Executive Development Blog

Closing the Gaps in Leadership Development

Posted by Chad Vamos on Sep 11, 2014 1:22:29 PM

The following is a summary on a white paper Brigitta Theleman wrote.

Closing the Gaps in Leadership Development

“Simply put, successful organizations have strong leaders,” says Brigitta Theleman, director for UNC’s OneMBA program. Organizations with strong leaders outperform other organizations in workforce retention, employee engagement, and organizational performance (including financial performance, customer satisfaction, service quality and productivity).

Unfortunately, identifying the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) needed in strong leaders and creating corporate cultures that encourage the development of these is a challenge for which many organizations struggle; only about two-fifths of respondents to a recent American Management Association survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that their “leadership development program is highly effective.”

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Topics: executive development, leadership, leadership development, change

Effective Leadership Can Prevent Toxic Culture

Posted by Chad Vamos on Sep 4, 2014 11:10:52 AM

Check out a recent white paper written by UNC's Kirk Lawrence.

How to Cleanse a Toxic Workplace

Just about any manager who has been in the field for a few years has a supply of war stories about employees and supervisors whose presence and/or leadership style can crush a work environment in no time flat. Employees have their fair share of war stories too. For this reason, there has been increased attention in both the government sector and the private sector on senior leaders whose style and behavior are outside the boundaries of what is considered acceptable. These types of leaders create an environment that destroys morale and employee trust, and ultimately degrades productivity.

toxicWhen a workplace becomes toxic: The warning signs

Types of toxic behaviors include tearing others down, passive aggressive leadership, destructive gossip, devious politics, negativity, aggressiveness, narcissism, lack of credibility, passivity, disorganization, and the resistance to change. These behaviors—individually or combined—can create a toxic workplace environment.

Leadership—or the lack of it—lays at the core a toxic workplace. When a toxic workplace develops on a peer-to-peer level, it is the lack of leadership that allows it to fester. All too often, however, toxic workplaces are created from the top down, when managers or supervisors are the root of the problem. One study found that 37 percent of workers said they had been bullied at work and that the majority of those bullies (72 percent), were bosses.

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Three Characteristics for Effective Leadership Development

Posted by Nancy Tannenbaum on Aug 28, 2014 1:33:17 PM

Recently, I wrote on the issue of whether leadership could be taught, and I concluded that it is taught (and learned) every day. So, if you'll humor me and accept that leadership can be taught, the next question I’d like to tackle is: How do business schools teach leadership?

To answer this question, we asked UNC Kenan-Flagler associate professor of organizational behavior, Alison Fragale. Professor Fragale teaches courses on effective leadership and negotiation skills to undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals. Alison offers several insights from her experience here at UNC, and she makes a convincing case that business schools are ideally suited to teach leadership. She identifies three characteristics of world-class business school faculty, which enable them to provide powerful leadership lessons, building real skills and changing behaviors.



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Topics: leadership, leadership development

4 Leadership Traits Needed for Challenging Times

Posted by Nancy Tannenbaum on Aug 26, 2014 9:52:48 AM

The Wall Street Journal “Boss Talk” column recently featured a conversation with UNC Chancellor, Carol Folt, who joined UNC in 2013 as the University's reputation for top-flight athletics and academics was being challenged. Rather than focus on the specific investigation, I want UNC Chancellor Carol Holtto point out how the interview with Chancellor Folt is an excellent example of executive leadership and vision during taxing times.

Everyone has their own idea of what it takes to be top dog. There are hundreds of lists of the characteristics of exceptional leaders, but several traits seem to top the majority of these lists. Below I’ve listed those traits that help leaders in times of crisis and copied Chancellor Holt's quotes from the interview which demonstrate her firm grasp of how to lead in challenging times.

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Topics: leadership, leadership development

How Leadership Can Build a Resilient Culture

Posted by Chad Vamos on Aug 21, 2014 11:01:31 AM

Below is a summary of a white paper written by Marion White

Building a Resilient Organizational Culture

A 2012 Towers Watson study found that in most organizations, only 35 percent of employees said they were engaged. In other words, 65 percent of employees have mentally checked out, causing productivity, innovation, and creativity to plummet. 

While this is never good news for employers, the timing could not be more critical as organizations across the globe continue to struggle to survive. Thought leaders are increasingly calling today’s turbulent business world a “VUCA” environment—one that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. To succeed in this environment, organizations must be more adaptive and agile than ever before—they must be resilient. Organizations that lack resilience—that ability to bounce back after setbacks—are often stressful places to work, a situation in which far too many employers and employees are well versed. 

Stress lowers employee performance, productivity, morale, and strains workplace relationships. People experiencing excessive stress have difficulty managing emotions, focusing attention, making decisions, and thinking clearly. Stress can also result in heart disease, cancer, pain, and depression. Stressed employees are overwhelmed, tired, and disengaged. 

Resilient employees, on the other hand, are more engaged and productive, have improved communication, are better team players, and have lower health care costs. And a growing body of research shows that organizations that foster positive attitudes have employees who are more optimistic, creative, and experience lower turnover.    

Organizational Culture

Resilient organizational cultures give all employees—from the CEO down—permission to take care of their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs with the understanding that when these needs are tended to, resilience occurs, and the entire organization benefits through increased productivity, job performance, retention, engagement, and physical well-being. It makes sense, then, that HR and talent management professionals should strive to shift their organizational cultures to one that embraces and fosters resilience.

