March 11, 2019, Hamburg: It is Monday and a special day for our participants of the Salzgitter International Training Program 2019, which will start any minute. Fourteen young professionals of the whole Salzgitter Group came to Hamburg from all over the world: China, Brazil, the United States, India, Romania, the Netherlands and Germany as well. The Program, abbreviated as SITP, consists of 3 different modules of 4 or 5 days each. Working on soft skills (e.g. teambuilding) is one common target the group will follow up during their encounters. They will get to know new working techniques (e.g. setting priorities and planning effectively) and learn to increase intercultural awareness and self reflection. And maybe far more than that.
“We started the week as 14 individual people, 14 individual mind sets and 14 individual pursuits. The bond that we created throughout the days was not only on a factual level but also on a personal/emotional level. We left the week as one team.”
Day 1 began with an interactive “WHO AM I” game, where each of us answered questions about our daily lives, business experiences and personal characteristics. This provided the opportunity to discover commonalities amongst our colleagues. Our initial nerves were quickly gone and we formed a level of comfort around each other that shaped the interaction agreement for the entirety of the week.
The remainder of day 1 and day 2 we focused our energy on the basics of communication and learning how to give proper feedback. Because we are from different subsidiaries of Salzgitter, we then had the opportunity to present our companies and gain perspective into our colleague’s business entities. Not only did we learn more about each other but we also practiced our new skills in providing feedback. In the evening of day 2, during a fireside chat and throughout the evening the team engaged in lively conversation with an astonishing manager, Dr. Marion Erdelen-Peppler, from the research and development department. She advised the group in the importance of broadening your mind to follow your dream.
“A journey about in-depth understanding of effective communication in different cultural backgrounds and its impact on how we behave, interact with people who hold different interests, values and perspectives.”
When day 3 arrived we were ready to break down cultural barriers. Interactive lessons presented an entirely new meaning to the group about the value of cultural differences. Each of us contributed thoughts and attitudes from our respective countries viewpoints. This shaped a global landscape for how we can be mindful of culture in an international business setting. A key takeaway the group took from this day is that no culture is the owner of the ultimate truth – always leave room for change and adaptation.
“The Magic Stick exercise stuck to our minds although we didn’t succeed from the first try. It didn’t discourage us and on contrary, it challenged us to try again and succeed – we had a leader, we had a goal!”
Although we felt like a team by day 4, the magic stick exercise proved we still needed to complete the ‘Stages of a Team’. This day was spent diving into the different roles and dynamics teams may carry. We learned to embrace failure and learning outcomes that can develop from failure. On day 5 we learned from our failure of the magic stick and finally achieved our goal!
Upon completion of Module 1, we asked our colleagues to share their impressions and takeaways from the first week. The following quotes provide a strong insight, into the atmosphere we created in our first week as a team and the knowledge we gained.
“Wow. As I joined the 2019 SITP, I was thinking it would be just another workshop where they tell you about the theory behind communication at first. And actually, they do – but the WAY they do it made SITP a life-changing experience for me. We met as a diverse group of strangers from 7 different nations, but we left as friends just after one week. It was impressive to see, how close a team can grow together in such a short time, if you just put enough effort in it. A lot of teams I know from my business life, haven’t reached that level of trust even after years.”
“We were given the opportunity to meet and know colleagues from different cultures and different divisions of Salzgitter and this opened new horizons for a deeper understanding of what Salzgitter represents.”
“Salzgitter International Training Program is designed in such a way that everyone has to come out of their comfort zone. We learnt lot of different cultures exists in the world during active participation of each one of us. Key take away point for me during module 1 is –Be open minded to adapt different cultures.”
“For me it was the first time to get feedback from other persons. Good feedback as well as negative feedback helps me to learn more about myself. The most interesting for me was meeting people which are not from Europe and how their culture is. Because of that exchange we found out that we have a lot in common. The most surprising for me was: we started that first module as strangers and finished it as friends.”
“Another interesting and useful approach was the Eisenhower Matrix, where we structured the importance and urgency of the daily tasks.”
“The guest we had at the Fireside Chat had a big impact on us because she spoke so openly about her successful career and how she managed the work-life balance.”
“The Salzgitter International Training Program was an incredible week for me. This program provided the opportunity to meet a variety of people and learn about their cultures, which also lead to me learning a lot about myself. The lessons I learned in this program and the friendships I made, will be with me for a lifetime.”
“The SITP is beyond the expectations. It’s a great opportunity to be involved in such an international group. We experienced the harmonious atmosphere sharing opinions freely. Topics regarding work and life were exchanged during the period; the impact of culture brought us closer to each other. It’s really fantastic to have names in your mind with vivid images instead of name list in the emails only.”