5 Reasons Why Persistent Leaders Lead Best

Our most recent article has been published on the SHRM Executive Network website this week. Which reason resonates most to you?


“Persistent leadership starts at the top. Here are insights on how leaders can guide their teams toward extraordinary macro goals by staying present and purposeful at the micro level.”

hashtag#persistentleadership SHRM Executive Network hashtag#shrm hashtag#leadershipinsights

Leadership Agility

GOLD (“Gratitude Organizational Leadership Development”) is a program designed for improving Leadership Agility by combining the power of group peer work with individualized coaching. The program was crafted by experienced thought-leaders, from working with over 150 companies globally, conducted by The Gratitude Network in collaboration with Silicon Valley Executive Education.

Growing companies face many organizational and leadership challenges – just by the nature of growth. This program addresses these issues, drastically transforming leaders into ‘GOLD teams’, all while solidifying social responsibility and engaging employees in giving back.

Leadership Development

While many companies know that they need to find a way to continually develop their most significant leaders, they really have few options for doing this. Investing in leaders is one of the best investments a company can come given the positive ripple effects:

-Personal growth as a manager and leader
-Improved communications skills
-Increased sensitivity to diversity & inclusion
-Setting clear goals and expectations for employees
-Improved strategic planning

The GOLD Program is available to make this investment in the context of actual/current projects & challenges.

Top Leadership Retention

Retaining top leadership can be challenging for a variety of reasons:

-Burnout / personal reasons
-Lack of growth opportunities / recognition
-Organizational culture
-Limited autonomy

The GOLD Program helps organizations retain their most valued leaders because it is viewed as a reward and privilege by the leaders who are chosen to participate in the program.

Increase Team Productivity
As a company grows, it can become more challenging to maintain the same level of productivity among teams.
-Complexity to navigate new resources
-Communication breakdowns
-Lack of clear goals and expectations
-Decrease in employee engagement
-Bureaucracy and red tape

The GOLD Program helps develop and maintain the high performance teams leading a company to success.

Organizational Silos
Siloed departments can happen for a number of reasons.
-Lack of communication and coordination
-Limited cross-functional collaboration
-Competition for resources
-Different cultures or incentives & rewards
-Limited leadership visibility & accountability

The GOLD Program will help with cross-functional leadership and lowering silos across departments

Lack of Inclusive Leadership

A lack of inclusive leadership can have a number of negative consequences for an organization.
-Lack of workforce diversity, which can negatively impact: Creativity & Innovation.
-Lack of engagement & retention of diverse employees.
-Culture of marginalization which will result in low morale & productivity

The GOLD Program will help with implementing DEI Initiatives

GOLD combines customized 1:1 leadership coaching AND monthly* group sessions for often siloed department leaders.

GOLD encourages immediate integration of skills with existing projects, programs & challenges.

GOLD allows you to cost-effectively retain & develop your most valuable leaders AND improve team-work & productivity throughout the organization.

The GOLD Program is different by combining 5 elements into leader & team growth:
-Customized 1:1 coaching to address individuals’ leadership needs
-Group process allows for Peer to Peer learning
-Group process tears down silos and create improved communication across organizations / departments
-Immediate integration with existing projects / programs and challenges
-Employee Engagement by applying leadership skills in your community

1:1 Social Impact is one of the best benefits of GOLD

For every employee enrolled in this program, The Gratitude Network offers a year of leadership training and one-on-one coaching to a deserving social impact entrepreneur.

In addition, choose the organization to direct the gift to within three categories (Education, Health and Well-being, and Human Rights) and in a variety of countries/regions.


C-suite sponsors (CEO / CHRO) choose 12 to 15 critical leaders from a company to participate in GOLD + Program length (6, 9 or 12 months)

Customize a program relevant to a company’s challenges thanks to GOLD’s carefully curated leadership modules. All participants learn together as peers in monthly facilitated group sessions.

