The name plate on my desk reads, “Kenneth Eng, Vancouver, BC – Executive Development” – has for almost fifteen years. In that time, I’ve consulted for numerous companies including the David Suzuki Foundation, Re/Max, and Second Wave Sports. Through the course of it all, I’ve come to identify seven of the most common activities executive development programs choose to deploy. These are by no means, the only options; just the ones that have worked well in the past.
1) On the Job Assignments
Perhaps the easiest activity to deploy to develop an executive is an on-the-job stretch activity. Find something that furthers the company’s interest while at the same time giving a potential executive the opportunity to stretch outside her defined role. Other OTJ activities include rotational assignments and line and staff roles.
2) Custom Workshops and Activities
This is the more overt training. For example, future executives learn about leadership by attending a workshop that may consist of a lecture followed by some leadership-building activities. Some people learn well this way while others respond better to experiential training.
3) Action Learning
Much like the first option above which involves training through experience, action learning involves groups of potential executives working together by tackling real issues. Once complete, the group reflects on, and learns from, their actions. Unlike workshop and lectures, action learning provides knowledge through practical experience – in an environment where the impact of mistakes can be controlled or mitigated – rather than through traditional instruction.
4) Executive Coaching
As it sounds, executive coaching pairs an existing executive with a future executive (or group of future executives) for the purpose of providing guidance and training. If current executives have the time to dedicate to this activity, it can be an excellent way to lead by example.
Mentoring is much the same as executive coaching but the training is one-on-one instead of group based.
6) Business School Courses
This one is pretty straightforward but has been a successful strategy for training future executives. Business school courses have the potential to expose future executives to ideas and opinions they may not find in their current work environment. For this reason, it can be a valuable method for improving an executive development program.
7) Online Courses
Like traditional school-based learning courses, online courses offer exposure to alternative information with the added benefit of being more flexible for the already-time-strapped executive trainee.
Any one of these would be a very effective addition to any executive development program. Again, it just depends on the company’s needs and resources. So feel free to go into your next executive development committee meeting and say, “Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC suggests we try (insert executive training activity here).” And don’t worry, I won’t even charge you for name-dropping. Good luck!