Wal-Mart Drafts Leaders for Military-Style Training

Attending Wal-Mart Leadership Academy rekindled Tracey Lloyd’s memories of boot camp.

Although hardly dangerous, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s training program for top leaders has a military air that gets participants “thinking two ranks above their level,” says Lloyd, a retired Army captain and Bronze Star recipient who joined the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer in 2008.

Lloyd embodies Wal-Mart’s fast-track approach to selectively developing new leaders. Since completing the academy training in 2009, Lloyd has been promoted three times, including her current role as one of the directors at the academy.

The 16-weeklong program puts Wal-Mart’s store managers, merchandising managers, operations managers and shift managers through their paces. Different learning objectives are set for each week, ranging from how to win the trust of employees to selling mass merchandise in Russia. Just like boot camp, the intense program “breaks you down so it can build you back up again”—a necessary experience in adjusting to the pressures of running a retail store.

“It’s designed at the outset to overwhelm you, which can be frustrating. Then again, running a store can be frustrating. As a leader, you must learn to push it deep down in your belly until you get the hang of it,” Lloyd says.

In addition, managers gained a newfound appreciation of different roles inside Wal-Mart, Lloyd says. “As a store manager, it’s easy to think everything is up to you. The academy experience showed us how the various functions need to work together to make the store successful,” Lloyd says.

By providing focused development for new leaders, Wal-Mart is trying to avoid the fate common to many other companies: Promoting people without adequately preparing them. Nearly 40 percent of first-time leaders ultimately fail, according to a comprehensive study in May by Development Dimensions International Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm.

The report, Be Better Than Average: The State of Frontline Leadership, is based on a survey of 300 human resources executives.

The No. 1 reason for failure is a lack of training on interpersonal skills, including listening, empathizing and involvement. “Leaders are not receiving the development or support that they need to succeed given these new expectations,” says Richard Wellins, a senior vice president at DDI.

Building Leaders

The academy was launched about five years ago at the urging of President and CEO Bill Simon following a determination that Wal-Mart lacked the leadership depth needed to meet anticipated growth. Wal-Mart posted revenue of $469.2 billion in its fiscal year that ended in Jan. 31, 2013. In the U.S. alone, Wal-Mart operates more than 4,100 retail stores and distribution centers.

“Our analysis showed we were capable of building new stores faster than we could prepare new store managers,” says Celia Swanson, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of talent development.

The academy is geared to leaders deemed to have high potential, Swanson says. Those tapped to participate are pulled out of their daily role and immersed in hands-on exercises and work projects. The training blends theory with practice, using business-case scenarios to expose people to a range of different experiences.

The program works this way: Participants spend two weeks at a time at Bentonville, followed by two weeks back in the workplace. The process repeats itself up to four times, for a total of 16 weeks.

The endgame is to get people ready for promotions within 30 to 90 days after graduating. Since its inception, more than 500 leaders have graduated from the academy. That is a fraction of Wal-Mart’s 2.2 million employees—1.3 million of whom are based in the U.S.

“It’s a small group that we’ve put through the training, but that’s the point. It’s an accelerated development that enables them to step more quickly into a broader role,” Swanson says.

To develop its training, Wal-Mart turned to global consulting firm McKinney Rogers, whose clients include Wirtz Beverage Group and ITV, the largest commercial television network in the United Kingdom.

The academy borrows liberally from military training, which blends theory with practice, says Damian McKinney, CEO of London-based McKinney Rogers. Store managers are exposed to simulated situations that commonly occur in retailing, forcing them to think critically and make decisions under pressure. “It’s similar to how military leaders plan strategies for defending and defeating an effective attack,” says McKinney, a former operations commando with the U.K. Royal Marines.

Military-style training complements Wal-Mart’s approach to developing leaders, Swanson says. “The military has application to us in the sense that we have to teach lots of young leaders very quickly. The military also no longer relies as much on a command-and-control structure, and similarly, our leaders need to know how to get a new store and community [of employees] up and running quickly.”

