I looked across the desk at a CEO who I had admired for such a long time. He had seen just about everything you can see in his 20-year career – recessions, booms, all the highs and lows you can imagine.
I asked him,
what sustained you during these times? How did you learn and take on new directions and keep abreast of all of the changes taking place in the world?”
He said, “I just consumed all of the development I received that I could, I guess. But once I got closer to the top there was definitely nothing in the market that could have helped me. It was a pretty lonely place. I wish that there was something, but there just wasn’t anything there. Professional development was for lower levels of the organisation, not for me and probably my executive team were in the same boat too.”
Five years later…
About five years later, I found myself in a similar situation to my mentor – a CEO of a large organisation in the mining sector. How true were his words. It was an incredibly lonely place. I was encountering issues I had never previously faced. My only way to stay up-to-date was to read the Economist!
Earlier in my career I had dabbled in organisation development, back when I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I would put together the key ingredients that I thought would make a “gold medal” development program for C-Suite executives. It was not much more than dot points on a note pad.
Fast-forward 10 years…
Fast-forward 10 years and I find myself at one of Australia’s leading Business Schools as a Professor of Practice, bringing the latest in leadership research to up-and-coming executives. I made my case to create a leadership program solely focused on the C-Suite – it was my nod to the person who had been so influential in my life. But, trailblazing in the development space is not for the fainthearted. I was put through the wringer, having to furnish the university hierarchy with my research as to why such a program was warranted.
This is what I found when I took a deeper dive.
There is a significant number of C-suite and aspiring C-Suite (people knocking at the door) looking for a development program that can support them in their challenging and complex roles. Surprisingly, the vast majority of the 500 people we surveyed wanted an on-line program that also supported close connections with fellow participants and facilitators. Asked why, the response was clear: “we do not have the time to swan off to some residential program. But, we would like to build connections and stay connected to the people on the course. They are our peers and would be a great source of support into the future.”
They also told us the types of topics they would like to focus on. The topics included: designing a compelling vision, leading in a complex world and creating a high-performance culture, amongst others.
The response from focus groups for such a course was enthusiastic! So, from this we have put together what is a first in Australia and New Zealand – an on-line, live, supported development program for Executives, complete with supported Executive Coaching, networking and on-going cohort connections. As the course is provided by QUT, the learning can articulate into a formal qualification, if the individual Executive so desires.