This is why NXP does not only need leaders of the 'engineering types'

Smart cars that communicate with each other, with infrastructure, and with the driver: NXP is developing chips that will make this possible. The strongly competitive semi-conductor market means that collaboration within the company must be highly effective. What kind of managers does NXP need to achieve this?

De Baak International is organizing this custom-made program, entitled ‘Collaborative Leadership in the 21st Century’, for NXP. The program is primarily about leadership and collaboration in an international context. That way, we can help people to become their most effective ‘selves’ – for themselves as people, for their organizations, and for society as a whole.

“As you walk around here, you’ll notice a lot of blue in particular on the desks,” says Christian van Doesburg, director of Learning & Development for the Automotive business unit at NXP Semiconductors in the company’s head offices in Eindhoven. The employees have blue blocks on their desks, a reference to the Insights Discovery team development program. People’s personal profiles are expressed in terms of a color on the basis of questionnaires. ‘Blue’ stands for analytical people with a keen eye for accuracy. “Real engineering types,” says Van Doesburg. With a block on your desk, you are showing the people you work with what they can expect of you.

Extremely high quality requirements

The high percentage of ‘blue employees’ is all to do with the market in which NXP (which will probably be taken over later this year by a competitor, Qualcomm) operates. Since ceasing to be part of Philips in 2006, NXP has evolved into a leading global producer of semi-conductors. The four business units, which employ 31,000 people, develop and produce chips for cars, passports, bank passes, transmission masts, mobile phones, and for many other applications. The quality requirements in the market are extremely high. The advantage of the ‘engineer types’ is that they not only have strongly analytical minds, but also a keen eye for detail.

Close collaboration

‘Blue’ also means that the employees in question are not always natural communicators, although communication at NXP is becoming increasingly important. Van Doesburg explains, “At every level, you can see that collaboration is becoming a crucial part of our success.” It is not just among colleagues, but also between business units and with customers that ever-closer collaboration is becoming the order of the day. With the help of his talent-development colleagues, Van Doesburg has to train managers who can ensure that their people are better able to cope in the highly-demanding environment in which NXP operates.

Dealing with diversity

This is new leadership par excellence. Openness and dealing with diversity are key elements. Take a car, for example – the driver wants to be able to get in, put his smartphone down and carry on using the apps he is using, such as listening to messages, streaming music, and so on. NXP is closely involved with these types of innovation, but in order to be able to respond to, and indeed anticipate, such innovations effectively, the business units that are focused on the car and telecoms markets have to be able to work hand-in-hand. But more than that – they also have to work very closely with car manufacturers as well. Van Doesburg goes on, “NXP possesses an enormous amount of in-house expertise, and during projects it is important to tap into that.”

Managing via videoconferencing

An extra challenge to any collaboration is the fact that NXP is a global company with branches in 33 countries. Teams sometimes work across Asia, the US and Europe, and necessarily have to be managed and motivated via videoconferencing. Within the individual branches themselves, the workforce is very multi-cultural – in the Netherlands, for example, NXP employs people of 58 different nationalities. Van Doesburg says, “It is important for managers to have a clear idea about the backgrounds of their employees. If someone says, ‘yes’, it means something slightly different in one culture to what it does in another.”

Leadership programs

The increasing importance of collaboration is reflected in the range of management training courses provided by Van Doesburg’s department. The regular programs for new managers and potential executives strongly feature collaboration skills. Various workshops are organized as well, including ‘Making a Difference’, which departments can use to improve their own teamwork.
Many lessons also look at informal influence, by which things get done in an organization ‘horizontally’ (that is, where hierarchy plays no role). The ‘Collaborative Leadership in the 21st Century’ (CLIC) leadership program, which is calibrated entirely to new leadership in the context in which NXP operates, was recently added to the range.

Essential competencies

The starting point in the CLIC program, which has been developed and is provided in conjunction with De Baak, is the competencies identified by Korn Ferry. The program also incorporates the competency clusters (including authenticity, setting up collaborative partnerships, optimizing talent, and flexibility and adaptability) that are most essential to NXP. A group of 16 managers take part in the program, which consists of two four-day meetings. Van Doesburg says, “We ask the management and the HR people in the business units to indicate who is eligible for the program.”

Selecting a project

During the intake stage of the program, the managers carry out an assessment to find out more about their competencies. They write an essay “to get the thinking process going”, says Van Doesburg. They also discuss with their managers the areas that they need to develop. At the start of the project, the participants are divided into groups, after which the groups select a project. “We choose projects that require a great deal of collaboration,” says Van Doesburg. “For example, how you can help an improvement process in factory A, somewhere in the world, to quickly become known about in our other factories.”

Final presentation

As well as leadership theory and training, a major part of the CLIC program involves carrying out an assignment. During the ‘grand finale’, the teams have to give a final presentation to an audience of colleagues, managers, and board members. “You can usually see the tension rising high the day before,” says Van Doesburg. “The participants know that they are about to face a critical hearing. Many elements of the program, such as courage, collaboration, and using the best talents, feature in this section.”

Fish Bowl

Another part of the final day is the Fish Bowl – an exercise in which the participants sit at the center of the group and get feedback about their behavior during the program. “That can be enjoyable, but also confrontational,” says Van Doesburg. The fact that the giving and receiving of feedback is a major part of the program means there is plenty of opportunity for these skills to be practiced. Van Doesburg says, “Creating a secure environment is an important precondition for successful collaboration. If you want people to be open and to share important information, there has to be trust. Sometimes, you have to have the courage to say that there’s something you don’t know or something you can’t do. Not everyone finds that easy.”

Alumni as a network

The experiences with the CLIC program are very positive, says Van Doesburg. “The next edition, in Austin, Texas, is full, with 50 people on the reserve list.” After Texas, programs are scheduled for India and Germany this year. Different projects that have been developed in previous editions of the program have been adopted and carried out by the business units. What Van Doesburg also regards as a positive aspect is that alumni from earlier programs are keen to come along for the latest one. “They come to share their experiences and impress upon the participants the need to take an open attitude.” That kind of encouragement can really help: ‘blue people’ sometimes need a little push when it comes to openness.

De Baak organizes this custom-made program, ‘Collaborative Leadership in the 21st Century’, for NXP.

Are you interested in a Tailor Made program that puts leadership and collaboration in an international context at its heart? Look at the website or contact one of our training advisors: +31 (0)343 556369.

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