We match one of our highly experienced executive Coaches to each of your chosen participants. Each participant receives monthly 1:1 coaching, which reinforces the group work and integrates with real time corporate projects and challenges.


-Pre-Assessment (360 assessment)
-Facilitated team learning modules (peer cohort)
-1:1 Coaching – once per month with highly qualified coach
-Quarterly check-ins with C-Suite sponsors
-Post-Assessment (to measure progress)

GOLD Customizable Modules

1. Building Trust & Emotional Intelligence
2. Highly Effective Leadership Coaching
3. Executive Presence
4. Building the High-Performance Team
5. Communication & Influence
6. Inclusive Leadership (DEI)
7. Developing a Culture of Accountability & Results
8. Creative Problem Solving and Innovation Management
9. Managing & Leading in a Changing Workplace

For more information, please contact [email protected].

Making VR a Reality in Business Classrooms


Lessons from INSEAD’s Executive Education Team

Put on a virtual reality (VR) headset, and you are immediately immersed in the sights and sounds of a retail showroom, a hotel front desk, or a tense boardroom negotiation—or, perhaps, transported to a state-of-the-art assembly line or a bustling city market miles away. For years, corporations such as Walmart and Hilton have explored the uses of VR technology in employee training, and we are now beginning to understand its potential for business classrooms and executive education. Questions remain: How does VR technology work in the business classroom and where does it fit into the future of online and in-person executive education?

New Full Day SVEE Program – ‘Climate Change and Business Strategy’​

Climate Change and Business Strategy (CCABS)

Who should take this 1-day program?

CCABS is intended for organizations and teams with an interest in how climate change is impacting business, and how business sustainability depends both on mitigating climate impacts and on adaptation to ongoing climate change. While the program does not shy away from using scientific terms, the material is easily accessible, and no prior familiarity with climate science is assumed. The program examines a range of approaches to business sustainability in the context of a changing climate, the actions that business can take to improve the climate outlook, and the emergence of a climate-aware economy.

What is the focus of this course?

CCABS is an optimistic take on the daunting issue of climate change, and maps how business can play a definitive role in addressing the problem of climate change. In terms of balance, the program addresses the business implications of climate change (80% of the day) integrated with a bit of Climate Science for grounding (20% of the day). 

What are the skills that this program is intended to develop?

  • Understanding and communicating the business implications of a changing climate.
  • Developing strategies for business sustainability in the context of a changing climate.
  • Defining and carrying out the actions businesses can take to improve the climate outlook.
  • Helping businesses prepare for the emergence of a climate-aware economy.
  • Engaging with changing consumer expectations in the context of Climate Change.
  • Responding to the demands that Climate Change place on corporate strategy.

Program summary

CCABS addresses a range of topics that cover the principal elements of how business is affected by climate change, and how changing business practices can improve (or worsen) the climate outlook. 

For more details, email [email protected].

Northwest Insights: As a Leader, Why You Should Let Others Lead

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leader-why-you-should-let-others-lead-northwest-executive-education

Originally published on May 5, 2022

One of the most difficult tasks that leaders face is the ability to follow others. In the presence of a leader, businesses run smoothly. However, even if the leader is not present, the businesses should still be capable of performing well. To fully instill such effective leadership skills in peers, it is critical for leaders to delegate authority to others and let others lead, take charge, and decide what is and is not good for the organization. A capable leader will aid others in honing their professional skills. It also boosts the company’s productivity and, as a result, profitability. The role of a leader is to serve as a role model for employees, providing guidance, and encouraging employees to further their education and professional development. As a result, it is critical for leaders to comprehend why it is critical for them to let others lead. 

Here are some compelling reasons why effective leadership necessitates delegation of authority: 

It instills leadership qualities in peers

Your coworkers look up to you not only as a leader but also as a role model. One of the most important responsibilities of leaders is to teach their peers about the importance of leadership and to instill leadership skills in them so that they are able to take responsibility. Allowing your team members to take the lead gives them firsthand experience with what the responsibility entails and what is expected of the holder. This assists your peers in growing and improving their performance by providing them with a practical approach to workplace challenges.

