Opportunity: This case study focuses on a customized learning program Crenshaw designed to advise a group of 12 high-potential executives at a national healthcare organization on how to enhance their executive presence. The goal was to address a common need identified among these executives to develop their presentation and communication skills.
The Head of HR at the organization engaged Crenshaw to develop a program to assist executives at senior levels of the company who had the opportunity to advance their executive impact. The leadership team had identified certain challenges that their executives faced with presenting key initiatives both in-person and virtually. The leadership team determined that performance in this key area was crucial to their roles and future opportunities.
The primary goal of the program was to help each participant improve their executive presence, particularly in their presentation style and communication ability. This involved refining their personal communication styles to be adaptable in different settings and how to present effectively.
Solution: Crenshaw proposed a customized learning program that aimed to provide these high-potential executives with the tools and techniques necessary to enhance their executive presence. The program consisted of a series of five content sessions, group coaching and one-on-one coaching. The emphasis for this program was on learning, awareness and participation and less on coaching towards a goal or metric, in order to foster a safe and non-judgmental environment for participants to engage.
The first step involved creating a clear definition of executive presence for the organization, and outlining the critical factors that the leadership team identified in their executives. Based on those factors and definitions, the Crenshaw coaches leading the program created content sessions with senior management to increase the executives learning around the topics. For example, one of the sessions was led by the organization’s CEO, who’s unique style served as a model for one of several different types of presentation styles that could be effective. The content sessions sparked valuable discussions which helped reinforce the program’s teachings amongst participants.
Following each learning session, coaches held recap meetings with their cohorts to review specific questions and brainstorm how to move forward so that participants continued to maximize the program’s learnings individually and in the overall group. Throughout the program, the HR Leader provided Crenshaw qualitative feedback that helped mold future content sessions. Executives also had a number of individual coaching sessions with their cohort coach to tailor their learning to the specific needs and contexts of their role.
Outcomes: The program yielded significant positive outcomes. Participants exhibited noticeable improvements in their presentation style and communication skills. The cohort structure eliminated the stigma of discussing development and learning needs by leveling the playing field for all of the participants. This allowed for an open discussion on what the organization looks for in executive presence and how these individuals can meet those expectations.
The learning structure, which combined content sessions and cohort discussions, allowed for deep dives on specific topics that would accelerate each individual’s development. The sessions were spread out over the course of several months, with individual sessions in between, to allow the participants time to implement the changes and gather feedback. Over the course of the program, the Crenshaw coaches noticed that participants displayed increased confidence and a more engaging presentation approach. Participants also had an increased awareness and understanding of the specific aspects of executive presence that subsequently led to immediate executive impact. One example involved an executive who developed from being more tentative and mechanical in their approach to becoming a confident presenter who effectively utilized storytelling techniques in their presentation.
Moreover, the cohort structure fostered unexpected networking opportunities, allowing executives to share insights and challenges beyond the program’s content, allowing participants to connect with other executives in the organization they may not typically communicate with and learn from each other’s experiences. Additionally, participants were exposed to senior leadership on a regular basis, who provided their insights and perspectives on the topic and the organization overall.
The group learning program also identified further areas of development in some of the participants, who opted to engage their coach for an extended program. The established relationship with the coach and pre-determined needs allowed these executives to seamlessly transition into a coaching program for a more targeted and personalized approach.
Conclusion: This case study demonstrates how a customized learning program can address a specific skill gap among high-potential executives. By focusing on enhancing executive presence through improved presentation and communication skills, the program delivered tangible benefits to the participants. The combination of content sessions, group coaching and one-on-one coaching proved to be an effective approach for supporting executive development and increasing executive impact. Furthermore, the success of this program highlighted the need of the organization to adapt additional programs to address other skill gaps within different organizational contexts.