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5 Ways to Train Executives

5 Ways to Train Executives

Do you have an executive training program?

Dan McCarthy | Great Leadership

May 14, 2010

With these principles in mind, here are a few approaches to executive education that companies that are known for world-class executive development are using:

1. Action Learning.

Action learning is probably the most widely used method for internal executive education programs. An action learning program usually consists of the following components:

- The CEO, or a sponsoring senior executive selects a business challenge. The business challenge is usually some strategic issue that the senior team has been wrestling with – some tough nut to crack.
- The program is designed around putting teams of participants together to learn about and develop recommendations to the challenge or challenges.
- Participants are usually current executives or high potentials, identified through the succession planning process.
- Teams are usually provided an internal senior executive sponsor, access to internal and external experts, and a facilitator and/or executive coach.
- Participants have the opportunity to broaden and deepen their business acumen, strengthen their leadership capabilities (influence, presence, leading change), get feedback and coaching, and get a valuable exposure opportunity.
- Organizations can get a significant return on investment by solving a real business challenge, gain insight into their executive talent, and strengthen their team.

Designing and implementing an executive action program is harder than it sounds, so if you’ve never done one, I’d recommend hiring someone with experience to get you started. There are also some good books on action learning.

2. Business simulations

A typical business simulation involves teams of executives running a company, usually competing against each other. Simulations are sometimes computer-based, and some are designed to be run virtually through distance learning. Board games are another option, although often a tough sell for executive sponsors (“What, we’re going to play games?!”).

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They can focus on building business skills, behavioral skills, or both. Simulations can be customized to be company or industry specific. “Second Life” is an advanced version of a simulation, and if fact, some organizations use it for training purposes.

3. Business War Games

In a business war game, participants are chosen to be on teams representing a company’s primary competitors. Another team represents your own company. Information is gathered about the competition (legally, of course) and the teams face off and play a number of rounds against each other. War games are usually run by an external consultant, although some companies use their own CI (competitive intelligence) teams to design and run the games. While the experience is very educational for participants, the primary purpose is to uncover weaknesses in your own strategy, as well as your competitors. One well known war game expert calls it “competitor appreciate day”.

To learn more, I’d recommend the book Business War Games, by Ben Gilad.

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