Thoughts on Executive Development

by Jan Yuill

I am frequently asked to apply the Organizations Alive! model to executive development. My ‘first thoughts’ on the subject are:

  1. Do not restrict your thinking to competencies. They imply that everyone can and should be good at the same things, when we know that effective leadership and management is really the result of something quite special and personal. Competencies remove the possibility of being effective because of gifts and reasons that do not necessarily fit a competency mold. Also, they reduce everyone to the same common denominators, which can only result in mediocrity. Why try to train, mentor, and coach everyone to do the same thing? Competencies can work against diversity and creativity in an organization.
  1. Keep in mind that the final step in the learning process, is to teach what you know to others. Teaching requires a completely different understanding of the ‘thing’ you already know how to do. When we teach something, we need to consider the other person’s style; we need to anticipate questions; we need to have good illustrations; we need to help the other person practice; we need to be patient; etc. There are very few organizations that ask their leaders to teach what they know (and incorporate that into their performance objectives and compensation). What a loss! This is succession planning! Coaching, shadowing, and mentoring are ways of passing on knowledge and skill, but teaching needs to be seen as a critical contribution to the organization; not optional, and certainly not restricted to just these methods.
  1. Find out what is meant by ‘measuring success.’ Don’t get caught up in evaluation for the sake of evaluation. Is a measurement really going to make a difference to decision makers? What do they really want to know? Testimonials may be your most valuable data.