It enables them to make future plans

Aspiring for a higher position is common among employees. What is frequently overlooked, however, is that a higher authority brings along increased responsibilities. To let others lead means giving them firsthand experience of the responsibilities that come with a higher position. This allows employees to rethink their capabilities and identify areas where they need to improve in order to be effective in the role they aspire to fill and work on themselves accordingly.  

It teaches them the value of delegation

Delegation is important not only because it is a part of effective leadership, but it is also important for increasing employee contributions and increasing team productivity. Delegation promotes time management and ensures that tasks are completed on time. Everyone has their own area of expertise, and it is true that putting one person in charge of a job that requires a specific skill makes the task easier; therefore, delegation is critical. Individuals are empowered by delegation because it allows them to demonstrate their ability to take on new responsibilities. It encourages people to feel more committed and involved by allowing them to see what contributions they have made to the team. As a result, leaders must delegate authority to peers and let others lead. 

It encourages a positive work environment

Aside from getting all of the work done, one of the most important responsibilities of leaders is to create a positive working environment for their employees that allows them to easily achieve their professional and personal goals. Instead of relying on their leaders and managers for help, it is critical that team members feel empowered to solve the day-to-day problems that arise in their current positions. This increases their self-assurance, knowledge, and problem-solving skills, all of which will be important when they take on a leadership role. You can successfully support your team members’ personal growth by providing lessons and space for them to develop personally, developing a culture of working together and cooperating.  

It aids you in recognizing your peers’ unique strengths

Giving your coworkers responsibility is the most effective way to recognize their unique strengths and abilities to solve problems. Everyone approaches challenges differently, which is how leaders learn which domains an individual excels in and which domains they struggle with. It is critical to get to know your team in order to effectively lead them; thus, if you let others lead and delegate authority to deal with situations, you will improve their efficiency. 

It can be difficult to relinquish a leadership position and move on, but it is necessary for the team or individuals you are mentoring to progress. The aforementioned reasons demonstrate why it is critical for leaders to relinquish control of their authority from time to time and let others lead, allowing peers to learn and grow.

About Northwest 

Northwest Executive Education delivers comprehensive global executive education programs offered by the world’s best universities.

Learning Agility

Learning Agility is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.

Leadership that Truly Inspires: Results-Driven Strategies for a New Uncertain Age

In the post-COVID era, it’s common practice to say certain things are “more important than ever before.”

And common as the saying may be, the sentiment is absolutely correct.

Family. Wellness. Mental health. Governance. Supply chains. Corporate resilience. All these have revealed themselves to be even more critical to our collective survival than we ever thought possible.

The same can be said for business leadership.

Even as the ground shifts beneath us and antiquated notions of “work before wellbeing” fall away, executive leaders still have a crucial role to play in guiding employees and refining organizational skillsets. C-suite leaders, including CEOs, COOs, CHROs, CTOs, and beyond, can still exert tremendous positive influence, helping to further develop sales and optimize daily processes overall.

They just have to start thinking a little differently.

Below are three best leadership practices that can encourage better sales results and help promote a healthier company culture in the post-pandemic age.

#1: Transform “top down” into “fire up”

Not much is certain in 2022, but here’s one thing that’s become abundantly clear:  

The notion of the executive ivory tower is now completely outdated.

In our current landscape, business ideology has transformed from “top down” to “fire up,” meaning leadership is no longer a matter of influencing from above, but rather inspiring from within. This requires leaders to break down traditional hierarchies, take an active interest in everyday processes, and get in the weeds with their sales managers as well as other revenue-facing team members.  

