From online classes to two-day sessions, good leaders never stop learning


The Young and the Learned


As millennials and other professionals seek new opportunities and leadership roles, they might question which type of leadership training to take and, perhaps as just as important, who will pay for it.

“We’re recognizing that millennials will make up the majority of employee populations in the next five to 10 years, and their experience tends to be one in which they want to be developed,” says Sharon Wilson, director of Conscious Leadership Development at the Greenville Health System (GHS).

From a large employer’s perspective, offering in-house leadership training is good for recruitment and job satisfaction, Wilson notes. “It’s not just how much are you going to pay me, but what else do you have for me?”

The health system has found that leadership training has proven benefits, including greater employee engagement, Wilson says.

“With Clemson University, we’re doing a longitudinal study of conscious leadership,” she says. “We’re seeing great correlation between higher conscious leadership knowledge and employee engagement scores.”

GHS’ Academy of Leadership and Professional Development represents a broad commitment to management and leadership development, says Terrie Long, GHS director of learning and development.

“In order for every employee and team to function at its highest level, we need for those front-line managers to be as productive and effective as they can be,” Long says. “There long has been acknowledgement that normally the reason employees leave their jobs is because of their manager.”

Terrie Long
Terrie Long

GHS offers the training, which is a combination of in-classroom time and online coursework, at no cost to employees. Staff can be recommended by a supervisor or apply for a spot.

Few organizations are large enough to afford an onsite leadership training program, so professionals with ambitions to move into leadership positions might supplement their on-job experience with online, university or other leadership education. For example, Furman University’s Liberal Arts Leadership (LAL) program provides C-fleet level executive development in three two-day sessions that combine classic literature with films that encapsulate examples of excellent leadership skills, says Brad Bechtold, executive director of continuing education at Furman.

“If an organization is serious about its culture and success and values of people, then the argument should not be difficult to make,” Bechtold says. “Invest in your staff and team.”

Still, for smaller companies, the cost — $4,000 in the case of Furman’s LAL — can be daunting. So how might an ambitious employee make the argument that the investment will provide dividends to the company?

“Come up with three to five tangible benefits that they can see are important to them,” Bechtold suggests. “Then put those in the context of the organization you work for and how that will make you a more valuable asset to the company and more effective at what you do.”

For instance, tangible benefits could include improving employee engagement and energy, networking with leaders from other industries and disciplines and enhancing resilience, he notes.

“It’s lonely at the top, so when you’re with similar leaders there is resiliency that comes from taking it to the next level,” Bechtold says.

Employees at small businesses also could strive for the penthouse-version of leadership training, but they might have more success at getting their companies to pay for training on the first floor.

And they could learn a great deal from training that has a bargain price. For example, it only costs $45 every six months to belong to Toastmasters clubs, which were started in 1905 and are available everywhere, including Greenville.

“Toastmasters is a proven, personal development organization,” says Scott Whelchel, area manager of the Greenville Area Small Business Development Center (SCSBDC).

Toastmasters gives young professionals the chance to learn public speaking skills and to network. It also helps people learn how to manage time, delegate, coordinate and set priorities and follow through on them, Whelchel says.

“Ask your employer if they will pay for you to join Toastmasters,” Whelchel suggests. “Then in six months, you’ll have the skills to communicate the benefits of it and can give talks internally.”

Once an employee shows how a small investment in leadership training has benefited the company, then it’s possible to ask for a bigger investment, he says.

Young professionals also can learn leadership skills through community service, taking leadership roles in volunteer projects and joining organizations like Pulse Young Professionals, a Greenville Chamber organization for Upstate professionals, ages 22 to 39, Whelchel says.

“Eighty percent of leadership is serving somewhere, serving on a committee, on a board,” he says. “How you get recognized as leaders is being outside of your organization and doing things that you are not required to do.”


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