Vice President, Organization Effectiveness and Chief Learning Officer, General Mills, Inc.
Since Kevin Wilde joined General Mills in 1998, the organization has ranked number three in Fortune's best companies in the world at leadership development and received Training magazine's "Hall of Fame" designation as a top company for employee development. In 2007, Chief Learning Officer magazine selected Wilde as CLO of the year. Before joining General Mills, Wilde spent 17 years in a variety of human resources positions at General Electric. This year, Wilde published his first book, Dancing with the Talent Stars: 25 Moves that Matter Now (HCM Press).
Q|What sparked your initial interest in the learning profession?
A|When I was 14 years old, a college-on-the-air PBS show about leadership and group dynamics caught my interest. For some reason, I found the topic fascinating and started tuning in every week and taking notes. In high school, I attended leadership training workshops as part of a student business club, and my interest in leadership training deepened. While I've had a broad range of roles in my career - HR generalist, shop supervisor, and Six Sigma quality manager - I've always had a passion for learning and leadership in those assignments.
One of my career's highlights was serving as a leadership program manager at GE's corporate training center - at that time called Crotonville - where I had the chance to partner with great company leaders, including then-CEO Jack Welch.
Q|What valuable career development lessons did you learn while working under Jack Welch?
A|I gained a passion for excellence and winning, an uncompromising integrity as a leader, and a burning curiosity to improve - to always be in a learning mode and never be satisfied with only what I know now or what is working today.
Q|Did you have a coach or mentor to help you along the way? If so, what do you remember about that relationship and what valuable advice did you learn?
A|In nearly every role I've had someone provide me with support and counsel. Some shared wisdom and insight, some prodded me to stretch and become more, and some simply offered encouragement and a friendly ear. As far as specific advice: "Do good work, and always find a way to make a positive contribution."
Q|And now - who do you look to for guidance and support?
A|I still have friends and mentors who serve the same three roles. More and more of my learning and inspiration comes from the up-and-coming generation of new learning and development leaders who have fresh ideas, challenge conventional thinking, and see more potential in change.
Q|How has your career changed in the last 10 years? How have you seen the profession overall change in the last 10 years?
A|My role has evolved from one of only delivering my area of specialization to contributing to the organization in many ways, with a foundation (and passion) for unlocking the potential of employees and business teams.
The field of learning and talent development is very exciting right now, finding its way to make important, strategic contributions to organizational success; leveraging new and useful technologies; and responding to an ever-increasing self-directed and self-motivated generation of learners.
Q|What advice would you give to those wanting to advance their careers in the learning field?
A|First and foremost, take an organization or business owner point of view rather than just a narrow specialty mindset. Spend at least as much of your self-development time and energy learning more about all aspects of the business. Second, build your influence skills. What you can influence for positive change in an organization counts more than your good ideas that go nowhere. Third, fine-tune your judgment. Others will value your role as a business partner as long as you have good judgment.