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Inclusive Leadership Program

Inclusive Leadership Program goes virtual

May 7, 2020
By Alana House

The Drinks Association’s 2020 Inclusive Leadership Program has commenced this month in a virtual format.

The program, which officially begins on May 14, is now in its fourth year.

Twelve companies are participating in the 2020 program: ALM, Australian Vintage, Bacardi Martini, Brown Forman, Campari, Casella, Carlton & United Breweries, Lion, Moet Hennessy, Pernod Ricard, Taylors and Treasury Wine Estates.

The program will once again be faciliated by Serendis Leadership.

“We are so delighted to still be able to offer the Inclusive Leadership Mentoring Program,” said Serendis Director Bianca Havas. “Through this difficult and uncertain time, the program provides a supportive network of people who can help each other adapt, innovate and grow to meet a series of ever-changing challenges and opportunities, while also providing an opportunity for participants to take time to reflect on their career and leadership.”

On May 7, mentees met for their first workshop (pictured main), which was introduced by Drinks Association CEO Georgia Lennon.

On May 14, mentees and mentors will meet for the first time in Zoom breakout rooms and will also have the opportunity to ask questions and hear from a panel of mentors and mentees from last year’s program.

A week prior to kick off, Serendis will facilitate two workshops with the mentees, providing a number of inclusive leadership frameworks for them to work with during the program and preparing them to gain the most from their mentoring relationship.

Group learning workshops will also be adapted to the virtual environment. For example, the all-day mentee initial session will be split into two shorter separate Zoom webinars.

Additionally, a package of materials will be posted to participants at the start of the program. They will also have full access to the revamped MentorKey online learning portal, which provides activities and assistance to support their mentoring relationship.

Serendis has already successfully launched two other cross-sector mentoring programs remotely and is confident the virtual format will add value for participants.

“We launched the first program in early March and only had two weeks’ notice to adapt the delivery, structure and content,” Havas said.

“It worked really well and what we learnt through the process will benefit the Drinks Association’s program. In using virtual platforms like Zoom, the challenge is to ensure we engage everyone and provide a safe space for all to participate in discussions. For example, in order to facilitate impactful group conversations, we are using the breakout rooms function on Zoom to replicate small group discussions or one-on-one conversations. This has worked really well.”

Havas said COVID-19 restrictions had provided unexpected upsides for drinks companies participating in the Inclusive Leadership Program.

“Delivering the program virtually has certainly made it more accessible and equitable for people in different locations across Australia and NZ,” Havas said.

“It has provided an opportunity to people who may not normally be able to participate due to the need to travel to Sydney for the events. This year we have participants based in New Zealand, Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and NSW.

“TWE is participating for the first time and CUB has returned to the program as well.”

Aside from being delivered virtually, there are other updates and innovations that participants can expect from the latest Inclusive Leadership Program.

“This year, the Serendis Inclusion360 survey will become a formal part of the program, available to all participants,” Havas explained. “In previous years we offered it as an optional activity. Based on the feedback from past participants and its alignment to the goals of the Drinks Association Embrace Difference Council, it has become a permanent part of the program.

“Inclusion360 is a 360 survey that provides participants with a way to measure and gauge their inclusive leadership behaviours through feedback from a broad range of their peers, senior and junior colleagues. It is a powerful opportunity for conscious self-reflection and awareness of the nine dimensions of inclusion.”

Industry embraces inclusive leadership

Industry feedback on the program has been very positive, with fantastic outcomes in supporting participants career progression and building a culture of inclusion across the sector.

“Each year we are so impressed with the level of engagement and commitment of participants on the program,” Havas said.

“It makes our role easier and builds a positive learning environment among the peer cohort. Now that we are in the fourth year of delivering this program for the sector, we have been thrilled to see the careers of past participants flourish with many achievements.

“One of the measures of success of the program is seeing so many mentees return to the program as mentors. This year we have two former mentees returning as mentors and in previous years of the program we have had other highly successful mentees paying it forward by participating as mentors. We also have a number of repeat mentors returning to the program for the second or third time.

“For companies who have been involved in the program for a few years, we see a positive word of mouth influencing force which attracts new high calibre people to the program each year.

“Each year we see a diverse group of people participate from a range of functions and businesses. We have had participants from all parts of the industry including supply chain, operations, HR, sales, marketing, finance, IT, corporate affairs and communications, general management and managing directors. This adds to the richness of the experience.”

Leadership challenges during COVID-19

In light of the current health crisis, Serendis will spend time during the 2020 program exploring the leadership challenges people in the drinks industry are currently facing.

“We know that it is different for each person depending on their function, role and service or product though through our coaching and consulting we have identified three main areas that leaders can focus on during this uncertain time,” Havas said.

Three pillars of critical leadership in uncertain times

  1. Being exceedingly human: checking in, listening to and empathising with team members and employees
  2. Ability to strategically pivot:  brainstorming big picture issues, assessing the current situation and inviting different perspectives to inform strategic decisions
  3. Provide clarity in uncertainty: communicating core priorities, individual accountabilities and progress