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Topics: employee engagement, leadership, organizational culture, change

The Big Data Talent Gap

Posted by Chad Vamos on Aug 14, 2014 1:03:21 PM

Check out the summary of a white paper by Stan Ahalt and Kip Kelly:

Big data—the massive amounts of information companies collect through web crawlers, social media feeds, server logs, customer service databases, and other sources—is quickly becoming big business in today’s competitive marketplace, and if business leaders haven’t added big data to their strategic agendas yet, they will be compelled to in the near future. Few organizations, however, have the talent with the expertise needed to collect, organize, and analyze the data and to provide meaningful insights. Even fewer organizations have business leaders with the knowledge and experience needed to create value from big data.  HR and talent management professionals should understand how big data will affect their organizations and should be thinking about how best to build big data talent in their organizations.

Big data is transforming every industry as companies realize the opportunities they have to leverage big data analytics in marketing, sales, and operations. Google, for example, uses big data analytics to identify flu outbreaks in the United States in real time—a feat that takes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about two weeks to do because it relies on slower reporting mechanisms. Google can identify the outbreaks faster because it receives more than three billion search queries on a daily basis and saves them all. Through big data analytics, Google was able to identify 45 search terms that, when used in a mathematical model, showed a strong correlation between their predictions and the CDC’s figures.


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Topics: talent management, high-potential talent, data

5 Leadership Lessons from Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted by Kip Kelly on Aug 7, 2014 11:18:22 AM

GuardiansoftheGalaxyTheatricalPosterGuardians of the Galaxy is the latest adaptation from Marvel Studios. Following in the footsteps of recent blockbusters including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and The Avengers - Guardians is the tenth installment in Marvel's ever-expanding movie universe. Unlike these other films which feature some of the most well-known and revered superheroes, Guardians of the Galaxy introduces a relatively unknown intergalactic team. These misfits include an assassin, a warrior, a genetically engineered raccoon, and a talking tree. Their leader is a human named Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, who was abducted from Earth and raised by a group of thieves and smugglers.  They are an unlikely team - with more than a few rough edges - but somehow they come together to save the galaxy... offering several great leadership lessons along the way.

First, good leaders rise to the challenge. Peter Quill is not your typical hero. He's a liar, a thief, and sometimes he's kind of a jerk. He's sloppy and irresponsible. Overall - not a great role model. He is selfish, but he puts aside his own interests when duty calls. He rises to the challenge and finds a higher purpose. Many organizations look for star performers to fit a certain mold - and overlook those who don't. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes (though rarely talking trees or raccoons), and sometimes people will surprise you. Organizations need to provide an opportunity for these stars to shine. High-potential employees can learn and grow from experiences which require them to stretch. If you don't give them that chance, they will find it somewhere else.

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Topics: leadership, leadership development

Leadership Tips for Women in Business

Posted by Nancy Tannenbaum on Jul 31, 2014 8:48:07 AM

Women business owners and working women face certain challenges and obstacles that men do not. This is not meant to be an inflammatory statement, just a factual one.  Women still encounter gender discrimination and stereotyping in business and on the job, and working women who have children experience unique demands on their time, energy, and resources.  And while women are certainly not the only ones facing challenges in the workplace, this blog post will offer five ways to help women succeed, despite their many challenges.


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Topics: leadership, UNC, executive education, talent development, leadership development, learning and development

Delusions of Talent Development

Posted by Chad Vamos on Jul 24, 2014 9:34:00 AM

The following is taken from an article written by well-known Talent Practitioner, Marc Effron, in the latest volume of UNC’s talent management journal ideas@work:

Unrealistic expectations make employee development a wasted investment at many companies.  We offer six realistic solutions.


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Topics: talent development, learning and development

The Importance of Mentoring in Leadership Development

Posted by Chad Vamos on Jul 17, 2014 9:26:35 AM

Check out the summary of our most recent white paper by Horace McCormick discussing the importance of mentoring in leadership development.

How to Launch a Successful and Sustainable Mentorship Program

Mentoring is a strategic tool that when done right, can attract and retain high-potential talent and accelerate leadership development and readiness. Mentoring is also an effective tool for shaping organizational culture and closing engagement and generational gaps. Employers are increasingly recognizing the benefits of mentoring in leadership development. According to a Corporate Executive Board survey, 25 percent of U.S. companies now host peer-mentoring programs, a significant increase from before the 2007 recession, when only 4 to 5 percent of U.S. companies reported sponsoring mentorship programs. Unfortunately, as many business leaders can attest, it can be quite challenging to develop and maintain successful mentoring programs.


Many mentoring programs miss the mark because of a lack of alignment to business goals and strategy and because they fail to clearly articulate the goals of the program from the outset. Others fail because of poor mentor/mentee matches and insufficient training at the beginning of the program. To avoid these pitfalls and launch successful, enduring mentoring programs, HR should use the following steps:

  • Lay the groundwork – business case, buy-in, sponsorship
  • Prepare for the launch – tools, communicate intentions with laser focus
  • Launch the program and train mentors and mentees on process and tools
  • Build relationships and assess progress and momentum
  • Evaluate effectiveness of the mentoring program and pairings at regular intervals

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Topics: leadership, talent development, high-potential talent, leadership development, learning and development