Reviewing our latest missions and discussions with large corporations such as: Airbus, Alcatel Lucent, CEA, CMA-CGM, Eurocopter, Gemalto, Pernod Ricard, and Renault, in 2013 here are the main 3 trends that keep coming back in our perspective…

Mentoring, community and networks

Corporations have finally realized that the notion of community, of “being together” and helping each other may be the best way to identify, share, grow and benefit from all the talents and knowledge within a company. Inspired from social media and external networks, corporations have created their own internal networks and communities. Encouraging discussions across functions, between various cultures and generations is very valuable for a corporation not only in terms of knowledge and best practices sharing and spreading but also because it helps develop a sense of “belonging” which is good for employee’s motivation, engagement and career development.

Also, I’m happy to say that mentoring is finally a trendy subject since it enables this sense of community especially in the cross-generation communication. However I fear that without guidance many mentoring programmes may fail due to a lack of clear framework and trained mentors. Indeed, setting a clear framework with strong values and an engaging purpose is key to ensuring that all participants have the right levels of expectations, know what their role is and how the programme of mentoring is connected to the overall strategic objectives of the company. Having met in the last few years some mentees who didn’t know why they were being mentored and mentors who didn’t know what to do in their role, I have to emphasize the importance of taking the time to design the programme not only as a process but as a strategic tool aligned with the rest of the HR and cultural objectives. Furthermore, the mentors need to be trained. We often hear coordinators saying that they cannot ask the top management to attend a training session on how to be a good mentor. They should lead by example and show that we can learn and develop ourselves throughout our lives.

Being a good mentor is not about having succeeded, it is about having succeeding AND helping others do the same with the right posture, by respecting their identity and values, by offering a perspective without leading them, by engaging in challenging and enriching discussion without having to prove a point or show a superior hierarchical level. So to me, mentors who refuse to be trained or develop their mentoring skills do not have the right attitude and values to be great mentors. So what’s the point of having them on board?

Gathering a network of great mentors, engaged professionals, and inspired leaders around strong values and purposeful actions is the way!

Leaders’ business agility and intrapreneurship

We are seeing more and more training programmes for leaders and senior managers which try to expand their thinking outside of their usual framework, sector and approach. Intrapreneurship is a vast and very interesting subject since it is about business thinking as well as exercising mind agility. On these subjects, Philippe and I work often together since the synergy of our perspectives (human and strategic) enable a holistic approach to help senior managers apprehend and acquire the necessary skills to develop intrapreneurship within their corporation. Some of our clients do not hesitate to take their senior managers outside of their comfort zone by having them work on start-up businesses, or being consultant outside of their sector of activity.

It is about stretching their horizon and challenging their traditional ways of thinking. Whether they use these practices as a learning experience or as a real business opportunity, we can see a definite will to change the company culture towards more innovative spirit, market orientation, and strategic pro-activity. But here let’s be very crystal clear, companies do not need yet another very fun but very unproductive creativity session! Too often we are asked to do one of those and we often refuse. Why? Because we want to know why creativity is required, for what purpose. Because it may not be the best tool, and often on its own, can be very disappointing. Creativity may be part of a whole process or approach to help leaders flex their minds on a market issue, or organisational problem, but it cannot be the answer to business agility or THE skill we look for in an intrapreneur!

Corporations need to develop the critical thinking skills of their managers, helping them step out of their usual frame of reference, never rely on their past laurels, keep learning, keep their awareness levels up, and stay open to new ideas wherever they come from… in brief, help them stay intellectually flexible.

Women’s professional development

With the legal constraint of having more women on executive boards, the realisation that women can be a strong asset at decision level, women’s growing motivation to have a greater influence on how business is done and their will to develop themselves in their job, the professional development of women’s career has been during the past few years a hot topic. Within organisations and independent networks (European Professional Women Network for example) women have started communities of learning, training, sharing, mentoring and influencing. I have been training women recently on how to be more visible within their company so that decision-makers could identify them as potential senior managers. I had to design specific training sessions about emotions management, self-confidence and marketing of self. Women have too long relied only on their performance (or should I say waited for their performance to be seen) to be promoted.

It is important for women to realise that promotion and successful career development are of course about performance (10%) but also in a major part about making sure that this performance is visible and recognized (90%). This is why the subject of women’s career is also tightly correlated to the 2 previous subjects of mentoring/networking and proactive strategic thinking: mentoring helps women engage with decision-makers, learn the internal politics of the company and develop their visibility through networking at a higher level; and developing their pro-active strategic thinking helps them be ready for and develop the necessary skills to get a leadership position.

So we are not talking just about leadership anymore, but about a style of leadership which is not self-centred.

It is more about a community of leaders who think beyond their own capacity and leverage the talents within their teams, community and ecosystem across borders, genders, cultures, generations and sectors.

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