ENGAGE_Women in Leadership_Boehringer Ingelheim
06 June 2018
Jacqueline Berlin

Agility at its best – the NYC experience

There was so much energy, focus and excitement in the room. Put 20 incredibly resourceful women in the pulsating city of New York and you can be ensured to have a blast. From the 24th to the 26th of October 2017, 20 female leaders from all over the world started their unknown adventure of the pilot “Engage Women’s Leadership”. The approach was completely different to what Boehringer Ingelheim was used to. It was about exploring, trying something new, having the courage to fail and to adjust in order to foster learning with an open mind. An article by Lawrencia Quarshie.

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‘The biggest adventure you can ever take, is to live the life of your dreams’- Oprah Winfrey

The initiative was born out of a successful partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, Merial and ImprovEdge. The global project lead Anne-Madeleine Kleinwächter, the CEO of ImprovEdge, Karen Hough, Senior facilitator April Olt and Executive Coach, Erika Jackson met in person for the first time in NYC which was a challenge in itself. ImprovEdge, which is a leadership development consulting company that uses improvisation as a learning catalyst, designed and facilitated the ENGAGE program. Among the objectives of the initiative were to provide a platform for participants to reach their fullest potential, discover abilities they didn’t know they possessed while leveraging their strengths.


Changing the original plan


Over the course of three-day workshop, the leaders were exposed to several proven methods such as innovation and agility, storytelling, individual and co-development, mentorship and access under the broader umbrellas of Improvisation, Coaching and Experience. Further aspects are Exposure to Leadership, Co-Development, Work-Life balance and Virtual Technology. They discussed, participated in group exercises, had one-on-one discussions and confronted their own fears.


By Day Two, the group came to the realization that the structure of the program did not address their needs. In the words of Anne-Madeleine Kleinwächter, ‘I did not want to have side discussions. I opened the floor for a very open dialogue in order to get hands-on feedback to make it a joint success. Especially having so many great leaders together for three days absolutely required it to be meaningful and impactful. It was about taking accountability for change.” It was not an easy task. The unleashed feedback shook things up and pushed everyone out of their comfort zone – the participants, the project lead as well as the external partner. It actually required to change the entire script and structure of the program overnight – yes, only in one night. The next morning both Anne-Madeleine as well as ImprovEdge felt the tension in the room but entered the floor with a positive mind and it paid off. All participants were open for change and did feel that their voice has been heard and that developments have been initiated.


Now I know what it means to be agile


“Wow, for the very first time, I have experienced agility! Now I know what it means to be agile,.” one of the female leaders said excitedly.The entirely new approach flipped the whole experience and led to excitement and strong bonding in the room. It was a team success.


“I thoroughly enjoyed my participation in the meeting in NYC”, says Senior Clinical Program Leader Dr. Emmanuelle Clerisme-Beaty. “I was most struck by the diversity in culture, knowledge, background and experience of the group. It was a great opportunity to get to meet and network with women from different countries and various parts of the organization.” Emmanuelle has no doubt about the impact of the event: “The group’s commitment to excellence, innovation and change made me excited not only about the future of Boehringer Ingelheim, but the industry as a whole!”, she explains.


Meenal Gauri, Marketing Lead Respiratory for South-East Asia and South Korea considers the summit an important milestone towards gender-equality. “The ENGAGE women leadership meeting for me was the first crucial step which acknowledged the issue of not having enough female leaders in the organization and more so an expression of willingness that something needs to be done about it”, Meenal explains. “The participants as part of this program came from different functions, countries, age, background, beliefs, however, all of us were united by our determination to help each other and do what was needed to represent ourselves better.” What differentiated the program for Gauri was the trust and commitment that the group had towards making it happen. “It wasn’t individual but collective which increased its power multiple folds. I took back for me the sisterhood, ones I can reach out to, to discuss issues impeding me to take the big step out there”, she says.


About ENGAGE Women’s Leadership:


Engage as ONE WITH THE POWER OF TWO. ENGAGE Women’s Leadership is a global Boehringer Ingelheim program built upon Merial’s rich experience, running for eight months. This led to sustainability and to a positive impact on the day to day work. The aim is to aspire professional development to shape their future careers. We will also follow in this path by leveraging this program to increase percentage of our female leadership as part of our Diversity Ambition. This exclusive piloting format was being offered for a group of select female employees globally, providing an opportunity for professional and personal growth. This leadership development concept will now be evaluated and redesigned for the future Leadership Development Landscape. So stay tuned!

"ENGAGE Women’s Leadership program isn’t individual but collective which increased its power multiple folds, says Meenal Gauri. "
Jacqueline Berlin

1 comment(s) for 'Agility at its best – the NYC experience'


This fantastic experience was about connection and synergy! These women will go forward and make a mark on their worlds - together. Keep improvising, wonderful women!

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