Helping the Community

Community projects are a key part of Wal-Mart’s leadership academy, Swanson says. For example, leaders often participate in community projects to build homes for low-income families, volunteer at children’s hospitals and similar initiatives.

“Our store managers are usually one of the largest employers in the markets we serve, so the role they play as community leaders is influential. We have to prepare them for it,” Swanson says.

Lloyd joined Wal-Mart shortly after retiring from the Army in 2008. She made a list of desirable employers and then winnowed it down to about a dozen companies. She says Wal-Mart’s commitment to professional development was the clincher.

“That commitment to developing people resonated with me because of my time in the military. Investing in technology and innovation is important, but it’s not nearly as important as investing in the people that drive business forward,” Lloyd says.

Wal-Mart hired Lloyd as a developmental store manager in Jacksonville, Florida, shortly after retiring from the Army. She was invited to the leadership academy about 10 months later and was one month into the program when Wal-Mart named her general manager of its supercenter store in Palm Coast, about one hour south of Jacksonville.

Lloyd served as GM from August 2009 to January 2011, leading a team of 425 hourly workers and 12 managers. The Palm Coast store generated revenue growth topping $100 million.

Wal-Mart’s executive team was impressed enough by her store’s year-over-year revenue growth that Lloyd was promoted to director of store innovations. During those 18 months, Lloyd’s store of 425 hourly workers and 12 managers generated annual revenue topping $100 million. Wal-Mart’s executive team was impressed enough to bring Lloyd to Bentonville as director of strategy for store innovations.

She subsequently served a year as director of hiring and placement solutions for a year before becoming an academy director. Her present job includes developing content for Wal-Mart’s varying levels of leadership.

Says Lloyd: “The leadership academy is not a one-time thing. It’s designed to help leaders progress a career at Walmart.”

About the Author:

Garry Kranz is a Workforce contributing editor. Reprinted from Workforce.com

How to Develop Mental Toughness in Leaders

Of all the competencies sought after by today’s budding business leaders — critical thinking, emotional intelligence, the ability to influence and inspire a team, to name a few — perhaps the most valuable is one that isn’t learned in a boardroom but on a baseball or soccer field as children.

Mental toughness is a term commonly used in sports — a term many begin to hear from coaches in youth athletics. Tuning out the noise or pressure and performing to potential in an otherwise difficult situation is what makes fans admire the most astute professional athlete.

It’s not that the quarterback was able to throw the winning touchdown, but the fact that he or she was able to do so under the tight and uncomfortable circumstances of the situation.

While sports stars grab the majority of headlines in the mental toughness arena, this trait has become essential for leaders to be successful in business as well, according to Christine M. Riordan, dean of the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

Global business leaders, facing the complexity of an uncertain working environment, need to have the same psychological readiness as an athlete. It’s not just a matter of leaders’ knowledge, ability or skill that sets them up for success, but also an ability to deal with the pressure and stress of competition, fatigue and failure, Riordan wrote in a 2010 Forbes article, “Six Elements of Mental Toughness.”

Riordan’s six elements of mental toughness are:

Flexibility. “Just like a quarterback faced with a broken play, a leader must [be able] to decide quickly on a different way to get the ball down the field.”

Responsiveness. “Game-ready leaders are able to remain engaged, alive and connected with a situation when under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges and threats in the environment.”

Strength. Mentally tough leaders “find the strength to dig deep and garner the resolve to keep going, even when in a seemingly losing game.”

Courage and ethics. Leaders have to have the ability “to make hard but right decisions for the organization.”

Resiliency. Leaders need to be able to rebound from disappointments.

Sportsmanship. Have a “Bring it on!” mentality.

“Part of leadership and mental toughness is having the resiliency to bounce back from mistakes and situations that you [as a leader] really haven’t seen before,” Riordan said.

Developing mental toughness, however, is no small task. More than anything, teaching mental toughness in others demands commitment and dedication — both from the teacher and the student, said Bill Cole, CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a Silicon Valley business coaching consultancy.

