Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

A Model for Executive Development

Academic journal article Human Resource Planning

A Model for Executive Development

Article excerpt


Many millions of dollars are spent each year by corporations in an effort to modify executive/management behavior and to develop "people skills," such as two-way communication, influencing others, motivating others, working effectively with others in teams, focusing on results decisively, and developing and supporting subordinates.

Typically, corporations spend their money in an effort to effectively deal with three types of situations:

a) When executives or managers are faltering on the job, usually because of how they are going about doing their job as opposed to not knowing what they are doing. (Example: The technically brilliant Director of Engineering who alienates people because of his perfectionistic, dictatorial, control oriented approach to working with other professionals).

b) When executives or managers have been promoted up the organization and do not intuitively grasp how they need to do their jobs differently. (Example: The highly competent, focused and aggressive manager who is promoted to an officer level position and is unaware of the need to broaden his/her perspective by taking a company-wide officer's view of what is going on and the need to develop rather than compete with those around and below him/her in the organization).

c) When executives or managers are not able to make changes in style necessary to keep up with the changes dictated by new corporate structures, re-engineering, or evolving cultures and norms that directly impact executive and management behavior. (Example: An executive who has achieved considerable success with a command/control style and micro-management style of managing is not sure how to deal with empowerment, and consequently feels overwhelmed by an increased span of control).

However, at best, the hopes of these companies are only partially fulfilled. More often, they are left thinking that the training company promised more than was delivered. This is because modifying executive and management behavior is difficult. What makes executive and management development so difficult is that it entails modifying long held patterns of behavior which are currently maintained by corporate culture, incentive systems, and the executive's and manager's own psychological style.

A Prototypical Problem:

An example would be a 48 year old business executive who receives feedback that he is a micro-manager and very controlling. Feedback tells him he does not delegate well or sufficiently. He, of course, does not view himself this way. In fact, he prides himself on his carefulness, followup and attention to detail. Whenever he hears feedback concerning his delegation ability, or lack thereof, he turns it around. He thinks the complaining subordinate is insecure, fears exposure and consequently does not want his work reviewed. Furthermore, what makes an accurate assessment of this situation difficult is that inevitably there are kernels of truth in the executive's perception, allowing him to hold this view rather than examine his own behavior.

The Prototypical Solution:

The executive's boss, tired of hearing feedback from people two levels down that the executive still manages in a command-control style, searches for a training program which will address this issue. Serendipitously, a brochure crosses his desk describing a 2-day course on Effective Delegation in the Age of Empowerment and Flattened Hierarchies.

After some arm twisting he convinces the executive to go, but only because it is in Santa Fe, New Mexico in January. The executive is very busy, is already away from home on business enough, and does not see what the course has in it for him. However, he goes! He goes and has a good time. He meets several people whose company he enjoys and has several pleasant dinners. The trainer is of high caliber and the material is very professional. The conceptual models about delegation are clear and make a lot of sense. …

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