Strategy, Alignment & Leadership: Discussing Learning’s Impact

By Tim Sosbe on 09/17/2010
No matter the topic, no matter the individual drivers, it’s always energizing to sit in a room of like-minded individuals and talk about things in common. Even with desert temperatures of 106 outside, there’s a certain magic in the air when thought leaders, experts and practitioners come together to share, to learn, to advance the industry that embraces us all.
That sense of collaboration and purpose was certainly evident recently at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, AZ, when the annual CLO & Talent Management Forum was in session. Produced annually here in the United States by Richmond Events, the CLO & Talent Management Forum brought together about 150 senior learning leaders from organizations including Apple, ADP, Dow Jones, Bank of America, AARP, Hertz, Raytheon, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Coldwell Banker, Nationwide Insurance, Iron Mountain, Bristol-Myers Squibb, ManTech International and ESPN.
With topics as broad as workforce development and talent management on the table, the conference conversations were equally as diverse. In keynote presentations, breakout sessions, individual meetings and networking discussions, the attendees, speakers and suppliers share resources, suggestions and support for the full event.
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Reviving a Conscious Culture

Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen were senior learning leaders for Satyam Computer Services, a global organization that went through a $2.5 billion scandal when the chairman confessed to “cooking the books,” causing the near bankruptcy and closure of the company. They detail the lessons they learned during their 2005-2009 tenure in their book, “RIDING THE TIGER: Leading through Learning in Turbulent Times.”

Organizations are made up of both conscious and accidental cultures, and a crisis truly magnifies both, Nelson and Cohen note. The conscious culture comes from what’s written and documented. The accidental culture comes about from those accepting and performing around unwritten or unspoken behaviors and norms passed from one employee to the next, and even one generation to the next.
If the organization has planned and prepared well, Nelson and Cohen say, many programs and systems will be in place when turbulent times hit. “If not, then the road back will be tricky and filled with additional challenges because it requires shifting the organization’s culture to get it back on track. Attempting to shift from the accidental culture back to the desired conscious culture is a daunting task.”

Nelson and Cohen determined there are four steps to regain or establish a conscious culture:
Identify all of the components of the existing culture. Include the written, spoken, unspoken, and unwritten.
Facilitate what to keep, what to eliminate, and what to add. This step merges the positive accidental culture into the conscious culture and helps identify the negative accidental influences that need to go away.
Revisit your organization’s core purpose and values, and reorganize them if necessary. To get Toyota back on track, for example, Akio Toyoda realized the need to shift his purpose to “serving the greater global community” in addition to caring for his employees, the team, neighbors, and protecting the organization. When documented as part of the conscious culture of Toyota, this shift has the potential to positively change the organization forever.
Communicate and reinforce the core purpose and values. A conscious culture can drown out the accidental culture only when it is consistently communicated and reinforced.


Defining the Employee Relationship Chain

A successful employee relationship — which converts to strong retention — can be broken into three stages. The relationship begins with onboarding and evolves into alignment with the organization and recognition for his or her contributions. The final stage, which often is not achieved, is when the employee views the organization and its leaders as trusted advisers.

By Ed Cohen and Priscilla Nelson

Addressing turnover is critical. Many organizations cost-optimized without taking retention into account and they will now have to deal with the consequences of that. But it’s not too late for organizations to immediately begin taking advantage of this awareness by moving their employees up the value chain. Today’s economic marketplace has created the need to re-evaluate our past, current and future talent needs. While millions of qualified applicants are available, it goes without saying that many of them will not meet the criteria for each and every business requirement.
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Priscilla Nelson: Riding the Tiger- Author Interview

Talent management expert and former Satyam Computer Services executive, Priscilla Nelson and co-author with Ed Cohen, of the leadership lesson filled book Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the book.

Priscilla Nelson describes the crisis that almost destroyed Satyam Computer Services, and the initiatives that not only saved the company from bankruptcy, but transformed the entire organization into a more effective and growing business. She shares the strategies and techniques that turned the company around and began its path to renewal and profitability.

Thanks to Priscilla Nelson for her time, and for her comprehensive and informative responses. They are greatly appreciated.

