Academic journal article The Public Manager

Using Leadership Development to Boost Return-on-Investment: Waves of Retiring Leaders Plus Budget Uncertainties Make Finding New Federal Leaders a Tough Task. Six Veterans' Hospitals Developed an Internal Leadership Program, and Found That for Every $1 Spent, $2.20 Was Returned

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Using Leadership Development to Boost Return-on-Investment: Waves of Retiring Leaders Plus Budget Uncertainties Make Finding New Federal Leaders a Tough Task. Six Veterans' Hospitals Developed an Internal Leadership Program, and Found That for Every $1 Spent, $2.20 Was Returned

Article excerpt

Federal agencies may soon be facing an unprecedented need for internal leadership development. Training in succession planning and renewal can keep people in the organization and build commitment to the organization's culture and values.

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As many Baby Boomer leaders become eligible for retirement, there is a need for new leaders to fill the gaps left by retirement. However, ongoing proposals from Congress to downsize the federal workforce may thwart agencies' ability to hire new leaders from the outside. Additionally, a declining or stagnant federal budget may force cutbacks in external training and consulting budgets for developing leaders.

One solution is leadership development sponsored and run internally by the agency. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has had excellent internal leadership development, from entry level upward. While there are standards and commonalities mandated by the department, each individual facility has extraordinary leeway to tailor the program to meet its specific mission, vision, and values. These internal programs have many advantages to the agency and can provide a significant return-on-investment, through the innovative use of internal resources and talent.

VISN 9 Leadership Institute

Since 2000, the Midsouth Health Care Network (Veterans Integrated Service Network, or VISN 9) has provided leadership development training for employees of its six sister facilities who are competitively selected as "high-potential" employees. These high-potential employees have the desire to learn, work hard, and move into a leadership role; they are high performers in their current position. Plus, they show evidence of mastery of the eight core competencies (personal mastery, technical skills, interpersonal effectiveness, customer service, flexibility and adaptability, creative thinking, systems thinking, organizational stewardship), which are expected of all VA employees.

For its first 10 years (2000-2009), the Leadership Institute (LI) was internally driven, from curriculum development to implementation of curriculum. Each facility in VISN 9 sent five or six participants and a coach each year. A total of 379 participants and coaches attended over these 10 years. In addition to three intense, off-station one-week sessions over some six months, the LI program required participants to devote additional personal time to complete reading, assessments, personal action plans, and leadership shadowing assignments between sessions. They also had to participate in a work-place initiative selected by facility leadership with other LI participants from their facility. In 2010, a new generation of faculty took responsibility of the program. This educational endeavor remains internally driven, although the new team made some curricular changes.

Continuity and Common Values

LI was developed and implemented in a time of federal fiscal austerity much like the current climate. Consequently, facility managers decided to minimize costs as much as possible and to share costs with all stakeholders. Using internal expertise was one important strategy to minimize costs. The VA has long had policies of providing training in cutting-edge educational programs for its own staff to serve as internal trainers and leaders coaching leaders; this helps to reinforce common organizational values.

For example, two VISN 9 leadership faculty were certified Franklin Covey trainers and VA professional clinical staff were brought in to administer and teach the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory. Internal subject matter experts in areas such as generational relationships, quality improvement, and stress management ensured that examples were relevant to the participants. Coaches and mentors, who were higher mid-level and senior-level leaders from the sister hospitals, attended all sessions and therefore received refresher leadership training as they provided a strong organizational context for the participants mentored. …

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