonstrate ample understanding and application of concepts learned in the program. Presentation styles varied and in many cases probably reflected the job roles that the participants held.
One participant emphasised the continuing need to have distributors act as ambassadors for the brand. He raised the issue of changing perceptions around screw-top and cork-top wine bottles, and the different oxygenation and storage requirements. He also pointed out that shifts in acceptance levels can occur even where there has been strong resistance previously.
Another participant, from the finance area, perhaps surprisingly took a non-finance concept as one of her core learnings from the program. She spoke of management of self as a really valuable insight. In particular, she made reference to Stephen Covey’s Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence – a framework which asks participants to identify what they can and can’t change in their world and to expand their circle of influence wherever possible. She then went on to discuss elements which she could use as levers to effect change in financial outcomes, whether this be in the area of promotion and advertising or discounts and rebates.
The usefulness of the StrengthsFinder tool was often commented on as a key learning tool in the program. In the profile, participants answer questions about themselves and are then provided with 34 key strengths. Some of the strengths highlighted included word associations with the following: activator, maximiser, developer, includer, wooer, focus, empathy, harmony, adaptability. In some cases, the strengths were confirmation of long-identified talents, but in others it was a case of a strength that was unknown to the participant and perhaps unknown to their managers.
One participant’s strength was as a ‘relator’. In this case, she decided that she would assist everyone in the demand-planning side of the business. This particular participant has been in the business for a number of years and is keen to train others on what she has learned. She sees her role as helping different countries to achieve lower error rates in demand planning. She also found it useful that strengths were identified not just weaknesses. The focus on strengths sits well with documented research which states that organisations focusing on strengths had a result of 83 per cent active employee engagement versus a 6 per cent engagement level for employees who worked at organisations where strengths were not a focus.
One productive outcome from the Results Day was undoubtedly the interchange and enhanced understanding amongst the participants. Even though the participants were from target markets with different growth potential and segmentation, the workshop was quite regularly filled with genuine comments of encouragement, pointers around where to source information etc. The facilitator for the Asia program, Michael Eury, had this to say about the participants: ‘A diverse and talented group, sharing their strengths with others, open to challenging ideas and focused upon improving the performance of their business.’
The demerger of the beer and wine business is only recent history. However, if the verve and vigour of this group is anything to go by, there should be a lot of reason to be popping (or unscrewing) a celebratory bottle or two in the future!