Novo Nordisk’s Leadership Journey
Edited by Margery Weinstein
In 2010, the executive leadership of Novo Nordisk Inc. (NNI) decided to increase the organization’s focus on and investment in developing its top leaders. The goal was to cultivate individuals who are well rounded and flexible enough to manage through rapid growth and change; and collectively form a solid pipeline of leaders to enhance the company’s bench strength and drive its future success. In June 2010, the Executive & Professional Development team rolled out My Leadership Journey (MLJ), a yearlong custom executive development program in partnership with Wharton Executive Education and numerous industry-leading executive coaches. The target audience was directors and above, comprising the top 100-plus leaders who were divided into cohorts of 18 to 22 people.
Participants visit Wharton three times during the year for three distinct modules: Self Leadership, Team Leadership, and Business Leadership. The program incorporates several best practices, such as:
- Pre- and post-assessments focused on Emotional Intelligence, 360-degree feedback, personality profile, and the skills/behaviors required for success
- A required executive coaching engagement during the program with a tailored Individual Development Plan (IDP)
- Customized courses for each of the three main modules of the program
Members of each MLJ cohort “peer mentor” and support each other throughout the year and after graduation. Several regular events bring the cohorts together, including monthly best practice meetings, an annual leadership breakfast, alumni lunches and happy hours, and other grassroots/ad hoc gatherings. This discretionary, collaborative learning—what participants learn outside the classroom, on the job, and from each other—is an integral part of sustaining the MLJ experience.
At present, five cohorts have graduated from MLJ, and feedback/results have been positive.
- Participant feedback on the program included average ratings of 6.61 (out of 7.0) for questions such as: “To what extent do you think the program will help you perform your job more effectively?”
Sample qualitative feedback:
“My coach helped me find out how to improve in the areas I needed to in a way that was natural and genuine for me. She challenged me in a safe way, gave me an external perspective, and provided an outlet I didn’t have internally.”
- MLJ has received the highest level of executive endorsement and participation. The first wave targeted direct reports to the senior leadership team. Response was so positive that the top executive leaders requested their own specially customized version of MLJ.
- A survey of NNI leaders before and after MLJ showed a marked improvement in their perceptions of development opportunities: “I have opportunities for further career progression at Novo Nordisk” (92 percent agreed in 2012 vs. 80 percent in 2010).
- Currently, 19 MLJ alumni either have been promoted or moved into advanced leadership roles, and NNI has retained 98 percent of MLJ participants.
Ultimately, My Leadership Journey is building a strong cadre of leaders, who share a common vocabulary, common experience and strategic frameworks, and enhanced levels of trust, resulting in a cohesive and aligned leadership team.
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