Business Leadership

How Kloeckner Cultivates Business Leadership in the Organization


We first shared Kloeckner’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) back in February. The business leadership program, now in its third year, helps new and emerging leaders develop essential skills across Kloeckner’s 170 branches worldwide and prepares them to take on new roles and challenges as Kloeckner and the manufacturing industry digitizes.

Cultivating talent is one pillar in Kloeckner’s strategy to pursue operational and commercial excellence, and ELP is just one reflection of that. Here, we speak to Ivan Padilla, Sales Manager at Kloeckner Santa Fe Springs, on his experience in ELP’s third cohort and what he’s gained from it.

Business Leadership

What is the driving force of the program?

“ELP is Kloeckner looking for future business leaders who can make the changes that are necessary to achieve future goals, like digitization and safety. These leaders will be expected to go back to their branches and be the drivers of change.”

How is it structured?

“There are 3 modules. The first module took place in Berlin and lasted 1 week from 9AM to 6PM everyday. The curriculum was focused on communication, how we communicate with each other, how we listen and how we give feedback. All of us are different, and so a big part of it was recognizing who we are as people and leaders and putting together an individual strategy for ourselves. There was a lot of role playing and a lot of talking and sharing ideas. 

“The second module was scheduled to take place in France, but was moved online because of COVID-19, and covers topics around business leadership and digital transformation, including scrum, agile, and other project management approaches and tools that will help us be drivers of change. Instead of 9AM-6PM for one week, we’re splitting 5 days of 4-hour sessions across the next two months. It’s been a challenge since ELP members are spread across so many different time zones.

“I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant about the impact of a virtual second module, but we were all happily surprised and impressed. The feedback was positive across the board. The curriculum kept us focused the entire 4 hours – it was interactive, creative, and engaging. The instructor took some of our tasks from the first module in Berlin and digitized them in keeping with the module’s subject matter. We all had a positive mindset and adjusted quickly to make the best of our situation.

“The third module’s main focus will be a team project that is scheduled to start in July and slated to complete by year’s end. And between each module we have reading and assignments through a digital academy. We’re also expected to keep up with our colleagues in the program and continue sharing ideas: what are they doing differently? What have they changed or implemented?”  

How has ELP evolved this year?

“In the first 2 years, ELP focused more on the commercial and sales side of the business. Now, it’s including Kloeckner team members from all areas of the business that have the potential for future business leadership positions. In this year’s ELP, we have team members in HR, controlling, traffic, and it doesn’t just span divisions, it also spans the branches and areas that are represented. This year, there are 2 representatives from the US, 1 from Mexico, 1 from Brazil, and the rest from France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK.” 

How does the business leadership program benefit from the diversity?

“The experience of being with other potential leaders from around the world has been a real eye opener. I went there with my own set of troubles that I felt were big issues, and I found that they all had the same set of problems. It didn’t matter if they were from Germany or Brazil. But, their ideas gave me a different perspective on how to solve them.”

Can you shed some light on the issue?

“In manufacturing, it’s common that there’s a disconnect between sales and production. Sometimes, they even treat each other as if they’re on different teams, even though they might be working 200 yards from each other. Two years ago at Santa Fe Springs, we merged the 2 divisions and, in management, made it a priority to understand each divisions’ pains and how to alleviate them. 

“Lo and behold, I found out during ELP that other locations had similar issues, and our specific approach to solving it had the potential to be a game changer. Their sales and production teams weren’t on the same page and listening to each other. At SFS, we had the approach that we (sales) are the drivers, and they (production) are the engines. Without them, we’re not going anywhere, and vice versa. 

“That’s just one example, though. I have tons of others. The UK branch shared how they use sensors on all of their equipment to track time and production. We shared an outside resource we use to do our CAD work overnight. Because many of the branches operate independently to best service their region’s needs, there’s a big benefit to opening the lines of communication between branches and sharing best practices.”

What was your biggest ELP takeaway so far?

“For me, the biggest takeaway was communication. The training made me far more aware of how I communicate and how important listening is to communication. I have plenty of direct reports and that means I need to learn how to listen to each mindset individually. When I came back from Berlin, that was the first thing I told my ELP colleagues. I’m naturally very direct. I speak my mind. But, if I’m being honest with myself, sometimes that wasn’t the best way to communicate. It’s better to be quiet, listen, acknowledge, and only then give input in the way that they’ll be most receptive. As a manager, I learned that if you’re not listening, you’re going to struggle.”

Natalie Spira
Natalie Spira is Kloeckner's Acquisition Marketing Manager. Previously, she was the Founder and CEO of Fraction Marketing, a marketing agency providing fractional support to scaling startups with a focus on acquisition marketing and demand generation. Natalie holds a MBA from Tel Aviv University with concentrations in entrepreneurship and marketing and a BA in English from UCLA.
Business Leadership
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