Executive Education is the University of Adelaide professional centre delivering programs to managers from industry, government and business.
Take any of the world’s most successful companies and it’s hard not to deny the importance of great leadership. Indeed, many would argue Apple, Microsoft or even Harpo Productions would not have reached global dominance without the vision or determination of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey. But the makings of a great leader is not just restricted to the top echelons of executive boardrooms and the challenge for any business is to find ways of identifying talented employees within its own ranks and equipping them with the appropriate skills to achieve.
It’s the potential of this often under-utilised talent pool that is being untapped by the University of Adelaide’s Executive Education Unit.
More than 2,000 managers in both the public and private sector completed the Unit’s Professional Management Program, which is especially designed to build skills and confidence by engaging modern management tools and techniques. However, unlike other management courses – which place a greater emphasis on text book theory – this program specialises in providing participants with practical everyday experience which can be immediately applied to their own workplace.
“We recognise people enter our programs with a high skill level, so we are always focused on how we can develop these existing capabilities to deliver tangible results to benefit their organisation,” says Andrew Stevens, Director of Executive Education.
In the past 12 months the Unit has delivered programs throughout Australia, attracting an array of government and private sector clients including the South Australian Department of Transport Energy and Infrastructure, Port Augusta City Council, BHP Billiton and Orlando Wines. A number of these clients received a customised program, designed by the Unit to meet their specific needs while also accommodating the competing demands of employees’ time with extra study.
It was this tailor-made approach that first caught the attention of the Northern Territory’s Department of Justice, which was searching for a management program that would help address its specific recruitment challenges while also promoting a greater cohesiveness within a department which has a varied and extensive scope of responsibilities.
“It can be difficult to recruit and retain staff in the Northern Territory and the pool of skilled and talented staff is smaller than elsewhere in Australia,” explains Deputy Chief Executive Officer Anne Bradford.
“One of our strategic directions for the next five years is to develop a sustainable organisation and we recognise that an important part of achieving this is to grow our own leaders. We were drawn by the fact that the University of Adelaide had a specific unit for executive education and impressed with the calibre of the program’s presenters – in particular, that they were real-world experts.”
Since the year-long program was first implemented in 2009, more than 37 Department of Justice managers have taken part, including senior lawyers and community correction officers. “I believe the biggest change in participants is an enthusiasm for involvement in across agency problem solving and many have seemed to develop a strategic viewpoint, which is what we want,” says Ms Bradford. “ We are relying on these people to be innovators and drivers of change in our agency.”
The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive too, as many relished the opportunity to network with colleagues outside their own sphere of expertise and to gain a ‘big picture’ understanding of a department that employs 1200 people. “It’s not often staff get an opportunity to meet, let alone study together,”says Ms Bradford. “They feel they’ve learnt a lot from being able to work so closely with other staff who, while working in the same department, know so little about each other and their business.”
It’s a view that’s endorsed by Jackie Dibbs, who was one of the first participants in the program. Apart from developing a broader understanding of her colleagues’ individual talents, she says the program has taught her to be a more effective leader. “I’d like to say I learnt a bunch of new stuff about my personality, learning and communication styles, but really the program confirmed what I already know about myself. What I did learn was how to use those things effectively.”