“Feedback from employees and man- agers has been fantastic,” Bardoorian reported.
Personal, Profound Impact Face-to-face meetings are critical to the success of the leadership develop- ment program launched three years ago at State Electric Supply based in Huntington, W.Va. In groups of eight, employees from a range of functions— sales, branch management, ware- house management, accounting, and HR, so far—attend two-day sessions every month for eight months. Sessions rotate from the corporate training center to different branch locations, giving trainees an opportu- nity to see how things are done at other branches. Led by a business coach, the intensely interactive ses- sions employ what Training Manager Shelly Holley calls “an open learning format,” during which participants challenge and debate the pros and cons of the various ideas, approaches, and positions presented. The unique curriculum, developed internally with the business coach- facilitator, is structured around eight themes that are framed as “distinc- tions,” e.g., agreement (mutual) vs. expectation (one-sided), leader vs. manager (they are not always the same), owner (of your life) vs. victim (of circumstances beyond your con- trol). Readings from popular business books (e.g., The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Who Moved My Cheese?), which trainees read be- tween sessions, illustrate these dis- tinctions and provide a launchpad for team discussions and exercises such as role plays, through which trainees develop knowledge and skills such as communication, change management, delegation, and time management. “In addition to the readings, em- ployees also complete projects be- tween sessions, sometimes journaling and the ‘Life by Design’ exercise in which they write down goals, priori- tize them, and estimate how long it
will take to achieve them,” Holley said. The two “rules” that underlie the program urge participants to be fully present and not assume that they al- ready know about any topic. Through- out, two acronyms remind partici- pants of desirable and counterpro- ductive behaviors: OAR (ownership, accountability, responsibility) and BED (blame, excuse, denial). Partic- ipants reveal their thoughts and feel- ings to an extent that’s extremely rare in corporate train- ing. It’s a highly per- sonal, individualized program. “We are achiev- ing some astounding outcomes—they’re not just work-changing, but life-changing. The professional growth spills over into their being bet- ter spouses and par- ents. Some people get very emotional at graduation when they talk about how the program has benefited them. Their comments are amazing: ‘Before this program, I wanted to blame everyone else for the things that went wrong’ and ‘I learned that I can lead in my depart- ment without having an official lead- ership position.’”
Development at Every Level By the time Gail Smart completes her first year as training manager at Dallas-based City Electric Supply, she will have orchestrated the implemen- tation of regional, branch-level train- ing and the company’s first, formal leadership training program, devel- oped in consultation with the inter- nal commercial teams and with course content from Development Dimen- sions International (DDI), a training consultancy. Three unique curricula address the specific roles and responsibilities
of three separate training audiences: branch managers, group managers to whom branch managers report, and the mid- and senior-level man- agers in the information technology department. For example, the course “Reinforcing Leadership Develop- ment” prepares group managers to reinforce their branch managers’ new knowledge and skills. The custom DDI curriculum for information tech- nology managers—dubbed “Business Impact Leadership”— includes “Rein- forcing Leadership Development,” “Business Strate- gies,” and “Emo- tional Intelligence.” Follow-up mobile and e-learning fur- ther reinforce the seminar learning. “DDI is conduct- ing an assessment of branch man- ager skills, and we will partner with our commercial teams to select spe- cific courses based on the survey results,” Smart ex- plained. DDI’s library of leadership courses covers the widest possible range of topics, everything from “Making Sense of Business” and “Set- ting Goals and Reviewing Results” to “Building and Sustaining Trust” and “Valuing Differences.” Already Smart and her regional trainers have been certified by DDI to teach the courses in the three-tier program. “Our goal is to build leader- ship skills so that we are prepared for the company’s aggressive growth plan,” Smart said. ;
Niehaus, LEED GA, is an instructional
designer and writer and the president and
founder of Communication by Design
( communicationbydesign.net). Reach her
at 314-644-4135 or Jan@Communication
Millennials have already built strong personal relation- ships through social media. We are help- ing them build strong professional net- works too—national networks with a lot of opportunities for exposure to upper management.