Building global leaders starts with taking them out of their comfort zone
If there’s one thing successful leaders are fond of saying, it’s “develop talent and invest in people”. The thinking behind this advice is that a company is only as strong as its employees and failure to invest in the development of staff will ultimately have a negative effect on the companies in question. For this reason, GE has strategically selected certain employees to participate in the Accelerated Leadership Programme (known as XLP), which aims to build global leaders at GE.
A few months ago, we spoke to XLP participant, Mary Arende, who took us through the first year of the programme. This week, we take a look at how Feyi Okungbowa has settled into the programme and what her key learnings have been.
Okungbowa (40), is currently based in Bristol, working in sales and marketing at the subsea production system as an enabler project lead. She is originally from Lagos, Nigeria and started in GE’s finance department 10 years ago, building the credit control function. Over the years, she built up experience on the customer frontline, which entailed interacting with GE customers, formulating strategies and negotiating contracts. Among other aspects, she began to understand how the customer’s mind works, what they valued and what they require from their contractors.
“Even though I worked in finance, working in commercial operations and sales complimented my financial experience. I have accumulated enough knowledge to execute my new roles successfully,” says Okungbowa.
“GE’s four-year XLP programme includes assignments that have been designed to take participants out of their comfort zones. Participants may be relocated, selected to work in different divisions than the ones they are used to, or even assigned multiple working roles,” says Okungbowa. She added that although many people know her as a very confident person, there are moments where she doubts her skills, particularly when confronted with a new challenge, but once she is settled into her role, she realises that she is capable of doing the work required.
The XLP programme intends to support each individual’s goals as well as to address any skills gaps to ensure the executives develop into GE leaders with good business acumen and a wider network in the GE family. The programme also includes online and classroom training.
“I enjoy being at the forefront of client relations, finding out what their issues are, sourcing ways to solve problems, creating value and being part of growing GE as a business,” says Okungbowa. She says that her role encourages her to find ways to gain as much knowledge as possible on different subjects and to never stop learning.
“I am currently in my third month of the XLP programme and it has been a real eye-opener for me as an individual, professional and GE staff member. The sheer amount of time, resources and energy that is contained in this programme is beyond belief and is a real testament to GE’s commitment to training, nurturing and building leaders,” says Okungbowa.
When asked if she had any advice for students and young professionals, she said: “GE is a great place to work. The culture is amazing and is present in individuals, regions and businesses. GE appreciates hard work, perseverance, assertiveness and willingness to learn. Any student who embodies all these qualities will find GE a rewarding place to work.”