Participants Travel to Germany to Learn and Meet New People
The second round of Kloeckner’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) recently finished and participants are excited about where Kloeckner is heading. The program takes a group of upcoming leaders at Kloeckner selected from both North America and Europe and brings them together to learn more about the company and gain valuable leadership experience. Located in Berlin, the program spans a total of several weeks, broken up into week-long modules.
The ELP experience is a way for Kloeckner to invest in its employees. The program prepares them for the future and also makes them more involved with the company. Participants tour facilities, roleplay scenarios, and meet with people from all parts of Kloeckner. This gives them a chance to expand their knowledge of the company, learn about every aspect of management, and try new leadership techniques while evaluating their own.
Sales Manager Andrew Shapley, Sales Manager Megan Hudgens, and Sales and Marketing Manager Tony Driscoll are three of the participants who were selected to participate in this last round. They were extremely excited to be selected, and say they gained a lot from the experience.
“The overall experience has been one of the top five experiences of my life,” Tony says. “Here’s why: My goal has always been to learn and progress in our company. How do you progress? You have to learn. So by being selected in this group, I was given the opportunity to learn from great people. I was able to travel and learn, and it has been a great experience. Most people that I talk to, even outside of the steel business, can’t believe that our company does this kind of a program.”
One of the most valuable parts of the ELP experience is that it gives participants the opportunity to meet new people from all different parts of Kloeckner. They can bounce ideas off of each other, share past experiences, and support each other. The group developed a great sense of comradery because the participants all deal with similar things, from employees to vendors.
“I’m very pleased with the progress that we’ve made. We have a tight-knit group of participants,” Andrew says. “This program definitely broadens your perspective of the company. It makes you think outside of the norm.”
One of the biggest parts of the experience is learning different ways to handle situations. The US people were able to learn how their European counterparts do business and vice versa. Participants came from every part of the company, from sales to operations, to procurement. One of the most valuable parts of this is that participants can learn from people who have actually been in certain situations themselves. You aren’t just hearing ideas of what people would do in certain situations, but instead, you are hearing what people actually did and how it worked out.
“Sometimes it is easier to see what way not to do it than to see someone explain what way to do it,” Andrew says. “When you deal with so many people, whether it is sales or operations, you deal with so many different personalities. So to be able to adjust a way of doing things in a certain situation, it is always a plus. Some things cannot always be approached as black and white. Sometimes things need to be discussed and re-discussed to come up with a group decision versus being full steam ahead and not taking into consideration other factors.”
The program also covered “culture mapping,” which describes employees in terms of different personality traits which corresponds to symbolic colors. It examines how different projects will require teams with different compositions. For example, sales would require more competitive people, while technology projects would need more innovative and forward-thinking people.
“I found that very interesting,” Megan said. “Depending on what you want to do in your business, you will need more of a certain type of person.”
The program teaches participants to take a step back and look at the larger picture. It emphasizes how to utilize the resources available, and to approach situations from different angles. During the program, participants were put in a variety of different scenarios, and then they found out the different ways that different people might handle them.
“It’s human nature to focus on certain tasks and to have tunnel vision sometimes,” Andrew says. “This whole program has really taught us to step back, and to listen, and to use the people that we have in the company because our people are our company’s best asset.”
The participants also get to learn about what the future holds for Kloeckner, allowing them to share that information with their coworkers back at the branch level. With Kloeckner’s digitalization effort creating a lot of changes throughout the company, communication is crucial. During the ELP, the group was able to meet up with KCI in Berlin to discuss what they are working on and what Kloeckner is investing money in.
“People feel like they have an idea of what KCI is, but in the end, we really don’t know,” Megan says. “So having that knowledge and being able to bring it back and talk about it with our branches is exciting.”
“We are truly the drivers of change,” Tony explains. “The overall goal of the ELP group is to find out where our company is, where it is going, and how do we push that on a branch level so that people understand it. Anytime you have any type of change, it comes from the top down at every level. If it truly is explained well as to why we are changing, people may not like it but they can understand it. If people understand why we are doing it, they will have a better chance of accepting it and enacting what you are trying to change.”
Even though this round of the program is over, the group of participants plans to stay in touch. Though the people live all over the world, they still touch base on the weekends and share their experiences, both work-related and personal.
“We’ve developed a pretty deep bond and friendship between all the folks,” Andrew says. “We have a group text message that veers way off outside of work hours. Really, it is a friendship. It is a group like you would have in your inner circle here. These are true friendships that will last forever, so it is very neat to have that.”