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It's Time to Customize Your Executive Development Program

On September 3, 2014, American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) will be hosting the Government Workforce: Learning Innovations Conference. The conference will provide a unique opportunity for government leaders to explore how new learning models can help solve government challenges. The goal of the conference is to highlight government collaboration and give attendees the knowledge to adopt new learning methods within their agency.

Recently, GovLoop had the opportunity to speak with Jim Trinka, ‎executive director, Leading EDGE program at Department of Veterans Affairs, to gain a sneak peek of what attendees can expect to learn during his session, “ROI for Executive Development.”

Executive development is one of the most important trends shaping government. Across government, there is a dire need to educate and empower improved leadership for government. In a time with tight budgets and overworked staff, executive training often falls to the wayside.

“You have to be able to capture the attention of people that are very busy, and who are at the peak of their careers, who may not really think that they are in need of further development,” said Trinka. But, he added, a leader should always be learning and honing skills – that attitude is a key differentiator between good and great leaders.

That’s why Trinka has been working to build support for Leading EDGE (Executives Driving Government Excellence), a program that unites senior leaders to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration across government. Leading EDGE was designed to provide senior government leaders with a blended learning experience through interactive workshops, skill assessments, coaching and government performance project teams, and a web portal to enhance inter-agency collaboration.

“As I got into the program I noticed that really what we were lacking as senior executives across government is the ability to collaborate together or across agencies,” said Trinka. “If there was any competency that we were weak on, that was it, and because there is no competency that specifically says we should be good at collaborating across government, that’s where we need the most help.”

The program was created by the President Management Council in 2011. The program’s goals are to:

  • Create a seamless and powerful senior executive corps, unified in purpose and aligned in priorities
  • Identify, modify, and create solutions that have impact across agencies
  • Inspire a shared government-wide identity and vision
  • Provide a renewed commitment to the highest ideals of public service

In order to bring busy senior leaders together, Trinka knew that he must create meaningful training experiences to capture executive’s attention. Trinka decided to take a theme-based approach for the workshops, which was critical to the success of the program. A theme-based approach was important, as it allowed attendees to have a more tailored experience and talk about leadership challenges, rather than focus on one certain leadership competency.

With this approach, Trinka was able to gain the attention of busy senior executives who otherwise would not have time to spend on training. “I really wanted to capture people’s attention, and we got a tremendous response. People from all across government were coming to our workshops,” said Trinka. “We were focused on themes that they were interested in and dealing with every day, rather than mundane competencies they have heard many times throughout their career.” Themes included everything from driving high performance, collaboration across government, employee engagement and managing political relationships.

From this experience, Trinka learned some valuable best practices, many of which he’ll share during his panel at the ASTD event. “One of the most important things is trying to build a program that is not one size fits all,” Trinka said. “What’s going to capture someone’s attention is that a program is designed specifically for them. We all learn more every day about what we do on the job than any training effort that we could ever put together.”

By attending Trinka’s ASTD session, you’ll learn the background of Trinka’s program, as well as the leading strategies for executive development – and most importantly, you’ll gain insight into the power of collaboration by senior leaders to share leadership strategies to meet mission needs in transformative ways.

“I can’t think of any issue that only one government agency is going to work on by themselves,” Trinka said. “All of our issues are dealt with by many different agencies and we need to get better at working together to find solutions for citizens.”

You can find more information on the ASTD event here.

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