Leadership development unleashes employee potential

One hot Friday a few weeks ago, 24 business people representing a diverse group of large and small companies gathered in a classroom at the ASU Research Park in Tempe. The topic was employee engagement, and their instructor was W. P. Carey management Professor Angelo Kinicki, a leading researcher and consultant in this area. Before the day was over, the group participated in role-playing exercises, examined case studies and had broken into small groups for discussion.

The session, entitled “Driving Employee Engagement,” helped participants understand their role in unleashing employee motivation and engagement. “This is important because employee engagement is significantly associated with outcomes such as productivity and customer service,” commented Kinicki.

The result? Participants said they came away with immediately-applicable tools, including a series of interview questions to evaluate potential hires for desired characteristics, a better understanding of how to craft projects and work assignments so that employees will be engaged, and simple every day strategies to engage direct reports and the teams they lead.

“Driving Employee Engagement” was the first in a series of workshops developed by the W. P. Carey School’s Center for Executive and Professional Development. The Leadership Development Workshops are standalone courses on a variety of business topics. The workshops are loosely modeled after those offered in the W. P. Carey MBA Leadership Academy, and reflect the skill sets employers desire from individuals in management positions or those in team or project leadership roles.

“In the last six months we’ve seen a real increase in the number of organizations inquiring about leadership development opportunities for their employees,” said Dawn Feldman, executive director of the school’s Center for Executive and Professional Development. “They know that their internal efforts alone aren’t enough. They’re seeking opportunities to develop people by exposing them to the business perspectives and practical knowledge that faculty at the W. P. Carey School of Business are uniquely positioned to share.”

New talent for new challenges

Difficult economic times lead organizations to scrutinize their operations and investments. Questions such as “How can we work more efficiently? How can we run leaner? Where can we cut costs?” often prompt cuts to talent development dollars. During a recession, the long-term investment in people development tends to be viewed as a luxury, not a strategic imperative.

This past recession has been no different. Organizations focused on weathering the storm. As the economy transitions from recession to recovery mode, however, organizations can now focus on growing and preparing for the future. Research continues to reinforce that recruiting, hiring, and training new talent is more costly and less effective in the short term than developing those already employed. W. P. Carey faculty are experts in their various disciplines, but they are also experienced in transferring that new knowledge and skills to students – whether those students are undergraduates, masters degree candidates or working professionals.

"W. P. Carey faculty are recognized worldwide for their research and thought leadership. Yet it's their skill at bringing new trends and best practice discussions into the classroom, focusing on the practical application of concepts in the current business environment, that makes the W. P. Carey School an incredible resource for managers and executives," said Gerry Keim, chairman of the department of management.

Four more workshops are scheduled for the balance of 2012, and the 2013 workshops are already in development. Here’s the schedule:

Effective Negotiations – August 17

Negotiating skills are an asset at every level of an organization. “Effective Negotiations,” presented by Kevin Corley, will provide participants with a better understanding of negotiating, and skills to improve their outcomes. Even the most reluctant negotiator will walk away from this class with a reassuring foundation of how to approach all future negotiations.

Inspiration and Motivation as Leadership Tools – September 7

Not every leader has the authority to make demands of their team. Money and praise are not always the best motivators of a team. So how does a true leader motivate and inspire their people toward collaboration, loyalty, and performance? W. P. Carey Management professor Suzanne Peterson will explore these topics in “Inspiration and Motivation as Leadership Tools.”

“Although it is essential for managers to be effective leaders, much of leadership remains elusive, nuanced, and intangible. This workshop was designed to address this ambiguity by providing managers with a toolkit of tangible behaviors to ensure they are leaders who motivate and inspire people differently and uniquely to achieve results,” commented Peterson.

Harvesting Knowledge From Frontline Employees – October 26

Employees who routinely interact with customers -- whether internal customers, vendors, or clients -- often gather a wealth of untapped information. Gerry Keim, chair of the W. P. Carey Management department, will discuss how the cues regarding opportunities and challenges can more easily flow from the edges to the executive suite during “Harvesting Knowledge From Frontline Employees.” Participants will leave with a better understanding of how to remove obstacles to that information transfer and how to empower their employees to respond.

Leading Effective Team Processes – November 9

Teams often encounter obstacles to effective collaboration as they proceed through their day-to-day activities. These problems include, but are not limited to, breakdowns in communication, lack of participation, and dysfunctional conflict. W. P. Carey Management assistant professor Jennifer Nahrgang focuses on identifying the problems that most frequently disrupt teams and the options for intervening to improve these dynamics in “Leading Effective Team Processes.” Participants will learn how to engage, plan, work, and succeed as a team leader.

The Leadership Development Workshops are designed for managers, project or team leaders, and those looking to advance into management roles. They can also provide a strong foundation for seasoned professionals who have little formal management education.

“Whether individuals attend all five or just one workshop,” says Feldman, “they will come away with new skills and approaches to business practices that will ultimately positively affect their employees and their organization’s bottom line.”

“With over 250 faculty members, there are countless areas in leadership to be explored,” Feldman added. “The W. P. Carey School of Business strives to meet the needs of the business community, here in Phoenix, in Arizona, and beyond.”

Do you have a leadership topic that you or your team would like to explore? Contact us at wpcarey.execed@asu.edu.