What do you get when you put a Russian, two Mexicans, a German and a handful of Americans together in a room in Shanghai?
If you were waiting for the punch line of a politically incorrect joke, I’m sorry to disappoint you – this is no joke. But there is a serious answer: a one-of-a-kind networking opportunity.
This past June, 20 aftermarket executives from all over the globe gathered in the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai for a full week of executive leadership education and an inside look at China’s burgeoning automotive aftermarket industry. The group was the first graduating class of Leadership 3.0 – an international extension of The University of the Aftermarket’s popular Leadership 2.0 executive management program.
According to a survey conducted on LinkedIn, networking is a primary means of finding a job today, with nearly 85 percent of those surveyed reporting that they got their current position through networking. But it’s not just about finding your next job or next customer. As we hear so often in this industry, it’s also about the friendships that develop and grow through opportunities like this.
The agenda for the weeklong educational program was split between in-class coursework and off-site field trips. Both provided the group with unique opportunities to connect, share best practices, ask questions and learn from one another. Genuine friendships were formed as this group of diverse professionals were thrown into a situation that had them stepping out of their comfort zones – traveling to a country where most do not speak the language and cultural mores are distinctly different than their own. “Soft skills” such as multi-cultural business etiquette were discussed and utilized during group networking dinners and field trips, in addition to the aftermarket-specific management training that took place.
Dr. Frank T. Morgan, Ph.D., faculty member of the University of the Aftermarket at Northwood University, led the group each day in classroom discussions that revolved around Global IQ testing that each attendee participated in prior to the trip. Discussions focused on differences in communication styles among personality types and within different regions of the world, giving attendees a clearer understanding of how to build better relationships with international business partners.
“I think we all changed our perceptions about China and the Chinese aftermarket’s place in the global economy. Most of us arrived in China, myself included, with preconceived notions about China,” said Brian Cruickshank, director of the University of the Aftermarket. “This program dispelled most of those notions. For me, the great takeaway is that China is a major, modern force in the global economy and that the West should resist the all-too-frequent temptation to force Western solutions onto Chinese problems or opportunities.”
Dr. Morgan also noted the unique bonding experience that takes place in an executive education environment such as this, “Observing a multitude of executive education programs over 15 years, I found the Leadership 3.0 class to be unique. The class was very diverse in terms of aftermarket and global experience, yet everyone bonded very quickly. The amount of sharing, learning and contributing was excellent in my opinion. I am convinced that the class will have formed good friendships that will continue to provide assistance into the future.
Michael Rukov, AAP, Western U.S. sales manager for Continental Corp., VDO, who lovingly became known as the “little Russian” of the group, agreed with Dr. Morgan about the unique bonding experience that took place at Leadership 3.0.
“Imagine being put on an island with only a few select people from the automotive industry who are smart, witty, each with a different set of values and or level of experience, and don’t forget that this island has many unique and interesting bars and restaurants,” wrote Rukov for an upcoming article in AMN. “What do you think would happen? In our case, something beautiful materialized. We had amazing discussions, coming up with strategies and solutions to [situations in the] Chinese aftermarket and global market in general, and we also had many thought-provoking talks that were led by our fearless leader Brian Cruickshank and our knowledge bank Professor Morgan. But, most of all, we created forever-lasting friendships with a bond that will outlast the changes that are coming toward us. And, I cannot forget our Chinese business owners and friends who came to our class to show us how they operate and why China is a force to reckon with in the future. They were eager to share their expertise and knowledge.”
Editor’s note: Later in the week, we’ll be sharing Rukov’s full article that he penned for aftermarketNews about his experiences in Shanghai.
The University of the Aftermarket is considering hosting another edition of Leadership 3.0 in the summer of 2018, if there is enough interest. Those who are interested in the next Global Aftermarket Program in Shanghai should contact University of the Aftermarket Director Brian Cruickshank (email@example.com) to be added to the interest list.