Indeed, Stark and Associates President and CEO, Suzie Andrews, a sales and leadership development specialist, recommends company leaders venture “out in the field” with their salespeople to get an accurate reading on the state of business affairs; demonstrate a compassionate interest in team members’ personal aspirations; formulate plans for growth; and provide invaluable support to representatives on the ground.[1]

Bridging the C-suite-to-sales-team gap in this way is key, if only because conventional corporate ladders can seriously stifle leadership success. In fact, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, warns of a troubling disconnect between old-school leadership “dogma”––which ostensibly relies on theory––and the practical applications of real-world experience.[2]

It’s an idea echoed by Nitin Rakesh, CEO and Managing Director of Mphasis, who notes:
“Leadership, in my view, is a contact sport––if company leaders are out in the field with clients and partners, proactively creating opportunities, as well as synthesizing trends, it becomes part of the firm’s fabric and enhances [the] competitive moat.”

Note: The operative word here is “proactively.”

When leaders log hours in the field (engaging with reps, speaking to clients, shadowing calls, etc.), they’re able to take a proactive approach to their business. They can gauge what’s working and what isn’t, highlight areas for improvement, and inspire teammates on more immediate terms. And perhaps most importantly, they can prepare for next steps to help propel the company forward.

Such active participation at the C-suite level can light a proverbial fire for employees, inciting them to develop an “owner’s mindset” (as described in Zook and Allen’s The Founder’s Mentality[3]), chasing their professional goals as if there were something much more personal at stake.

In other words: Proactive involvement from C-level executives can inspire a company-wide push toward more wins and greater impact.

#2: Look to influence from all angles

If you’re hoping to inspire with a proactive spirit, however, you can’t limit yourself to only one or two spheres of influence.

Instead, you should seek to offer guidance and support from a variety of angles, including technical training, behavioral modeling, narrative strategy, and in-the-trenches engagement.

You should also make sure this multifaceted approach speaks to as many employees as possible, meaning your methods should take different learning styles and sensibilities into account at all times.

This concept is underlined by Debbie Lawley, CEO of leading UK e-learning company, WillowDNA, who notes that sales––and, by extension, sales leadership and development activities––reflect “a combination of multiple competences,” covering everything from selling techniques to product knowledge and systems deployment. Lawley adds:

“The reach of [learning and development] has to be broad enough to cover all these areas… Blended learning programmes bringing together experts, stories, competitor knowledge as well as systems and sales support are key to impactful outcomes.”[4]

Your reach as a leader should be similarly broad in scope, harnessing the collective powers and experience of all C-suite players to motivate activities both behind the scenes and out in the consumer-facing market.

Some examples of this kind of multi-layered outreach can include:

  • Sitting in on practice calls to offer insightful tips re: efficient sales tactics (you can even sit in the hotseat yourself to lead by direct example[5])
  • Creating and managing a workshop for improved cross-cultural messaging
  • Developing a plan for continued education across all departments

#3 Educate to empower

With that last point in mind, consider both Lawley and Pfeffer, two out of four experts cited here, express real concerns about today’s educational modalities.

To recap:

Pfeffer fears leadership development is too narrowly focused on conventional ideas of what leaders are “supposed to do,” where it should instead focus on applied, real-world experience.

Meanwhile, Lawley cautions that sales L&D programs aren’t comprehensive enough to produce well-rounded salespeople (or sales managers) who possess both the knowledge and techniques that are necessary to succeed.

If we take Lawley and Pfeffer to heart, we can safely assume corporate learning––for leaders, managers, and salespeople alike––is falling short. Leaders are held back by abstract theories of what constitutes effective leadership, while managers and “lower-level” employees lack the holistic tools they need to refine their skills and secure more deals.

Still, there’s hope.

Newer, savvier models are emerging. Marked by out-of-the-box thinking and fueled by hands-on learning, these systems leverage current social and technological trends to break traditional constraints and empower innovative action at every turn. They feature:

A contextualized approach that addresses the various needs of each individual “student,” while tailoring lesson plans to the express requirements of each new business challenge. Such plans incorporate digital learning tools like virtual simulation as well as interactive, real-world-scenario testing.