Leaders seeking to acquire mental toughness can start by finding a mentor or coach who is willing to help guide them, according to Cole. While classroom and group settings are sufficient to lay the groundwork for developing the skill, one-on-one mentoring is best to provide for individuals’ situations and learning needs.

Classroom teaching is “just kind of the starting point,” he said. “You can get a discussion going [in a classroom], but then the deep learning has to happen after that initial talk is given.”

Once a coach or mentor is in place, leaders should then find a role model — someone who exhibits admirable mental toughness who they can reach out to.

Having a role model who embodies mental toughness, someone who can be personally connected to the learner, can give leaders a more engaging, visceral learning experience, Cole said.

Jason Selk, author of Executive Toughness and director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, said he sets up players with a “mental workout,” or a series of mental exercises that are performed daily.

Included in this workout are things like controlled breathing and visualizing a personal “highlight reel” — “Imagine three successes that [are] going to happen in the next game,” Selk said.

While mental workouts for players and business leaders might differ in scope, the principles and concepts are largely the same, Selk said. He lays out his framework to develop mental toughness in five steps that play off phrases typically used by baseball coaches.

“Pay attention to your swing, and forget the home run.” Focusing too much on the target — or end goal — might diminish leaders’ chances for success. Instead, Selk said, focus on the process of what needs to get done to get there. “You cannot accomplish a goal without first having a sound process in place,” he said. “Identify those daily goals that have the greatest influence on your performance and, therefore, your success.”

“Don’t take your eye off the ball.” Control the tendency to be distracted and stay on the task at hand. “Many high-performing businesspeople believe they can multitask and still maintain focus,” Selk said. Too much multitasking, however, can hamper leaders in the end.

“Be your own ref.” Business leaders need to establish limits to be productive. Walling off time for family and work is essentially for leaders to maintain and develop mental toughness, Selk said.

“Get R&R between workouts.” Getting proper rest and relaxation is important for mentally tough leaders. Fatigue will only lead to lost productivity and engagement, and serve as a distraction, Selk said.

“Listen to your body.” “In sports, when athletes try to push through the pain, they end up on the [disabled list] with injuries,” Selk said. Business leaders who participate in “extreme working” — or working too many hours — run the risk of reduced productivity and possibly even diminished health.

“Most of these workers can’t sustain this level of performance; [they] end up burning out,” Selk said, “just like promising athletes who have to sit on the bench all season or retire early because of injuries.”

About the Author:

Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. Reprinted from Chief Learning Officer

Conversations with 3 Mentoring Leaders

One of the tough challenges for companies today is finding systemic ways to tap into the vast pools of knowledge that exist in their organizations, and then creating effective ways for that knowledge to be shared among employees. The breadth and depth of knowledge available can make this task overwhelming.

Networked mentoring begins with the philosophy that everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn. In this same vein, mentoring leaders from Agilent Technologies, YUM! Brands, and McDonald’s share what mentoring means to their organizations and how they are taking mentoring to the next level.

Agilent Technologies

Leslie Camino-Markowitz, Director, Next Generation Leadership Programs, Global Learning and Leadership Development

Q. Why is mentoring important to Agilent?

A. Agilent’s aim is to foster a high-performance environment that will focus and maximize the passion, performance, and potential of its people to deliver business results. Agilent has strong management practices, processes, and systems that support the development of employees in their current work and encourages their continued growth at Agilent. Mentoring can play a significant part in supporting all levels of employees to achieve this together.

Q. How is Agilent using mentoring?

A. Agilent has a strong mentoring culture, and as such, we use mentoring in a variety of ways. Mentoring at Agilent is a process that supports learning and development, and therefore, performance improvements for an individual, team, or business. It typically involves offline help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work, thinking, or career.

Mentoring can be formal, using structured and systematic processes, procedures, and tools. It is typically driven by organizational needs, based on goal achievement, and of a fixed duration. Mentoring can also be informal, which is flexible and loosely structured, with only periodic measurement of results. The characteristics of mentoring relationships will vary depending on the nature of the partnership and the needs of each partner.

