For over 25 years, AGSM @ UNSW Business School's General Manager Program has been equipping leaders to create significant behavioural change within their teams and, as a result, their organisations.
The five-day immersive program is transformative for participants – opening their minds to the way self-reflection and thoughtful decision-making can make a positive impact across their teams and the broader ecosystems in which they operate.
Practicing the art of leading mindful decision-making
As managements trend towards a more horizontal distribution of decision-making power throughout an organisation, the onus is on leaders to empower their team to be able to make smart business decisions – and fast.
Matthew Byrne, Director of the AGSM General Manager Program says, "It's a really big shift, and a smart one, to give decision-making authority to your team. When people feel supported and confident in their actions, it accelerates their ability to create value."
And to do so successfully, Byrne says you need a pre-determined set of decision-making principles.
"These principles help people learn how to make good and better decisions faster," says Byrne. "We're playing against the world view that leaders are too busy and must make an on-the-spot decision without thinking it through – when in fact, this can be detrimental to a business. But with pre-determined principles in place, people are far more likely to make the best decision, which will save their business time and money."
So, the course is structured around decision-making, an adaptive leadership practice, and reflective learning practices for leaders to learn and bring back to their teams and business.
"When I ask people on the first day 'how do you make decisions?' or 'how do you reflect and learn?' they struggle to answer," says Byrne. "They haven't thought about it in a way they can articulate. But critical assessment of your own decision making, reflecting and learning is an essential habit for a leader."
To train this muscle, the 25 to 30 participants are thrown into a series of experiential challenges throughout the week. They practice applying pre-determined decision-making principles to activities, followed by deep reflection to gain insights and improve as the week goes on.
Creating a safe environment for failure
Another key learning in the program is about turning perceived failures into learning opportunities – the program is a safe environment where experimentation and risk of failure is encouraged. "We challenge participants to create the same safe environment in their organisation," says Byrne.
This is particularly pertinent in an increasingly competitive and innovative world.
"As our environments become more complex and uncertain, our failure rate goes up. And in order to get data that allows us to make reasonable predictions, we need to run experiments," explains Byrne. "Some may succeed, some may fail, but if you don't have a strong reflective practice around failure then you can't get your people to take risks."
And this means understanding how people relate to failure, so you can re-frame negative thinking.
"For some people, the mindset is 'if I fail they're going to fire me' – so they might cover up their failure and this can lead to even greater issues," explains Byrne. "Leaders may need to change the way their team deals with failure. For example, rather than criticising a decision, question how they arrived at that decision.
"You might ask: 'How did you get to that decision? What have you considered? Why did you not consider that data? Let's have a conversation about that,'" says Byrne. "We package the skills of constructive conversations into executive practice."
A five-day immersion for a lifetime of learning
The course, in spite of its name, is relevant for any leader who is in charge of both a team, and a 'system'. "It's more than being a manager of a team, you need to be managing a system that functions in the broader environment of a whole organisation of systems." For example an HR Manager needs to manage the HR 'system' in conjunction with the payroll and marketing 'systems'.
And the diversity of attendees is huge. From entrepreneurs and small business owners, to start-ups and government organisations, it's an opportunity to share experiences whether you're a structural engineer, chief marketing officer, digital disruptor or forensic scientist.
Byrne says he receives two consistent pieces of feedback from the course.
"One is, 'I truly understand how to leverage my system in order to get better results'. The second is the network: 'we are now peer mentors to each other – no matter what happens I can reach out and get their support'. That's what the face-to-face program gives them. By learning about others, they've learnt more about themselves in five days than in their entire working life until now."
And how can executives guarantee a return on investment?
"It's more than the individual payback. By learning how to generate more value from your system, and how to work smarter rather than harder, you can get an entire team working smarter. That's how the program generates value – and fast."
The General Manager Program will run four times throughout 2019 including sessions from AGSM's esteemed faculty – our most accomplished thought leaders in areas of strategy, change and marketing.