A results-based curriculum that drives learners toward concrete victories rather than wasting time on purely theoretical materials that don’t factor into everyday sales/sales leadership activity. This curriculum looks to recent findings on the benefits of micro-learning, engaging “bite-sized” learning sessions for maximum retention.[6]

A pared-down model that respects the modern workday schedule, streamlining programs to work with leaders and employees, not against them. These learning systems take advantage of on-demand services such as online courses and offer compact, scalable lessons (in the form of webinars, graphics, etc.) to help hone company-wide skills.

Armed with these three strategies, leaders can expand their spheres of influence and help maintain a culture of proactivity without resorting to older, hierarchical methods that can sow division and slow company growth.

Or, put another way:

“…If one is able to look around corners and anticipate the shifting trends and make some bold big bets early on, it may be possible for teams to construct proactive wins in situations where you are able to get a seat at the table …” – Nitin Rakesh

In the wake of COVID, the need for inspiring leadership hasn’t disappeared: it’s merely changed shape. Your ability to redefine with the times will help secure the ongoing success of your business––at a moment where longevity and sustainability are more important than ever before.

[1] https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/modern-sales-leader

[2] https://www.theceomagazine.com/business/management-leadership/time-to-rethink-traditional-learning-and-development/

[3] https://www.bain.com/founders-mentality/book/

[4] https://www.willowdna.com/learning-development-sales-ceo-insights/

[5] https://hbr.org/2018/03/how-we-made-our-sales-training-more-effective-by-making-it-harder

[6] https://rpsblog.raytr.com/micro-learning-game-changer-digital-age/

Guest blog – From Pandemic to Permanent

From Pandemic to Permanent: Using the Hybrid Work Model Effectively in Your Organisation

Written by Robert Kovach. First posted January 14, 2022.

Over the last two years, we’ve obviously moved aggressively and suddenly from on-site work to remote work. And although work from home arrangements were already growing rapidly before the pandemic, COVID-19 wildly accelerated that trend. And I do mean wildly, as in somewhat unplanned, mostly reactionary and not without a bit of chaos. This isn’t meant to blame anyone – a rapid response to a public health emergency was far more important than thoughtful, planned schemes to shift a workforce from offices to dining tables. But it’s clear those temporary changes have hardened into a new reality. Employees are not nearly as willing to be in a five day a week office role as they were in the past. Part of that is ongoing concerns about COVID. Part of that is a shift in worker expectations. But there’s no going back, according to research predicting a future workplace that looks very different.. For those who are responsible for running organisations, it’s time to not only accept the demands coming out of The Great Resignation, it’s time to lean into them. But a full time, 100% work from home organisation is not optimal – or even feasible – for many employers. However, a hybrid work model is very likely the future for many companies, at least for some employees.

The hybrid work model can be a win-win situation for employers (and employees).

Thinking permanently, not pandemic-ly. Do a full assessment of the changes you have made during the last two years to accommodate the sudden work from home arrangements. Now is the time to actively adjust your operations and your culture to make those new arragements permanent. Some changes can simply be left as the new status quo. Others are probably too expensive, too unreliable or just not the optimal way of meeting the needs of your clients and suppliers long term.

One size won’t fit all. One of the first steps of re-assessing your workforce and your operations is to review all the roles in the business. Determine who must work on site and who can work remotely. Think aggressively about the first category in terms of “must”– the last two years have redefined what has to happen in person. The Great Resignation is proving that on-site employment opportunities will be the hardest to fill. The leaders who embrace virtual ways of doing things, and learn to do them well as an organisation, will thrive in this new moment, as well as long term. Can they be on-site part of the time, or do work in shifts so that there are fewer people in the office (or warehouse or wherever) at the same time? The hybrid work model doesn’t have to mean full days on and full days off. Think in terms of activities, not people. Can part of the role be performed remotely?

