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Inside the Mind of the CEO: 7 Tips for Accelerating Your Path to the C-Suite

HiResBy Amy Franko

We see their pictures in the media, and we hear them make speeches before shareholders and stakeholders. But how well do you know your CEO? Have you ever wondered what’s going on in his or her mind?

With all that they’re responsible for, you’re probably not surprised to learn that a CEO’s mind is a busy place.

About 100 Central Ohio executives were given a sneak peek into the experiences and insights of four of the area’s most admired leaders at a recent panel discussion, hosted by the Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD). I was honored to serve as moderator of the panel, which included John Ammendola, President and CEO, Grange Insurance; Kim Jacobs, Chief of Police, City of Columbus; Elaine Roberts, A.A.E., President & CEO, Columbus Regional Airport Authority; and Teresa A. Sherald, President & CEO, Diversity Search Group.

Throughout our fascinating and entertaining 90-minute discussion, we delved into several topics– from navigating the shift to CEO, to building a team and making tough calls, to transforming organizational culture. As I reflect back on the conversation , I can summarize it into seven key takeaways. Whether you’re already in the C-suite or are striving to get there, these tips can help you become a better leader today.

  • You’ve got to want it. CEOs must have a deep internal desire to be in the lead role, in both good times and tough times. As you consider your executive career path, reflect on your level of true desire to lead and willingness for complete accountability at this level. One CEO expressed it as having a “buck stops here” mentality. Are you willing to take on that responsibility?
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T. If you haven’t earned respect before you’re the CEO, it’s probably too late. Start now by focusing on being collaborative and understanding the importance of your stakeholders. And as one of the panelists reminded us, “you can be successful as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.”
  • Decisions, decisions. Be strategic in your decision making. Never make a decision unless you can look everyone in the eye and explain your thought process behind it. As Malcolm Gladwell said, “Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” Make sure you make decisions for the right reasons.
  • Mistakes are meant to guide you, not define you. Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledge and own yours. Fix them effectively. But then move on. CEOs can’t waste time lingering in the past. Another benefit of acknowledging mistakes: when leaders do this, it gives their teams permission to acknowledge their mistakes, too.
  • Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it’s a valuable leadership trait. A sense of continuous curiosity will help propel you and your organization forward. The panelists encouraged us to ask the “why.” Get out of your office, and walk around. Talk to others. You’ll find out answers you didn’t know, and have a better understanding of the operation.
  • Change is ahead. Every leader must be a change agent. As the saying goes, “change is difficult, but not changing is fatal.” It’s a leader’s job to invoke and provoke trends. Create a vision for your organization to survive and thrive over the long term. Then inspire your team to pull in the same direction with the same purpose.
  • Step into some discomfort for the greater good. One final tip is especially for leaders who are women or part of a minority group. We need to seek out leadership roles (like board seats for example) where we may be the only representative of our gender or group, so that others can begin to see this leadership path for themselves. To demonstrate that diversity is valuable, show up at meetings and share your thoughts. Also, be sure to be a matchmaker and connect people who are good matches for board and executive seats.

This list encompasses my favorite insights, but of course there were many others. If you attended, what resonated with you? What would you add to the list?

For related content, view my previous post, 10 strategies from the CEO suite.

Building a Leadership Identity for a Personal Brand

logo_block-FINYour workday is likely consumed with leading your team and delivering results for your organization. But what about you? How much time do you think about your future goals and leadership identity?

Impact Instruction Group’s Founder and CEO, Amy Franko, takes a look at the topic of building a leadership identity in the Association for Talent Development Human Capital Blog. The first article in the series outlines steps for defining a leadership identity and personal brand.


Spotlight on Tech Trends in Insurance

logoEarlier this year, Impact Instruction Group surveyed training industry leaders and professionals nationwide for our third annual Learning and Development Technology Trends Report. It’s always fascinating to see how learning and development organizations are putting technology to use.

This summer, we had an opportunity to take our research one step further. Our friends at the Society of Insurance Trainers and Educators (SITE) allowed us to follow up with a companion survey targeted to their members to see where the Insurance sector mirrors, as well as differs from, the national trends.

Here’s what we found.

Technology Investment

With our general survey, eLearning is still on the top of the list, with 85% of organizations planning to have eLearning as part of their overall portfolio. Webinars a

nd video are also strong contenders, and organizations have become conditioned to having these delivery methods in their portfolios. For SITE members, the webinar platform is very prevalent with over 80 percent of SITE organizations investing in webinar-based learning. Interestingly, video is a medium that is often ranked right behind instructor-led environments when it comes to personal engagement or connection. With SITE members we see an opportunity to increase the use of video, because only a little over 50 percent of the respondents are making investments there.

Leadership Support

Leadership support for technology-based solutions in learning and development is growing, either steadily or rapidly, and our SITE survey mirrors what we’re seeing in the general population. In both, nearly 60 percent of respondents say that leadership’s support is steadily increasing. One key point is that organizations are increasingly selective with the investments being made in learning initiatives. So while they have leadership support, it’s also critical that learning practitioners are able to connect the investment in technology-based initiatives to company goals, and demonstrate return on investment. 

