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How leaders win in the global marketplace

To compete globally, business leaders need to have the right balance of knowledge, attitudes and skills.

“Too often you have global travelers, but not global leaders,” says Jeffrey Schomburger (UNC ’84), global sales officer at Procter & Gamble. “Global travelers experience the countries and cultures they visit, but global leaders understand them and they leverage insights from these cultures to inspire performance.”

In his talk at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s first Global Education Day, Schomburger outlined the skills global leaders need to succeed using the “4 Es” of P&G’s leadership framework: envision, energize, enable and execute. “I also wish that 20 years ago I also had the global competencies that UNC Kenan-Flagler students are developing through the Global Education Initiative,” he says.

Envision the future.
Successful leaders need to envision the future with conviction and clarity. They should have a vision for their company or team as compelling as Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Great business leaders define and articulate a compelling vision with clarity even when information seems scattered and confusing. They think holistically to integrate and synthesize information to create a compelling vision.

“It’s all about imagining possibilities and connecting the dots that maybe others can’t connect or haven’t connected yet,” Schomburger says.

The process of envisioning starts with an open attitude. Be curious and engage deeply with people to find insights. Good leaders listen and are not afraid to discuss the undiscussable, he says.

“They’re open to changing their minds when they are presented with better data,” Schomburger says. “A big part of leadership is having the courage to change your mind when someone brings you a different point of view from a different country from a different culture.”

In 2003, Schomburger went to Arkansas to work on P&G’s Wal-Mart account. At the time, P&G’s market share in Wal-Mart was declining and the relationship was tense. Schomburger set out to create a winning culture through listening and engaging with his team.

After 100 hours of one-on-one interviews over a 70-day-period, Schomburger built credibility, strong personal relationships with his team members, and create a simple winning vision that allowed him to turn a $6 billion business to a $12 billion business from 2004 to 2009.

Energize people to pursue that vision.
A good vision is not enough to win in business. Like Steve Jobs, global business leaders must engage people’s head and hearts to energize around pursuing a common goal.

“Winning in business is not a solo sport,” says Schomburger. “It always takes a team.” Empathy is key to energizing a team. Cultural knowledge and self-knowledge are important to building a winning team because members need to feel understood and respected.

Finally, it is important for team members to see their ideas have an impact on the decision-making process. A successful leader must instill a sense of ownership, trust and accountability on the team.

As Schomburger worked with P&G’s Wal-Mart team, he learned employees felt repressed and uninspired. With their input, Schomburger changed the culture from command and control to unleash and inspire. He ultimately eliminated eight hours of non-value added work every day on average, which set the stage for P&G to become Wal-Mart’s best supplier.

Enable teams to deliver that vision.
Once you’ve defined a vision and energized a team to go get it, you’ve got to enable your team to deliver that vision.

Jeffrey SchomburgerEnabling starts with career development, teaching, coaching and instilling a strong sense of business ownership, Schomburger says. Even a beautifully articulated vision must be supported with a well-prepared team.

“It’s the old adage, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy,” he says.

Global leaders must be able to cope with change. Whether a change in leadership style or having to change your mind when someone brings you better or different data, they must be flexible and adaptable. Adaptability is especially important when working with new cultures.

Execute strategies with discipline to win.
Execution is all about delivering outstanding results. Competing businesses can offer similar products and use similar strategies, but what truly distinguishes P&G’s successful businesses are its people, our culture and their ability to out-execute.

In the late 1990s, P&G wanted to take the “Everyday Low Price Model” that succeeded in the U.S. with Wal-Mart, Kmart and Kroger to Europe and use mega-distribution centers to reduce cost. Given that German retailers were highly sophisticated, technology-driven and efficiency minded, P&G leaders thought their vision and strategy were sound.

Despite support from high-level executives, P&G found that their execution of the “Wal-Mart Model” in Germany was a failure. Middle management pushed back, complaining that P&G had moved too fast.

They misjudged German appetite for risk and speed. As a result, the company lost more than $100 million over three months because of poor execution and corporate arrogance.

“Leadership, influence and impact all come down to relationship building,” says Schomburger. “People have to know they can trust you as a leader. Start now, don’t just read up on these concepts, practice them in your everyday life.”