Leadership Institute Makes Lasting Impression
By Donna Murray
In today’s complex business world where deals are seldom sealed with a handshake, and the workforce more resembles the United Nations than a Norman Rockwell painting, talented, versatile executives are a hot commodity. While the majority of executives possesses most of the necessary characteristics and attributes to lead, few, if any, come pre-packaged with the complete roster of skills to become stellar leaders. And even those with a proven track record can benefit from a refresher course now and then.
Enter Eckerd College’s Leadership Development Institute (LDI). Founded in 1981, and affiliated with the internationally acclaimed Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), the Institute trains up-and-coming leaders and helps experienced executives hone and update their skills.
A quick surf of the Internet shows there’s no shortage of executive training programs, and many are probably worthwhile. But what often happens, though, is that once they return to the workplace, people soon slip back into old patterns and behaviors.
The fundamental difference between those programs and Eckerd’s is follow-through. Instead of ending their training with a farewell banquet and a slap on the back, LDI participants are evaluated at least twice following the conclusion of the formal training program to ensure they don’t backslide. “The one thing that sets this program apart from others is that they leave here with a personal development plan that includes goals and specific steps,” said Jennifer Hall, director of coaching and a program instructor. “Follow-up evaluations are scheduled at the 10-week and three-month marks.”
The typical client, according to Megan Watson Kramer, LDI’s director of client relations is a guy we’ll call “Bill.” He’s 43, made his bones as a crackerjack engineer, and earned an MBA along the way. Now he’s a vice president for a Fortune 500 company. He’s intelligent, resourceful and self-disciplined, but his lack of people skills threatens to derail his career.
“Bill” actually begins his Eckerd training program in advance of arriving at the college’s waterfront campus when he, his boss and his colleagues complete online assessment tests to pinpoint areas where he needs to improve. All will complete additional tests as part of “Bill’s” benchmark evaluations because 360-degree feedback is another essential program component. Whether “Bill” chooses the flagship five-day program or the three-day version, he’ll join a small group of people from different industries – to add diverse perspectives - who stay together throughout the program.
The workshops, which focus on 16 leadership competencies such as resourcefulness and how well participants manage change, are not snoozers. “They can’t zone out because the small group discussions are so intense,” said Hall. The program culminates with meaningful group feedback sessions and a one-to-one meeting with a coach. It’s the coach who will help “Bill” set the goals upon which he will later be evaluated.
Even experienced managers find value in Eckerd’s training program. Phil Crosbie, program director for the National Emergency Rescue & Response Training Center, is one of them. “I learned that you are never too old to learn more about yourself, how you are hardwired, and that changes in personal behavior can result in far better outcomes,” Crosbie said. “I was the oldest member in my Eckerd class. Frankly, I thought I knew all there was to know about myself . . . was I ever naive. I am a work still in progress, but I gained awareness on how I do, in fact, come across to people. I have to control my need for control and my attitude of negativity. At least I am more aware of these behaviors.”
Among Eckerd’s list of prestigious clients is Marsh Inc., one of the world’s largest risk management and insurance firms. Matt Jones, senior vice president for learning, calls it an accelerated leadership development process for high potential leaders. The company, which has sent 180 employees through the program, is so pleased with the results it hired the LDI to develop training packages for its Asia branch.
In addition to leadership training, the LDI offers programs that address conflict in the workplace, including negotiation and mediation skills, and on-site, customized training. (See www.eckerd.edu for details.) Clients hail from diverse industries, mostly Fortune 500 companies, and non-profit fields such as education, said Kramer.
Costs range from $395 for a conflict workshop to $6800 for a five-day program. All profits subsidize undergraduate programs and scholarships since its agreement with CCL requires affiliates to be non-profit.
“Fifty-three percent of our clients heard about us from word-of-mouth,” said Kramer. “The rest came from CCL. We have a great reputation.” She grinned. “We also have a waiting list.”
Eckerd College, a four-year liberal arts institution founded in 1958, is located at 4200 54th Ave. S in St. Petersburg.