M.I.N.M.:Virtual Leadership Academy
Who: Emma Carrasco, VP, Nortel Networks Caribbean and Latin America
Players: All 2,000 CALA employees
Frequency: Once a month at 1 p m, for about one hour
Why I Never Miss It: "The meeting's format is challenging and it pushes me and the rest of its creators to be innovative and interesting. At the end, we know we've used our technology to make lasting connections."
One of the big challenges facing global companies is figuring out how to maintain a presence in far-flung markets and still keep employees unified. The Caribbean and Latin American (CALA) division of Nortel Networks Corp., the telecommunications giant, has met this challenge. Once a month, using Nortel's video and data-networking technologies, CALA produces and airs live its Virtual Leadership Academy. The show gets beamed to CALA offices in 47 countries (40 of which receive only audio) in the Caribbean and Latin America. Using one-way video and two-way audio, the Leadership Academy educates widely dispersed employees about strategically critical issues.
Emma Carrasco, 39, CALA's VP of marketing and communications, anchors the show. "CALA has more than 2,000 employees, who speak either Portuguese, French, Spanish, or English," she says. "They all have to understand our strategy and how to help carry it out."
Networked learning. "We know that knowledge is everywhere. The technology as well as the programming format let us tap into leadership ability and expertise throughout the company - from our executive office in Florida to a sales office in Lima, Peru." best practice High tech, high touch. "We leverage and showcase Nortel's technology as well as its culture. The show's style, content, and format reflect and reinforce a core cultural tenet: that groundbreaking technology is about elevating, not replacing, human interaction."
"We broadcast in English and also provide simultaneous audio translations into Spanish and Portuguese. Our production values are high; people expect a lot from TV programming. I always begin with global trends and regional industry news, both of which are enhanced by graphics and other visuals.
"Next, I interview one of our senior managers. I ask everything from 'What are your business imperatives this year?' to 'What makes you get up in the morning?' Next, Dan Hunt, CALA's president, presents a leadership challenge that includes business initiatives and a clear explanation of their impact on employees. We conclude with a phone-in segment, using our private telephone network: An employee in Caracas can call with a question or concern and get a real-time response. We don't censor callers, and people can call anonymously."
"We have our own version of the Nielsen ratings. We survey our audience after each broadcast, to learn how many people participated in it, what ideas made an impression on them, and how we can improve the program."
A version of this article appeared in the September 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.