On the other hand, when it comes to who can work remotely, think aggressively in a different way. While many workers right now want to work from home full time, there will be a point at which some of the disadvantages of losing in-person interactions will be felt. This is where hybrid work arrangements could be better than fully working from home. Do this smartly, in a way that works for both the organisation and the individual. For example, many people are moving farther away from city centers so they can find more affordable and more spacious housing. Before the pandemic, the average commute in the U.S. was 50 minutes round trip; in the U.K. it was an hour. But that was based on commuting twice per day, five days per week, 45-50 weeks per year. What if you only need people in the office three days per week? Or even two days per week? If you offered an employee a schedule of Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the office, then even a one hour drive each way feels far less arduous.

Make hybrid worth the hype. Employers who go all-in on the new way of working should be broadcasting these changes as a way of attracting talent. That is yet another new dynamic for employers — learning to pitch the advantages of working for your company. We’ve spent most of human history with the employment relationship relying on two things: 1) money to be the incentive for working and 2) retirement to be the time for prioritizing personal interests over professional. But people are valuing different things now – time with their loved ones, opportunity to explore other interests, and generally enjoying their personal interests now, not after their working years are over. I have written before about the importance of demonstrating . Employers who articulate how a hybrid work model will allow people to enjoy the important emotional and logistical advantages of being in the office, while also articulating a culture that recognises the value of working from home are likely to find a competitive advantage in recruiting and keeping talent.

Hybrid work models require changing attitudes, not just locations

Corporate culture also must reflect a commitment to a hybrid work arrangement. This means changing policies and benefits to support (not just accommodate) team members who are splitting time between an office site and a home office. That might mean giving people subsidies to help create a permanent home office workspace, or moving from gym membership subsidies to offering at-home equipment corporate discounts. Implement new policies that reflect at-home employment – for example, you could hold all key meetings between 10 and 3, when most people with school age children will be less distracted. Invest in technology that makes sure out of sight doesn’t lead to out of mind. And make sure that time in the office leverages the very real benefits of human contact. Team bonding, mentoring and building relationships do get a boost from in-person connections, so make in-office days more than just an extension of the work people are doing from home. Maybe some teams only need to be in the office one week per month instead of two days each week. Involve your teams in these decisions – it communicates the organisation’s commitment to this model. Commit to your talent, and they will more likely return the favour.

Source: https://robert-kovach.com/2022/01/14/from-pandemic-to-permanent-using-the-hybrid-work-model-effectively-in-your-organisation/

Humility vs. Confidence: Which Wins in 2022 and Beyond?

Source: https://www.advantexe.com/blog/humility-vs.-confidence-which-wins-in-2022-and-beyond

Written by Rob Brodo, from our partner Advantexe (Dec. 10, 2021)

It was one of the most fascinating learning moments of the year. And this year has been like no other in terms of incredible learning moments.

Immediately after one of the top-performing teams in the week-long, multi-year digital business simulation experience finished sharing their update to their Board of Directors, one board member turned the other board member and said, “Wait, did that company just go bankrupt? I thought they were doing so well.”

They were doing well. In fact, they had the highest revenues, the highest profits, and the highest stock price out of any of the other teams in the market. As part of the Board of Directors simulation debriefing, several of the board members (experienced executives who sit on “real” board in their “real” lives) gave the teams feedback. One shared, “When you have a great quarter and things are going in the right direction, you celebrate. You let the world know about your accomplishments.” Interestingly enough, that feedback didn’t seem to hit the mark. It was actually the opposite. The participant responded, “That’s not our style. We have been raised to be humble and not to brag. What you saw was what we were comfortable with.”

That comment then opened up a vigorous debate that got a lot of interesting dialogue going. There were some who were on Team Confident and some who were on Team Humble.

The Right Balance

During my career, I have had the chance to work with thousands of executive and senior-level leaders. I have viewed every interaction with them as part of my ongoing classroom experience. Based on what I have observed and experienced, I believe that leadership is a delicate balance between absolute self-confidence and authentic humility.