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‘Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times’ by Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen – launches on September 1st in India

Encinitas, Ca, August 30, 2010 / IndiaPRLine / — When leadership matters most, how prepared are you to influence change and guide your organization in today’s ever-changing business environment? Riding the Tiger: Leading Through Learning in Turbulent Times published by Cengage Learning, provides a rare opportunity to learn innovative leadership techniques and ideas for fostering change that are essential for everyone in these challenging times.

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Leading Through Turbulent Times

While working as senior talent leaders for a global organization that went through a 2.5 billion dollar scandal (not counting peripheral damages) when the Chairman confessed to “cooking the books” causing the near bankruptcy and closure of the company, we had the opportunity to observe and be a part of culture’s true influence. During turbulent times, like those we have been going through, leadership is not determined by rank but by the strength of the talent and conviction to build the relationships necessary to bring about collaboration and seek solutions. In our situation, leaders came from all areas and from all levels.

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This just in from a reader of Riding The Tiger

I received your book on Friday and have read it twice!  I will be reading it many times more, it’s like a new bible of usefulness in the work that I do.

As to page six, paragraph two “Somehow, something good must come from this catastrophe.” – Something phenomenally important and inspiring has indeed come from an event that I almost wish to have been part of.  Many congratulations to you both, I know too many people who very quickly wish to distance themselves from disaster, however, you have courageously ensured that all the good lessons and experiences are captured here for all time and in a most constructive and humanistic fashion. Genius!

I could almost write a whole book of praise after two reads!

I do hope that the “leaders” of the financial crises buy your book and learn from it.  Some day, when I put together my own book of life experiences in helping people to deliver sustainable change, I’d be grateful for your counsel. Many things in your book clearly articulated thing that I already knew but did not consider so deeply until now.

My very best wishes and look forward to reading of your next adventures.


Diane McWade
Evolution Network Limited


Echoes of Innocence

The Voice of Tony Chapman, Leader,
School of Leadership

With more than 20 years of experience in media and television production, I had decided it was time for a change of pace. I joined the School of Leadership at Satyam in March 2008 as a leadership development consultant. I quickly became immersed in the training programs, teaching conflict management tools, tips on executive presence, and presentation skills.

At the end of 2008, my family traveled back to Australia for the Christmas break. On the evening of January 7, I was at a party at my sister-in-law’s in a beachside suburb of Melbourne. It was the usual raucous family event, with friends dropping in and wine flowing. In the midst of all this, I decided to ring the office in India. This is how I learned about the massive fraud. I felt a bizarre sense of dislocation, magnified by the distance between my family there and my colleagues in Hyderabad. I imagined what they must be going through and their reactions to this news.

On my return to work a few days later, it was clearly “all hands on the pumps.” Faculty and support staff were gearing up for crisis management and morale-sustaining initiatives that could be disseminated to the staff at zero cost. One key communication platform during this time was the webcast studio we had been testing for the past year, known as Planet Satyam. As web television assumed growing importance as a communications tool that could operate on a minimal budget, I was drawn into working in the studio. My plans to develop my skills as a leadership learning professional were put on hold. We had a number of memorable webcasts, including series such as Rise of the Phoenix and Weathering the Storm. At the end of January, we ran a five-hour-plus webathon to raise funds for a local orphanage with which we were heavily involved. We had one camera going live and another crew picking up interviews at the back of the webcast area. The enthusiasm of everyone involved carried the day, and we managed to raise a considerable sum. By the end of October, web television was being used to deploy almost 90 percent of all learning. My desire to be a leadership development professional remained sidelined, so I decided it was time for me to move on.


Echoes of Innocence: The Voice of Priscilla Nelson

I had been providing leadership development and executive coaching for leaders from Fortune 500 companies for many years before moving to Hyderabad to work for Satyam. There, my responsibilities included building a global executive coaching program for the company. We began with the most senior leaders and then cascaded coaching throughout the entire organization. From the beginning, it was a formidable venture. The cost of doing business in India was significantly lower than in most countries where Satyam had offices. This factor, and the added factor of the culture’s reticence to use external coaches, resulted in our decision to build an internal coaching capability. Building a strong, professionally trained, and competent resource pool of coaches was paramount for our strategy. Further, it was imperative that we meet the needs of our diverse culture. Though mostly of East Indian origin, our customers and onsite employees represented differing national origins, and therefore our coaches needed extensive training in cultural awareness.

