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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Developing Leaders to Be Effective Decision Makers


In our latest installment in our “Ask the Expert” series I had the opportunity to talk about effective decision making, experiential learning and other topics with Christine Pencak, Director of Global Talent and Organizational Development at BorgWarner. Christine has spent the last 20 years leading talent and organizational development departments. She has worked with the automotive industry since the mid-1990s and came to BorgWarner in January of 2005.



Nash Musselwhite- “In your role as Director of Global Talent and Organizational Development how have you helped to shape development programs at BorgWarner?”

Christine Pencak- “Development programs in BorgWarner are part of the strategic fabric of the company. We have never had an “off the shelf" training curriculum that was put together by the HR department without involvement of line management  I often get feedback from consulting firms regarding the degree of rigor and involvement of the highest level people in whatever we do in the development arena. This level of management engagement in the upfront work is how I strive to shape a learning agenda that drives business objectives.

We really have an incredible level of buy in at senior levels of our organization. Our executives so embrace their experience with the PressTime simulation that this November we are doing a special run of the simulation for Vice Presidents who have come on recently who haven’t gone through that simulation.”

NM- “What are the overall goals and objectives of BorgWarner’s development programs?”

CP- “Our Company has  a growth goal of becoming a $15 Billion dollar company by 2020.  An enterprise strategy in support of that goal is to develop, retain, and attract the talent needed to support that growth.  You can have the best strategy, and a market that wants your products, but you have to have people to run your businesses. That is the overall goal. Having more people willing and able to step up and lead our businesses today and in the future.

Our organizational competency model has been in place since 2003. We don’t use competencies to simply build job descriptions. Rather, the BorgWarner Product Leadership Competency Model applies to every professional at every level in the organization. It defines the human capabilities we need to execute our strategy and achieve our vision.  That organizational model is integrated into all of our human resource processes and tools. There is real power in that approach. While the model has been in place for several years, we do identify certain competencies for targeted focus and development.  Right now, those priorities are Influence, Conflict Management, and Decision Making. 

Our CEO has determined these three to be essential in our operating model which is, in a nutshell, having decision making authority and accountability reside at our plants, closest to the customer. In our operating model, the functions are here to support the operations The people within the functions are expected to have a global perspective; they bring best practices and efficient processes to the operational leaders, helping inform and influence decisions that are made at the local level."

NM- “Let’s explore those three strategic competencies some more.”

CP- “Our value proposition is product leadership in the marketplace. It requires innovation at its core and innovation needs to be centered around markets and customers. We empower leaders to run their businesses, and expect them to grow their businesses.  There are few, if any, top down directives in our company. So a balance between collaboration and speed is critical to our success.    We are investing a lot of effort into developing our talent to work across boundaries to make high quality, timely decisions that are best for the company. So, being able to bring expertise to the table and influence decisions, while managing the constructive conflicts that are inherent in local accountability/global strength operating model is a large focus for us now.

NM- “So with the decision making competency your focus is not so much about closing a gap as it is about continuing to ensure you have high quality decision makers?”

CP- “Right! And a lot of what we do at BorgWarner is learning through others and stories. For example, we our development initiatives incorporate high levels of experiential activities, giving people the chance to learn from others. Our flagship leader development program incorporates Discovery Learnings Press Time simulation and the Decision Style Profile. How people attempt to influence others, manage conflict, ultimately make decisions are key learning from the experience.   Additionally, include exposure to executives where program participants can ask our senior most leaders their “lessons of experience.”  Very often those questions are about making tough decisions and communicating those decisions to employees.  What comes out loud and clear, is that high quality decision making is important, that often you have to make decisions with limited or incomplete information; but in all circumstances, the implications for people need to be considered in a way that reflects BorgWarner’s respect for people.

Our up and coming leaders consistently comment that the Press Time simulation and our executive stories strengthen their understanding of leader expectations here. .   In sum, we have multiple threads running through our development programs that reinforce that competence, even in indirect ways.”

NM- “What are some of the additional tools that you are using to help develop effective decision making?”

CP- “Where we focus on decision making as a consideration for leadership development is really at the mid to upper level of the organization. Our focus is on two aspects of decision making; timely decision making and high quality decision making
As I mentioned, we use Decision Style Profile, and we couple it with a personality instrument (The Occupational Personality Questionnaire), and a multi-rater assessment (Denison Leadership Development Survey)   In 2015 and beyond, we are taking our existing curriculum to a new level. You will have to talk to me in a year or two to see how we are doing.

NM- “How do you measure the success of your development programs?”

CP- “We keep a close eye on the career progression of talent that attends our programs. Additionally, we have annual self and boss assessments of the Product Leadership Competencies as part of our performance management and development process.  And finally, every 2.5 years our executive level population goes through a 360 feedback process.   In addition to focused, individual development plans being the outcome of that, I look at the group data to understanding the rank ordering of the competencies, from highest to lowest over time.  This informs our development investment decisions.  Perhaps it goes without saying, that we also employ traditional program evaluation methods.

NM- “What advice would you give to other leadership and organizational development professionals based on your experience focusing on decision making, influence and conflict management as strategic competencies?”

CP- “If you are a global company like BorgWarner, be mindful of the cultural differences in how leadership competencies play out in various countries.  Be clear on the outcomes you are striving for, but be open to, and embrace, different behaviors that get to the same end point.

Effective decision making is a critical competency for contemporary leaders. Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing resources, tools and programs to help some of the world's most innovative companies develop their leaders to be more effective decision makers. Find out more about how Discovery Learning, Inc. can improve the effectiveness of your leadership development efforts!

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