That balance encompasses understanding the significant value that you, as a leader and contributor, have in any position within an organization. It is the realization and self-awareness that your perspectives are important and that others will follow your direction, or make their own decisions based on how you have developed the team. You believe that it is appropriate to challenge your teams in a respectful way with a drive to always do the right thing, rather than trying to always prove you are right or better than others.

Being self-confident means recognizing you aren’t the fastest, smartest, or best communicator in the room. It’s the ability to be comfortable with who you are and who you see in the mirror.

This time of self-confidence driven by self-awareness is not political or self-serving. It is driven by a desire to be a great leader who wants to make a difference.

Balanced with this self-confidence is authentic humility. Humble leaders are trustworthy and authentic. They understand that they are not more important or better than anyone else. These types of leaders never forget where they came from, or take themselves too seriously. They foster teamwork and recognize others for their accomplishments.

Five Rules of Balance Between Confidence and Humility

Know the strategy – When you know that strategy and plan, it’s easy to find the balance between confidence and humility. Great leaders understand their own company’s business strategy and have the skills to execute and the humility to lead others to support the execution.

Set clear direction – Executing the strategy is only accomplished by leading others. If leadership is equal to the execution of your strategy through people, then you need to set the right goals with the confidence that they will be accomplished and with the humility to lead people to accomplish them.

Values – Values are the glue that keeps the execution of the strategy together. Different people will have different perspectives and values and you must have that right balance to confidently create and support them and the humility to live them every day.

Communicate – As with most things leadership, communicating is an essential element to getting things done. In our new normal of hybrid and remote work, the challenge of communicating has never been greater. And so has the capability and skill set to find the right balance of communicating with confidence and humility.

Embrace change – The pandemic has taught us many things including that even a nightmare scenario from science fiction books can come true. We are now forever in change mode. Leaders will only survive if they have the skills to embrace the chance and the leadership capabilities to lead change with confidence and humility.

In summary, the key learnings from earlier today and the debate of confidence versus humility were short-sighted. This is clearly not a case of either-or; it is a classic case of both and if you really think about it, confidence plus humility is what leadership in 2022 and beyond is going to be about.

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.

IEDP Editorial: “Impact Drivers vs. Impact Destroyers”

In revisiting HBR’s challenging 2016 article ‘The Great Training Robbery’, Cranfield University experts Wendy Shepherd and Mark Threlfall reveal seven bad practices in executive development that stifle impact—and five key drivers for improving it.

Published: Thursday 04 November 2021

Source: https://www.iedp.com/articles/impact-drivers-vs-impact-destroyers/

“By investing in training that is not likely to yield a good return, senior executives and their HR professionals are complicit in what we have come to call the ‘great training robbery.’”— Harvard Business Review, 2016.

In their incendiary 2016 HBR article, Michael Beer, Magnus Finnstrom, and Derek Schrader, decried the lack of real impact and ROI provided by large swathes of executive education provision. It is was a vital, discomfiting read, and the implications are as important today as they were then.

Five years on, what are providers and clients doing to improve the impact of their interventions? How has the industry evolved to confront the issue of impact—and are we in a better place now, than we were? As buyers of executive development in the corporate world, what steps should we be taking to ensure real return on our investment, and what common missteps should we be wary of?
The post-pandemic, ‘build back better’ imperativeto reset agendas and welcome progressive ideas, across so many sectors of business and society, offers an opportunity for all sides of the executive education industry to revisit its thinking and practice around impact.

This was the theme of a recent webinar hosted by IEDP, in which experts from Cranfield University School of Management set about these important questions; debunking bad practices, highlighting common value destroyers in executive education, and providing a framework of five key drivers to supercharge impact.