When I arrived in India in 2005, I discovered that coaching was not well known there. Most saw coaching as a “remedial” approach for those who were struggling—all but a “last ditch effort,” before they were asked to leave the organization, or school, where their success or failure might well determine their destiny. With this kind of a perception, and in the predominantly Indian-centered corporate headquarters, coaching would have a long, uphill battle to be seen as a strong resource for leaders. In one conversation with one of our most senior leaders, we were told, “Yes, I can see this as a tremendous asset; I have some leaders I want to refer to you.” Our response was, “That’s wonderful, and how could coaching affect your own growth?” By allowing this leader to realize that he could reap value, he was also willing to present himself as a role model and catalyst for others. Taking all this into account, it was apparent that a massive shift in the perception of coaching was required before executive coaching services could be successfully launched.

We developed a two-pronged approach. The first prong involved one-to-one engagements with senior leaders, getting them acquainted with the infinite possibilities for building on the success of a solid career. We began by telling everyone that coaching was for successful leaders; we were not there to “fix” anyone. It started slowly, and over time it began to gather a following. The second prong entailed more comprehensive programs, including “group coaching” programs for new and emerging leaders, and coaching support for those pursuing new leader certificates and global business leadership opportunities. This further embodied the core messages of our coaching relationship: trust, partnership, and accountability. The pipeline for coaching included individual senior leaders; leaders in transition; new leaders, both promoted and hired from outside the organization; and emerging leaders.

To prepare professionals as coaches, we sought the right training. We worked with several external providers and also developed our own internal certification program aligned with the organization’s core competencies, as well as the core values and code of ethics of the International Coach Federation. Armed with our new internal program, we groomed a strong contingent of 45 professionally trained coaches who stood ready to match their skills with the needs of our leaders. By 2009, we had the largest internal professional coach program in Asia and quite possibly, the largest in the world. Coaching was the cornerstone of all our professional service offerings. Executive coaching became a critical service, noted in each and every award the organization received between 2006 and 2009. Our coaching model has been used as a baseline by other organizations throughout India as they have created their own coaching programs.


Echoes of Innocence: The Voice of Nandini Darsi

Leadership Development Consultant

What could we offer to the leaders, when—clearly—whatever tools we had reinforced earlier did not include managing a crisis of this sort? As I was trying to make sense of my own reactions and fears, the learner in me desired to know what others were thinking. As I spoke with leaders, I found their tone to be “protective” for Satyam. It was heartening to observe that many leaders wanted to step in and help.

Satyam as an organization had invested significantly in learning, and so I asked if learning played a role in their strong demonstration of leadership. Many leaders gave credit to the leadership development we provided, stating that it helped them understand how to “lead from the front, motivate teams, talk, network, and collaborate.” We had taught our leaders to think about the impact of their behaviors on others. Some said the learning helped identify inherent strengths. One leader told me, “Leadership training has given me confidence to face any situation, including this one!” It is true that anything you repeat as a mantra gets ingrained in the individual’s psyche. . . .“no one wins unless everyone wins” was one such mantra that had penetrated the minds of our leaders. Here is one example of how we gathered strength from another. My colleague, Nicola Klein, and I launched a training program for a response team on counseling services. The program started right after a critical announcement that was filled with even more bad news. Everyone was shocked. Nicola and I were totally broken inside and forced to face a room full of distraught faces. In my mind, the voice rang again, “What’s the point? What can I tell them?” I forced myself to calm down and started the session by saying “I know what you are feeling right now because I feel it too. I am wondering how we can take this session and how we would be able to focus. Let’s not park our feelings. Instead, let’s identify them, because this is how any individual would be feeling when seeking counseling help.”

It’s been almost a year since that fateful moment, and most of us are still reflecting on what has happened. Our responsibility as learning professionals is not one to be taken lightly.