Agilent’s Next Generation Leadership programs provide accelerated development for top talent by matching senior leaders and executives with high potential talent to develop a leadership pipeline. Our CEO leads the way by enthusiastically accepting mentoring relationships as another way to directly influence the development of our future leaders, and it allows him to get keen insight into the organization.

Q. What business impact does Agilent hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. At Agilent, we look at our yearly strategic imperatives to analyze the business requirements for talent and to understand how we can move on our commitments. We consider how to use mentoring in support of our values.

From creating a culture of speed to opportunity, creating strategic alignment, building organizational capability, and delivering results by engaging the hearts and minds of our people, mentoring allows for people connections to get us where we need to be. Ultimately, it’s about increasing speed to competence and breaking the intrinsic challenges that come with matrix organizations.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next 5-10 years?

A. It’s all about increasing connectivity for a purpose. While I do think that traditional mentoring continues to be highly effective, the reality of the speed in which we need to deliver results, react to continuous unprecedented change, and synthesize information—along with demands on our time—require us to develop faster modes of connectivity toward building capability, enabling informed decisions, and promoting action. Tapping into sources of knowledge quickly and in real time is an imperative. It is all about dynamic mining for knowledge.

To that end we are conscious that we need to evolve mentoring as a knowledge transfer solution that incorporates social learning approaches. We are in the midst of launching ASK network—Agilent Sharing Knowledge—to help shift the mindset of traditional mentoring only as a long-term commitment to one of mining knowledge now, and we are doing it by socializing the concept in support of business objectives.

Q.What influence do you think this will have on your employees?

A. Knowledge exchange to increase productivity and enable competency to deliver on Agilent’s strategic intent is the desired result. With this comes the potential of higher employee engagement and innovation. It is about using the rich knowledge and experience we already have in-house and about the innovation that comes when several minds come together.

Yum! Brands
Emma Oberdieck, People Development Manager

Q. Why is mentoring important to Yum! Brands?

A. At Yum! Brands, one of our core beliefs is, “people capability first… satisfied customers and profitability follow.” This guides our overall approach to the training and development of our associates. We know that the only way to achieve breakthrough business results is by believing in all of our associates and helping them to unleash their full potential. Mentoring is one of the key ways we build the capability of our associates to help them grow and develop.

Q. How is Yum! using mentoring?

A. We practice a philosophy reinforcing the belief that every associate owns their own development. In support of this practice, mentoring has been woven into the people development fabric of our organization to make it accessible throughout the year. We talk about mentoring when we set goals at the beginning of the year.

We encourage onboarding mentoring for many of our new hires, and we strongly support mentoring for new coaches. We use one-on-one mentoring as a complement to our broader internal ideation and project collaboration network. And mentoring supports our cultural values, which we call “How We Win Together.”

Our most visible mentoring effort is in direct support of our mid-year Individual Development Planning process. Together associates and their supervisors create yearlong action plans to help the associates grow and develop. Emphasis is put on learning from experience, learning from others, and formal learning methods.

And while special development offerings such as stretch or temporary assignments can be made available from time to time, mentoring is always available to Yum! associates who work above the restaurant level.

To ensure that these associates get the most out of mentoring, we provide a variety of tools and support to enhance the mentoring relationship experience, including goal sheets, discussion guides, newsletters, websites, books, and self-guided e-learning modules.

We offer a formalized matching tool for those associates who would like a helping hand in identifying the right mentor or mentee. And we have assigned mentoring leaders in each of our operating divisions to provide program and participant support.

Q. What business impact does Yum! hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. Mentoring allows us to grow our people and our business in two key areas: business growth and expansion, and retention and engagement.
In business growth and expansion, mentoring matches associates across geographies, disciplines, and generations, both allowing us to share our wealth of knowledge outside of the boundaries that our business can naturally create and encouraging global innovation and new thinking. Because mentoring fosters close relationships, we learn to deliver superior results supported by the requests we feel more comfortable making of each other.

