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Posted 2/24/10


The Executive Leadership Academy


The Need


Companies that populate higher levels of leadership by promoting from within send an encouraging message that dedication and good performance will be rewarded. They also help to illuminate career paths for employees who want to know where hard work may take them. Furthermore, promoting from the ranks puts teeth into succession planning.


The biblical wisdom about the difficulty of being a prophet in your own town explains why organizations sometimes search beyond their borders for fresh leadership. The sense that there has to be someone better and brighter out there informs the notion that a external search, particularly for C-level executives, will generate a more attractive bevy of resumes. And at times there are simply no viable internal hopefuls.


Either management selection approach can be effective. A recent study, however, found that over 60% of the C-level executives recruited from the outside fail within two years, while just over 40% of those promoted are likewise regretted in the same period. The primary reason for failures from without is a mismatch with the culture of the organization and an inability to make the necessary behavioral adjustments to achieve such fit. The number one contributor to the collapse of internal candidates is the assumption of their employers that achievement at lower levels of responsibility will automatically translate into triumph at more demanding levels of authority without the need for extraordinary management development.


The Executive Leadership Academy (ELA) is intended to increase the success rate of all leadership appointees, whether recruited from without or within.




²     Raise up the next generation of leaders; build leadership bench strength

²     Give greater meaning and impact to succession planning

²     Encourage attractive leadership candidates to aspire to greater responsibility

²     Connect the energy and inspiration of emerging leaders with the experience and maturity of established leaders

²     Improve generational understanding and acceptance among organizational leaders

²     Enable external candidates to adapt more quickly to organizational culture

²     Establish a best practice that will serve as a positive example in the organization’s industry




The Academy draws on the tools described below. The exact elements populating your version will be determined by the mission, vision, values, beliefs, and culture of your organization. Appropriate tools from this list will form a curriculum of required and elective experiences over a period spanning from one to three years, depending on your situation. The actual curriculum will be designed in consultation with Sam Deep.


1.    Assessment and Identification.  The corporate experience will be examined to determine the factors that have most often led to the success and failure of past and current leaders. Existing performance appraisal tools will be examined. Advice will be sought from the managers of potential candidates. Based on these and other organizational factors, an assessment tool will be constructed and used both to identify and place high-potential internal candidates for the Academy and as a screen through which all external candidates must pass. The decision will be made whether to perform the assessments as “full-circle” feedback (i.e., 360°) or limit them to upward or downward feedback.


2.    Formative and Summative Evaluation.  Similar assessment tools will measure the progress of participants as they matriculate through the Academy. The organization may also decide as an option to conduct a final evaluation of students to judge whether they have “graduated” and thus demonstrate the basic competencies for promotion.


3.    Coaching.  Students are assigned coaches chosen based on their particular needs as determined by the assessments and by recommendations by their managers. Coaches will play a key role in ensuring that participants are growing in their ability to lead. Coaches will base their counsel and teaching on a coaching manual customized to the given organization.


4.    Mentoring.  Students in the Academy are assigned a mentor. This will typically be a higher level executive outside of the student’s direct chain of command. Mentors will provide a listening ear and perspective on what it takes to succeed within the corporate culture.


5.    Cohorts.  Students will experience the Academy in a cohort of their peers. These cohorts meet regularly to provide group support, responsibility, and perspective to their members.


6.    Accountability Ally.  Each student will be assigned a specific partner from his/her cohort. That partner will be an encourager to keep that student moving in a positive direction. That partner will also be a prod to ensure that the student is following through on the commitments expected of participants in the Academy.


7.    Emotional Competence Training.  The foundation of great leadership is high emotional competence. This training experience (“The Emotional Wiring of Great Leaders”) strengthens the emotional capability of participants. Its assessment nature also provides a foundation for coaching and helps to build relationships within the cohorts.


8.    Leadership Training.  An organizationally appropriate leadership development course containing 12-15 modules of instruction will be spread out over the duration of the Academy. This course will be based on one provided to, and revised over time with, second-year MBA’s in the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.


9.    “Ask Sam Deep.”  Students will subscribe to Sam Deep’s email blasts on leadership and personal effectiveness. These weekly topics provide rich fodder for discussions with their mentors, coaches, and cohorts.


10.  Business Cross-Training.  Students will rotate through the other functional departments of the organization during their participation in the Academy. The goals will be to increase their understanding of the total business, break down silos, and increase the quality of internal customer service when these candidates assume their new responsibilities.


11.  Cross-Generational Training.  Students and their managers will be sensitized to the sometimes contrasting views of life and work of emerging versus established leaders. The goals will be to help all generations communicate well with each other, collaborate fully with each other, and learn from the strengths of each other.


12.  Human Resources Training.  Each company has its own HR policies and procedures. One goal of the Academy is to ensure that students know how to both conform to and leverage those policies and procedures. One that is most critical for them to master is the performance management (appraisal) system.


13.  In-Basket Simulations.  Throughout their training students will receive simulation emails regarding specific management challenges. Examples might include having to fire an employee, take a call from an angry customer, respond to an accusation from a colleague, represent the boss at a board meeting, or be interviewed by the media. They will respond to specific questions about how they plan to handle the challenges, receive feedback from their coaches and managers, and discuss the situations in subsequent cohort meetings.


14.  Culture Training.  Students will learn how to incorporate the core values of the organization into their personal behavior and their leadership as well as how to empower their teams and direct reports to do the same thing.


15.  Specialized Training and Development.  Depending on the nature of the organization and the needs of particular students, additional development may be indicated. Examples include selling, customer service, presentation skills, conflict resolution, decision making, running effective meetings, handling the media, and relationship building.


16.  Break-Through Goal.  In addition to preparing students for more challenging leadership responsibilities, the Academy equips them to have significant impact on their current work. At the end of six months they are tasked to establish a transformational objective to achieve within their existing job sometime during the second six months of their development. The members of their cohort and their coaches act as accountability partners in this process.




Posted 2/24/10


Myrtle Beach Vacation!


Dianne and I have taken over the rental of our new Ocean Front condo on the Grand Strand. If you go to http://www.vrbo.com/259074 you’ll see our listing. If you’re planning a fall, winter, spring, or summer get-a-way in Myrtle, it doesn’t get any better than the Royale Palms! For a limited time I’m offering a $75 gift card at either the Bonefish Grill or PF Changs (both near our unit) for subscribers to my web site who book a one-week, or longer, rental. Be sure to tell Dianne in your email from the VRBO site that you learned about our unit through Ask Sam Deep.




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