A group of developing leaders gains new skills while helping children in need.

The following story was shared by Kim Arnold, senior director of leadership and organizational development at McAfee.

Client>>

McAfee, a computer security company headquartered in Santa Clara, California

Problem>>

Growth and change propelled by the expanding market and a recent acquisition required a greater investment in high-potential leaders at the vice president level to build the leadership pipeline and improve cross-organization collaboration.

Diagnosis>>

McAfee designed its senior leadership capstone program to develop executive competencies and incorporate two main themes: leadership philanthropy, and thinking differently about the business and customer (a concept coined "Flip"). McAfee hired Odyssey Teams to create a program experience that would help to accomplish these objectives.

Methods>>

Odysseys introductory 2.5-hour experience, called LifeCycles, is delivered to a group of approximately 20 to 25 leaders organized into teams of five. Each team is given a bike kit, told to assemble the bike, and then asked to prepare a one-minute marketing pitch to sell the bike to a prospective customer. Then the customers arrive: children from the local community who each take one of the bikes home that day. The teams realize that they must reframe their initial pitches to effectively reach their young customers. At this point, McAfee's cause "The Relentless Search for Safe" (providing online security for companies and families)quickly comes to light as the leaders rush to check brakes and chains to ensure their bikes are safe for the children.

The experience serves to evoke positive emotions; provide a philanthropic outlet for participants; and force leaders to think differently about their potential customers, the quality of their products, and the need for collaboration. Odyssey customizes the experience for the companys specific objectives (the programs tagline, "Flip," for example) and incorporates McAfees current business and leadership challenges into the debriefing session.

The LifeCycles experience also empowers leaders from a variety of business units to identify strengths and possible dysfunctions. It serves as an icebreaker and bonding time, setting the context for the following three days of learning, which include business simulations, leaders presentations, and so forth.

Results>>

LifeCycles opens the session effectively, helping to bring together a cross-functional group of leaders and demonstrate the value of true collaboration. The concept of "Flip" thinking is clearly experienced and referenced often throughout the remaining program; the importance of product and service quality resonates with participants in an unprecedented way; and the philanthropic experience inspires leaders. As McAfee debriefs the overall capstone program, participants continually praise the initial LifeCycles experience.