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Bas Kohnke


Co-founder, CEO

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4 companies on how to win at leadership development


Leadership is a hugely important factor for any organization. Given how important it is to have great leadership in place, developing first-time or more junior managers is of vital importance. Having the support and processes in place to take young managers and help them flourish, though often overlooked, makes all the difference!

We spoke to four successful organizations to hear more on their top leadership development programs and just how they take their young leaders from young professionals to fantastic managers.

1. EY

EY’s EYnnovation program takes potential leaders and have them work in conjunction with young companies, helping develop their leadership approach alongside assisting the companies throughout their growth phase. We spoke to Erik de Heer, Senior Tax Manager at EY, and learnt more about the company’s approach to developing junior managers.

EYnnovation takes potential leaders into the startup scene, where they must connect with colleagues, build new relationships with clients and quickly grow and develop alongside startups. By the time people join the program, they’re already being trained into becoming specialists in their field.

Whilst working with the startups, they develop soft skills like building networks, motivating and engaging teams, sales training and running meetings.

The company believes future leaders need a different profile than those of today. EY wants their leaders to possess a wide variety of skills, so their work with these companies, although not a permanent role, is key.

Thriving in a fast-paced, often creative environment where things change quickly means participants in the programme grow and build their own assignments, connections and forward-thinking approach.

So much so that EY doesn’t have to recruit people for the programme: they sign up. Future leaders are hungry for opportunity to have an impact on the world of business.

And the startups are happy to work with EY for these exact reasons; EY’s future leaders are being given new opportunities to change the way things run, one startup at a time.

2. Upwork

Upwork runs on the basis that the greatest developers, for example, don’t always necessarily make for the best leaders. They sees that it’s all too common for those at the top of their game in their contributing roles in organizations to be pushed into becoming managers.

They acknowledge that it’s not for everybody, and shouldn’t be seen as a natural progression.

Upwork has a track for individual contributors, where you can go as high as you want within the system in your field, and a management track, with a personal choice as of which to go for.

For those people who are wanting to progress in their career, but aren’t interested in managing people, they are able to still develop and advance in the company. They encourage people within the company to move around and try things where wanted, giving potential leaders the opportunity to try their hand at things with no pressure to their career.

Upwork’s HR team leads a training program to help young managers, strongly depending on peer coaching and mentoring from more senior level leaders. If, after these programs, people realize the track is not for them, as they find often happens without input from leaders, the company are happy to let them take the other track.

“Some people become managers and they realize that that’s not really what they’re about…and they go back on the individual contributor track and have very successful careers that way”

3. Paycor

Scott Conklin, VP of human resources at Paycor shared his best practices with us.

“Many associates have spent their entire Paycor tenure in a single business function and often within the same department. Their gaps tend to be a lack of understanding of the purpose of other business functions and how all of the pieces fit together to achieve organizational success.”

In order to give leaders, particularly young or first-time leaders this bigger picture, and some knowledge and experience outside of what their current position offers, the company partnered with Miami University’s Farmer School of Business on a leadership development program to help their young leaders.

The program integrates content from the school’s business program with additional content surrounding company specific needs and subject matter. The company’s senior leaders partner with faculty from the university both to deliver the content for learning and facilitate discussions around Paycor-specific training, with insights into company strategy and practices.

The leaders complete the program with a Paycor business challenge: in teams they are presented with an actual company challenge and have to problem solve and present their results to the Paycor committee.

The program aims to both give participants a way to learn all the information needed to help them in their leadership careers, a change to apply their learnings to real-life strategic issues facing the company, and also expose them to the organization’s senior leaders and give them new opportunities to collaborate.

4. Eagle’s Flight

Phil Geldart, founder and CEO of Eagle’s Flight, and leadership development expert, shared his best practices with us.

“The most effective programs in helping to develop leaders have a strong people bias. Knowing how to bring out the best in people and focusing on results is critical.  For example, knowing how to personally manage through a dynamic and changing environment is important, but leaders need to know how to LEAD people through that change. That means they need to know what their team members might be experiencing and then help them through the change and attain the expected outcome, with focus on communication, execution and engagement.”

When it comes to developing junior managers, he says, their motivations are different to previous generations. It is of course, key, to focus on the needs and previous experience of each individual when devising training programs, but in general with young potential leaders, their focus tends to be on learning the “why” behind what they’re being taught, rather than specific tactics with lesser context.

“This makes leadership training more difficult, and at the same time, more effective,” added Geldart.

It’s important to explain the rationales behind things, keeping learnings applicable to wider settings and therefore a more useful and powerful training method. Young leaders need to learn by doing, want to be active and don’t just want to be told what to do with no practical application.

Their goal is to not only see their accountabilities met, but also see their people grow, develop, and show initiative.

Geldart shares how the development programs they’ve run over the years have changed with the times. Gone are the days, he maintains, of simply lecturing about tactics when it comes to making great leaders. Instead, there’s a focus on principle-based training: people must understand the principles then be coached to apply them in their own specific work environments.

Geldart sees fit to then train leaders by making use of the tools available to them, always ensuring room for self-discovery and actual understanding of on-the-job practices.

He has found throughout his career that principle based training programs with practical application allows for much more understanding and ultimately, more use in the long term when it comes to applying learnings.

Download our free white paper on management development here, or check out this webinar for more great insights.

One Response

  1. I worked for a company where
    I worked for a company where managers would recommend specific book titles (found in the company library) to employees to help them in learning or strengthening a particular trait such as leadership or time management and I found it to be very effective as well.

Author Profile Picture
Bas Kohnke

Co-founder, CEO

Read more from Bas Kohnke

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