Related to retention and engagement, we use mentoring to engage and coach associates to grow to their full potential. Mentoring asks us to identify and focus on specific needs for development, and it pairs us with others who are dedicated to developing us in a truthful, safe, one-on-one work relationship.

These relationships, based on low-cost experiential learning, expand professional networks, promote diversity and inclusion, and increase engagement. This heightened sense of associate commitment results in reduced turnover, which allows us to build a stronger talent bench. Our associates tell us mentoring is one of the reasons Yum! is an employer of choice.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next five to 10 years?

A. Our vision is that every associate around the world has the opportunity to grow professionally and has the responsibility to coach others through every transition and phase of their career. Today, informal mentoring is happening globally in nearly every piece of our business. Formal mentor matching, however, is currently limited to our associates above the restaurant level in both our domestic business and our English-speaking international business units.

Although formal programs would have to be customized to meet the needs of our restaurant associates, we are actively pursuing solutions to enable every associate to enjoy the growth benefits of a close mentoring relationship. In addition, we would expect to offer a formal matching system in all of the languages our associates speak across the globe.

Q. What effect do you think this will have on your employees?

A. Survey and anecdotal feedback from formal and informal mentoring participants and their coaches reinforces our belief that mentoring increases job satisfaction, engagement, and retention. We’ve found that sharing information in a transparent and supportive setting increases breadth and depth of associates’ business understanding.

We know an expansion of mentoring will make our global business strategies and competencies accessible and attainable to associates where they live and work. And we’re counting on that bridge of the knowledge and support gap outside of current comfort zones to unleash the amazing talent potential we house so we can encourage our leaders of tomorrow to emerge as leaders of today.

Dennis Brennan, Director, Inclusion, Global Inclusion & Intercultural Management

Q. Why is mentoring important to McDonald’s?

A. Mentoring relationships harness the additional experience and expertise that is available to every employee in the form of fellow employees. Our founder, Ray Kroc, said it best, “None of us is as good as all of us.” We encourage all employees to seek out formal relationships that build their personal and professional skill sets that raise their competence, confidence, and add value to our business.

Q. How is McDonald’s using mentoring?

A. McDonald’s has a long history of using mentoring programs in formal and informal manners to identify and nurture future leaders, build skills for more competent employees, identify and grow successful franchisees, and assist those businesses that supply our quality products and services. Since 2006 we have offered an internal, online, virtual mentoring program that employees can utilize at their pace to make relationship connections and build their skill sets.

Q. What business impacts does McDonald’s hope to achieve through mentoring?

A. Our mission at McDonald’s is: “We aspire to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.” To achieve this mission, our actions as individuals and as a system must reflect our values, one of which is “We strive continually to improve.”

Engaging in effective advisor or learner (mentor-mentee) relationships within and between our employees, franchisees, and suppliers will achieve levels of employee performance, franchisee growth, and supplier expansion that will service our needs in building the McDonald’s brand around the world to satisfy our customers.

Q. Where do you see the practice of mentoring going in the next five to 10 years?

A. Practically speaking, as today’s virtual information society continues to expand, mentoring as we know it in the form of advisor, teacher, or learner will still exist.

People and leaders will continue to reach out to those who have the initiative, drive, and desire to improve their performance contributions to our business and the communities in which we do business. The delivery systems will dramatically change as

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the virtual world becomes smaller and access to people and learning tools becomes more fluid.

Q. What impact do you think this will have on your employees?

A. If past performance is an accurate predictor of future performance, our employees will utilize mentors or advisors to greater depths and continue to build their skill competence on broader scales that will better prepare them for positions and contributions to which they aspire.

Journey Forth

Three unique companies, three approaches to mentoring, yet all with one belief: That mentoring will continue to be the way to spread knowledge, skills, and context throughout their workforces, helping to make their employees better and their companies stronger.

About the Author:

Randy Emelo is president and CEO of Triple Creek and has worked with hundreds of clients showing them how to blend formal and informal learning into an interactive, relational, and measurable process with enterprise mentoring; remelo@3creek.com.

Reprinted from T&D Magazine

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