There is nothing like role-playing a chief executive for a day to reveal your shortcomings and natural talent. The rush of adrenalin experienced by aspiring BOSS Young Executives 2017 as they grappled with the intense demands of leading a tech business means the day’s lessons are unlikely to be forgotten.
“The CEO simulation by DDI [Development Dimensions International] was the most incredibly challenging, yet rewarding, development activity I’ve undertaken in my career,” says Clayton Pyne, director Asia-Pacific and Japan cloud service provider channel, Cisco, and one of the six BOSS Young Executives.
It’s a typical response to the rigorous DDI leadership assessment that put 10 aspiring young executives into the top job for a day as they vied to be chosen as a one of the BOSS Young Executives.
The simulation is interspersed with an interview with three high-profile judges: Equifax Australia and NZ group managing director Nerida Caesar, Michael Rebelo, chief executive of Publicis Communications Australia & New Zealand and the Saatchi & Saatchi Group, and founding judge Bonnie Boezeman, chairman of Shop Reply.
“It’s a very intense day,” says Andrew Warren-Smith, general manager NSW at DDI. “It’s very seldom any of us have the opportunity to have somebody observe us for eight hours and explain to us what they saw as our strengths and development areas.”
For the participants, the “day in the life” is framed as their first day in a new job. “Effectively this is a new hire,” says Warren-Smith, “we’ve given them a lot of context and they need to make some pretty significant decisions.”
Participants are given a range of situations to deal with through the course of the day. “They will get issues arising from their email inbox in the morning, they meet with a customer who has raised an issue they need to address systemically and change resistant members of their teams,” says Warren-Smith.
The simulation is set in a fictitious company; in the case of the BOSS Young Executives 2017, it was a robotics business in the year 2024. “What sits behind the simulation is a very well-structured, scientific, rigorous assessment process.
“So if we want to look at somebody’s ability to establish strategic direction, we look at that in the email exercises, we look at the business analysis exercise and then we overlay that with personality inventories,” says Warren-Smith.
“We triangulate a lot of our data into a cohesive and summarised view of that individual’s strengths and development areas. We want to see they can step up and understand what that customer feedback means for the organisation, for example, and deal with change-resistant members of their teams.”
He says DDI is reframing the program to assess people’s ability to lead, collaborate, partner and set strategy in an agile world. You’ve got to do things a little quicker, you can’t necessarily commit to a five or 10-year strategy; it might be a two-year strategy,” he says.
Clarity of vision
Rebelo, an inaugural BOSS Young Executive in 2005, and longstanding judge says the 2017 cohort showed emotional maturity, highly developed resilience and genuine passion and care for their business, teams and the community around them.
Boezeman says the winners had an acute awareness of diversity and inclusion as well as very strong communication skills and exemplary clarity of vision.
Caesar says the candidates were well positioned for the future with strong leadership and stakeholder management skills, technical expertise and learning agility.
The Young Executives say the experience and DDI feedback was extremely valuable. Liam Hayes, global chief people officer, Aurecon, says, “Stepping into the simulation you had to be able to work with individuals you’d never met before and so there wasn’t that trust element that you’d usually have.”
Jade Little, planning superintendent at BHP Billiton found it very rewarding having people come with various work issues and helping them find a path forward.
Huw Longman, national project manager store design and development, Aldi says, “It was a great experience to take a step back and look strategically over the business.”
“I learnt I could apply my skills in a non-financial services industry,” says Adriana Saw, senior assurance and reporting manager, ANZ Banking Group.
“It really demonstrated how important it is to be able to work with poeple collaboratively,” says Suzie Riddell, executive director strategy and project at Social Ventures Australia.
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