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  • Writer's pictureMark Olivito

Want To Accelerate You’re Development? Get To Headquarters!

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

I wrote about 2 Critical experiences for a successful CPG Marketing and/or Sales career early in 2013. Those thoughts still ring true, but focused on role experience vs. environment. I’ve been thinking about the classic “Old School Meets New School” debate: What’s better, working from home or working from the “office?” You will get arguments on both sides of the debate. The work from home crowd will swear by the fact that 0 commute and 0 “pop in’s” all means better productivity. The office staff believes that the water cooler is the SOURCE of the best thinking, when people come together spontaneously. There is no right or wrong answer as to which environment generates better results. One thing is non-debatable: If you want exposure, access and learning opportunities early in your career, or want to become a significantly better leader….set a goal to GET TO HEADQUARTERS. (HQ)

Image Credit: Wikimedia, Kraft Headquarters Northfield, IL

Companies across the USA have regional and home offices everywhere. Learning & Development is not location dependent.

But you simply won’t match the HQ experience. Why?

Because HQ….

  • Is where the C-Suite sits. Leadership teams usually set the tone…

  • USUALLY offices the C-Suite’s immediate staff.

  • Is home to key management results & planning meetings. Decisions, priority setting, and “organizational pulse checks” happens frequently at these sessions

  • Tends to be the “HOT BOX” where the total company results come together (or not).

    • In sales and marketing, most people have results, but the HQ’s is where they come together for more than a small geography, but the total enterprise.

    • Hot Boxes are usually more visible than cool boxes

  • In summary, HQ is more often than not “mission control center” of the entire business

One of the best training programs I have witnessed took place at both Kraft and Sara Lee. The concept was simple.

  • Identify top performing “high potential” sales people working in the field. Ones with great results, a fire in the belly, and a significant runway ahead of them.

  • Bring them into HQ, put them in a cross-functional role that utilizes their experience, but also requires significant new learning to test their business acumen. Usually this meant a sales planning, trade marketing or category management-type assignment.

  • Watch closely: Can they learn quickly and adapt? Will their field experience be a strength or an albatross? Can they connect the dots on how things are done in HQ with the field challenges?

  • If candidate is an impact player after 18 months, you have a leadership candidate. Put them back in field in a leadership role, or promote within HQ.

You have 2 major shocks to the system with the above program:

  1. Environment – Field vs. HQ, MAJOR differences

  2. Role – Not just same job, different place, but a role that requires significant cross-functional interaction that does not exist in the field

When the right candidate goes through a HQ assignment, survives, and THRIVES, you have a leader with a “2X” experience: Their development is accelerated at twice the rate of someone who stayed on the field track in one function.

One of the major problems with businesses today is the “same page” challenge: Getting the goals, priorities and execution of the entire organization spread throughout every employee.

When the key field players have lived in the Hot Box & played a role or two outside the field role, speed and effectiveness increases significantly.

And one’s personal growth and satisfaction follows suit…

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