June/July 2012

Soar to new heights

CIM program elevates leadership skills

By Ernest Hoffman

“Leadership is not in your DNA, leadership is a learned behaviour,” says Chuck Edwards, immediate past-president of CIM and veteran mining executive. “If you want good leaders, you train them.”

That is why Edwards and Dr. Rosie Steeves, president of Vancouver-based Executive Works, developed the CIM Leadership Development Program, which combines Edwards’ decades of industry experience with Steeves’ expertise in leadership training to address the needs of mining personnel. “I’m the content and he’s the context,” says Steeves, the program’s architect, facilitator and coach.

The year-long program is built around three workshop sessions, each either three or four days long. As the year progresses, the members of the cohort work together, honing skills in decision-making, conflict resolution and career development.

The program brings together people from diverse backgrounds to give participants a wide range of perspectives. “You’ve got people early in their careers, showing signs of success but needing to get a handle on things,” says Steeves. “Others are competent and capable leaders who know you’re never finished learning about leadership.”

While workshop sessions enable participants to establish solid working relationships, the real meat of the program takes place between workshops. Adding up to about 16 hours per month, weekly readings, teleconference coaching sessions, online discussions and monthly presentations allow participants to collaborate and apply course materials to challenges and goals on the job. “The ongoing work with the group is really useful because you have this constant sounding board that supports you in your development, in a completely trusting environment,” says Alana Kennedy, marketing director of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council.

Following the second round of workshops, each participant is paired with a mentor. By this point, each member of the cohort has taken on more of a leadership role within the program and is providing insights to help others stay on track.

With its focus on year-long development and incremental progress, the program is very different from “quick-fix” leadership courses. “Becoming a good leader is a behavioural change, and once you change your behaviour, it becomes part of the way you are,” explains Edwards.

This emphasis on gradual change is the key to the program’s success, and by the time the third and final workshop sessions come around, each participant has had the time to evolve and grow as a leader. “It ensures I actually do the things I set out to do,” says Kennedy. “It’s easy to act how we’ve always acted, and that’s why most training courses get abandoned. This actually ensures progress, because it’s not asking you to change your behaviour overnight.”

The next session is scheduled to kick off in Saskatoon November 6-8, and Steeves is very encouraged by the response thus far, with a few people already signed up and several others expressing interest. Edwards says enrollment will be limited to around 10 per class to ensure participants get to know one another and each person is fully engaged. “It’s that fine balance between having enough people that you have enough ideas and interaction but not so many you lose focus, and it’s hard to personalize it, which is the key to learning,” he says. “I’m hoping that the results of our first cohort are that their firms say, ‘This is really, really good,’ and send more people.”
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