Yesterday we held a graduation. Quite a celebration. There was great food, conversation, affirmation and a charge for the future. Graduations are special events. They mean something.

Do you remember your graduation(s)? What do you recall the most? The sense of completion? The sense of doing something special? A bit of sadness in moving on? Like many of us, we celebrate because we remember the journey. We remember the long nights of study, work, laughter and yes a bit of last minute cramming. All part of the process.

Yesterday, Garden Spot Communities’ Emerging Leaders, Class of 2020 graduated. And we celebrated, a lot! Sixteen (16) professionals who have shown leadership in our organization graduated. ForgeWorks served as the program developer, coordinator, faculty and mentor of the students. It was a great blessing and an outstanding learning opportunity for everyone involved. Let us share what we learned.

First, the Basics. This was a 12-month program with monthly, 2-hour group meetings. Participants were recommended by either a supervisor or an organizational leader. There is an application process and acceptance into the program. Outside of formal class time, participants regularly wrote in a leadership journal, read the book “The Mind of the Leader,” and completed a team project.

Organizational Leaders led the Process. This is Garden Spot’s second Emerging Leaders program. The first was 90% outsourced; this one was coordinated by ForgeWorks and the sessions were led by our senior leaders. We liked the dual model. Done well, there is a lot of coordination and planning of each session. Senior leaders presented and shared their knowledge, perspectives and experiences. We involved an amazing leader, Meredith Dahl from CrossNet, for a special session. There is great value to personal examples, exploring difficult situations, being vulnerable about mistakes and extended time together.

We Learned Together. Lectures don’t work. Lengthy power points bore. We used a scaffolding learning approach. Scaffolding breaks down concepts into bite-sized pieces that build on one another. There is much modeling, use of examples and looking into the thought process. Concepts are experienced from multiple angles. Visual aids are critical. Finally, there is plenty of time to process in smaller groups, practice skills. We build the learning step by step, together.

We Explored a Different Topic Each Month. Sessions focused on the Enneagram (to understand themselves), Team Building, Innovation, Difficult Conversations, Strategy and the GSC Experience (culture) among others. We journaled together. A book study. A group project at the end. Email updates and articles.

Relationships Grew. Time together, experiencing new things builds bonds that last. We believe that each of our Emerging Leaders has a good bond with three to four other peers that can and will grow over time. Yes, we had fun together.

There is much more to explore around this topic. We would love to hear your perspective and what has worked for you. How are you investing in your core leaders?

The shared model of central coordination (ForgeWorks) and organizational leaders working together brings the best of both worlds. Yes, it takes time and planning. Yes, it must be valuable. But remember this conversation. “But what if we spend all the time, make this investment in our Emerging Leaders and they leave?” Well, hmmm. “What if we don’t spend this time, make this investment and they stay?”    Make it a great day, friends.