Dr. Fred Johnson
Emerging Leaders - The Power of Communication
For the past several months I have had the joy of working with the Grand Valley State University Advanced Leadership Excellence (ALE) program. Initiative One has partnered with GVSU to create and deliver the content of this groundbreaking program. Although we are at a university campus, there are several aspects of ALE that make it far different from the usual college experience. First, it is an experiential program, not a didactic one. Next, we are focusing on emerging leaders. Finally, the outcomes we are looking to change as a result of this program are bottom line business metrics.
Initiative One’s Leadership Excellence program allows students to practice, in real-time, the skill of impeccable communication. While there is a large amount of reading and several core concepts that we cover, the overall strategy is to build team skills like impeccable communication by actually experiencing and then delivering them. The reason we put this skill above all others is that case studies have shown how companies and their leaders stumble when teams cannot give and receive information in a functional matter. In today’s environment, great companies have to be able to exchange information rapidly and without drama so they can get down to problem solving. This concept is foreign to many of the emerging leaders we see at ALE; it is like splashing cold water on a napping colleague. What is powerful though is the speed at which (once exposed to this important concept) people start to demand impeccable communication in so many parts of their life.
By focusing on emerging leaders we have two primary goals. First, we fully intend that these leaders will go back to their companies and help lead change from the middle out. This is not top down change, although it needs support from the top to succeed. The second goal is that many of these leaders will grow to be in charge of local organizations in the future. By teaching them today core skills that will serve them as leaders for the rest of their lives, we aim to drive a deep investment in the bench strength of the local community.
Real Transformational Change
Covering so much material in 4 all-day sessions is intense; people are often wiped out before the end of the day. Really hard conversations can drain people, but often for the first time in their lives, leaders can see how to have those tough conversations and move on to problem solving. What we see is true transformation among the participants as they work through this process. They in turn are leading their organizations to have the difficult conversations that are holding them back from realizing their production potential in the marketplace. What is so powerful about ALE and its Initiative One content is that it’s not about hugs and singing songs to feel good—rather this program is focused on delivering bottom line results whether in terms of reducing costly turnover, increasing sales or defining new markets. This is why we say our third goal for ALE is being “outcomes focused.”
In just a few short months we have had leaders from manufacturing, order fulfillment, currency trading and academia come through our program. While the day-to-day work in each of these areas is vastly different, the core leadership challenges at each of them are similar. People in all industries struggle with impeccable communication. They struggle with telling the truth in a respectful way. They struggle with focus on a vision that is filled by critical goals, informed by their core values. We have already seen how ALE gives them the tools to tackle these challenges and we look forward to many more cohorts of leaders gaining exposure to this valuable process.