The Power of a Shared Leadership Experience
Even senior executives who join the McDonald’s corporate team spend six weeks at Hamburger University learning how franchises operate and how to make fries delicious. No one gets to opt out. That’s because McDonald’s understands the power of a shared leadership experience to create bonds and connection across an organizational culture.
Strong leadership cultures across the globe often implement a leadership experience shared by all leaders, regardless of level or position. In addition to a leadership forum or workshop that all leaders attend once, examples of experiences include an insurance company where all leaders serve on a catastrophe team, a technology company where leaders shadow a senior executive for three weeks, and a financial company where every leader serves for a month on a case study team involved in the selection of prospective employees.
When a valuable experience becomes a rite of passage into the culture of an organization, team members forge a common understanding of the values in play every day within the organization. They leave the experience with strong ties to the other participants and often share a common set of stories, vocabulary, and symbolisms.
Throughout their careers, leaders often reminisce and stay connected to the “class” of teammates that shared the experience with them. Group photos and mementos from the experience are often proudly displayed throughout the organization, sometimes for decades.
The best experiences are imbued with lasting content. The activities and exercises often feature leaders who attended in prior years as speakers or facilitators. A common site or venue gives the experience a physical context that brings different generations of leaders together with a simple mention of the place. Allowing senior and junior team members to participate in the same groups can reduce unnecessary status and level the playing field for longstanding relationships to blossom.
Organizations that design and invest in a shared experience for all team members, or for those who ascend to leadership, begin to reap the benefits early on, even by the second class of attendees. Each successive year creates unequalled connectivity and organizational lore.
The power of a widely shared experience is a common ingredient of many of the best teams and organizations. The best leaders know an organization’s culture can be brought to life through a foundational experience shared by all or many. Nothing links team members better than a great experience.