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Insights & Lessons from a Leader of Leaders

By June 11, 2024Learning

Recently, we hosted a breakfast and networking event for a group of Fortune 1000 talent and learning leaders, featuring a conversation between our CEO, Michelle Reid-Powell, and McDonald’s Learning & Development Leader, Raynah D’Souza. Raynah shared some amazing perspectives about her experience working with talent all over the world, and how her approach to learning has changed over the years.

As a backdrop to the conversation, Raynah explained that McDonald’s world-wide practice of creating universal, just-in-time learning and development programs for leaders, and she noted that both digital and in-person segments are what’s working for the company now. Raynah mentioned that even though leaders are leading in different geographies with a wide variety of demographics, their issues and challenges are largely the same. Here are some ways she is successful in reaching her broad audience.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence

One of the topics Michelle and Raynah explored the most during their discussion was how to build emotional intelligence in leaders. All our guests in attendance picked up their pens to take notes during this part of the conversation. EQ is an area that seems difficult to teach, but Raynah is confident it can be done in all organizations, with patience and by focusing on a more whole-person approach.

She urges both trainers and leaders to show their human side, and by doing so they model the kind of behavior they are looking for. For leadership at McDonald’s, these training discussions allow leaders to be better prepared to respond when emotional issues arise with their employees. She explained that the leaders of today at McDonald’s restaurants are all ages (from 20s-60s) and there is a wide range of perspectives and experience but universally everyone appreciates being heard as a multi-faceted person, not just an employee.

Facilitating Conversations Instead of Delivering Training

We are living in an extremely hectic world, and our talented employees want to succeed in their work for many reasons. Everyone is so busy doing, that they don’t take time to make space for thought and deep conversation. Raynah recognized this need. Instead of delivering training content, she flipped the script and tapped into facilitation skills to get the conversation started. The results were remarkable. Participants took the lead and went deep – their learning was self-directed – based on their needs and guided by the collective experience in the room.

“It’s a different way of looking at things—when you’re a trainer or instructor you’re the rock star, when you’re a facilitator you’re one of them,” Raynah explained.

One example Raynah shared is for learning leaders to come up with new ways for employees to “pull learning” instead of the learning team “pushing learning” in the form of delivering content.

Do Different to Get Different

Piloting programs and getting buy-in from leadership have been key to Raynah’s success in developing leadership programs. This seems like an obvious strategy, but it’s a step that is often overlooked due to time constraints and our human instinct to do what we know.

Raynah explained that management has allowed her the freedom to take her training methodology in new directions over the years as she is leading training programs for 14,000 restaurants in the U.S. and all McDonald’s staff based in the U.S.

Her approach is interesting – not because she pilots, but how she conducts pilots. Students regularly entered McDonald’s leadership development program as “classes.” Rather than piloting outside the schedule, testing, and making sure it was perfect, Raynah tested a redesigned curriculum on one of the cohorts and captured all feedback at the end of each class and incorporated it in the next session.

A huge thank you to Raynah for joining us and sharing her wisdom with us and our guests. McDonald’s is so fortunate to have her expertise.

Would you like to join us at one of our next events? We would love to see you. Just follow this link to be added to our list.

Louann Swedberg

Author Louann Swedberg

With over 25 years’ of experience, Louann provides project oversight and direction for critical learning and development projects for key CARA clients. Louann is a CARA PURE Winner and a CARA Leadership Team Member. As an Engagement Manager, Louann leverages deep practitionership in learning and performance consulting coupled with strong business acumen to architect project solutions, identify resources, and guide and manage project engagements to meet business and learning needs. Louann is a recognized leader in establishing long-term partnerships and providing learning expertise, thought partnership and proven practices to help CARA consulting teams design, develop, and enable impactful learning strategies for our clients.

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