First: the bad practicesthe value destroyers that too often hamper and derail even the best-intentioned learning initiatives. Mark Threlfall, Director of Executive Development at Cranfield, highlights the key issues to be aware of:

Bad practices that undermine impact

  1. Context trumps design and delivery
    Fixating on the design, mode of delivery, and the provider—important areas of focus—at the expense of truly understanding the context into which a program will be delivered, can lead to failure. An initial understanding of the learners’ situation, environment, and organizational context is crucial.
  2. Failure to prepare the learning landscape
    For an executive development intervention to deliver impact it needs to land on fertile ground. It needs to connect to the whole organizational ecosystem into which it is set. This takes preparation, and the clear communication of roles, responsibilities, and expectations for all stakeholders, to win buy-in and engagement.
  3. Configure to context
    The commissioning agent and the provider should ensure a receptive landing ground before configuring the program to suit it. The program configuration should be context-led rather than content-led. All too often the opposite is true.
  4. Action learning projects as substitute for real impact
    Action or enquiry-based learning, through cycles of doing and reflecting, is widely used in executive education. To have real impact it is important to clearly establish if such interventions are vehicles for learning (which is fine) or quasi-consulting engagementsin which case the client needs to build this aspect into the learners’ day-to-day tasks.
  5. Content driven vs process driven interventions
    The pace of a program can be dictated by the inclusion of too much content. It is important to be sensitive to the ‘learning journey,’ and pace interventions to allow for reflection and assimilation.
  6. Alignment and engagement of key stakeholders
    Organizational impact from learning interventions very much depends on the commitment and buy-in of the learners’ supervisors and superiors—the senior executive team and the relevant line managers. Planning and communications should keep this aim front of mind at all times.
  7. Distinguish between learning interventions and change interventions
    Executive training and skills development can be important as part of managing a change process. However, change involves much more than learning alone and it is a mistake to overburden learning interventions with expectations they cannot deliver.

Beyond these systemic issues, some more basic derailers can also hamper or dilute impact. For example, the lack of quality and relevance in program content—something providers should proactively call out. Or the lack of learner support. Or a failure to provide the psychological safety that allows learners to try new things and give feedback to the organization.

Better ways to measure impact

Dr Wendy Shepherd, Director of Individual and Organizational Impact at Cranfield, has a passionate belief in the value of executive development, founded on her own extensive personal experience. Shepherd is clear that measuring how impact occurs at an organizational level is a complex task, but certainly not an impossible one.

Shepherd’s own research into learning interventions in large organizations highlights a range of effective ways to measure ROI. She explains that using financial measures alone to track impact is insufficient. Any financial upturn coinciding with a learning intervention is unlikely to be solely due to the learning. Good work done in other parts of the organization will have played a part.

To look beyond financial measures and ensure vital learning and change capabilities are being measured and captured, Shepherd has developed a framework of five key mechanisms that her research shows to demonstrably link learning interventions with organizational level outcomes.

Five key drivers of impact in executive development

  1. Conversations
    The quality, nature and content of conversations are vital to achieving positive outcomes at the organizational level. Are you having better conversations as a result of your learning interventions?
  2. Sensemaking
    Learning interventions can lead to changes in the way learners think about problems. A logical mindset might be broadened by exposure to ideas around emotional intelligence, for example. Changed critical thinking impacts performance.
  3. Alignment
    Changes in priorities and better alignment with organizational requirements.
  4. Engagement
    Changes in discretionary effort and commitment.
  5. Relationships
    Changes in networks and relationships as a result of learning interventions.

By focusing on these impact drivers, it is possible to gather data that can lead to a greater understanding of what works, for whom, and within specific contexts. This in turn will present opportunities for clients of executive education to work with providers and program designers to develop interventions that can be more accurately measured in terms of impact and ROI.

Five years on from HBR’s ‘Great Training Robbery’ article, impactand oftentimes a misalignment in the measurement of itremains a crucial issue for the sector to tackle. The good news is that, through thoughtful research, design and best practice, the top University-based executive development providers today are far better attuned to the precise needs of their clients, and based on some of the ideas presented here, are better able to plot, measure, and demonstrate real impact from the learning interventions they offer.