Mobile Learning Adoption

There is room for growth here. 44 percent of the organizations we surveyed in our general survey have mobile devices in their organizations, but no learning strategy. 61.6 percent of SITE organizations surveyed are still in the exploratory stages of mobile learning, or have no significant plans in 2015 for mobile learning. We urge organizations to have a mobile learning strategy, especially organizations with distributed populations. That strategy needs to account for business outcomes, audience needs, appropriate content for mobile delivery, design approaches, development tools, and implementation/ongoing maintenance.

Mobile learning Adoption – Staffing

Of those SITE members planning for mobile learning, 40 percent are planning to train their current staff to address mobile learning trends. Similarly, 35 percent of our general organizations surveyed plan to train current staff. That tells us the SITE member companies recognize there is a specific skills set for the mobile learning environment, and that organizations will invest in making sure their people are ready for design and development on mobile.

Social Learning

Both SITE and general survey respondents were evenly split on the topic of Enterprise Social Networks. With SITE respondents, 52 percent have enterprise social networks, and 48% are without. This is an area for growth. By incorporating ESNs, businesses can capture more organizational knowledge that they may not otherwise have access to; cultivate more collaboration and relationship building among teams, especially in virtual environments; identify internal SMEs who are contributing value to the organization; and access usage data that will allow them to improve learning offerings. Enterprise social networks are expected to be a $2.7B industry by 2017.

Tin Can API

The Tin Can API continues to establish itself as the next generation of data gathering in learning technology. You can think of it as the modernization of SCORM, but we have some work to do in this area. In both the general survey and the SITE-specific survey, the highest percentage of respondents indicated that they had no plans to use it or had never heard of it. In fact, nearly 60 percent of SITE respondents hadn’t heard of Tin Can API.

We invite you to see the results of the full survey in the Impact Instruction Group 2015 Learning and Development Technology Trends Report. Just click on the blue subscribe button on the top right of this page for instant access.

And if you’re an Insurance industry executive interested in the details of the SITE member research, email us and use “SITE Webinar” in the subject line. We’ll be able to provide you with a link to the on-demand recording.

Looking for more SITE info? Check out our five learnings SITE Conference.

Columbus Women to Know

By Amy Franko

There’s a saying that you should surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.

As a practitioner in the area of leadership development, I couldn’t agree more. And as a woman business owner in the Columbus Region, I’m grateful to be surrounded by some of the smartest, strongest women leaders around. I’ve befriended many of them through the Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD) and NAWBO Columbus—two fantastic membership groups – as well as through my role on the Board of Directors of the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland. Learning from these women has helped me become a better business owner, and a stronger leader myself.

Recently, Business First of Columbus published its list of “Central Ohio’s Influential Women to Know for 2015.” Powerhouse is the first word that came to mind! Many of honorees are women I’m proud to know: Catherine Lang-Cline, Kristen Harris, Darla King, and Joelle Brock. Like Business First says, they are “dynamic women who are shaping Central Ohio’s business community – whether by launching companies or rising high in the ranks of the corporate world.” They are also leaders who are making an impact in the community and helping to lift  up those around them. You can view the article and see all 22 profiles here. Congratulations to each of the women on this recognition.

What about you? Are you surrounded by people who will lift you higher?

If you’re looking for ways to build your own network, I invite you to download our e-book: 35 Tips to Build Lasting Strategic Relationships. It’s about learning from others and knowing how to connect with people. It’s about knowing how to ask for things that you need and having a mentor to guide you.

And contact us if we can help you implement our Strategic Leadership Excellence for Women program at your organization.

Talent Management: Earning Acclaim for Stealth Development

By Amy Franko

talent mag jpg aug15This month’s issue of Talent Management magazine takes a look at “stealth” development. For some organizations, weaving career development into work flow makes for an organic and powerful tool for talent managers.

But does becoming too stealthy risk the effort going unnoticed?

The magazine asked for readers to weigh in. I did. My opinion is that career development shouldn’t be stealth. It’s a top reason why people are engaged and best talent stays.

What’s your take? Read more.

And let us know what you think.

Inspiration is the Spark that Elevates You and Your Team

This article is one of the most-read posts from the Impact blog archive.

By Amy Franko

inspireHave you ever had someone in your life that makes you feel as if there’s nothing you can’t do? Someone who moved you to be more and do more than you ever thought possible?

That’s inspiration . . . it can be hard to describe, but we know it when we feel it, and we know it when we see what an inspired person or group of people can do.

When we have leaders who are inspirational, we become connected to them, we see the possibilities of what a team can do together, and we can create amazing results.

My good friend and customer loyalty expert Cindy Solomon taught me that it’s our job to be a spark of inspiration, to light that fire within the people on our team and those around us. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of leadership.

But most of us think of inspiration as something we’re born with – we’re either inspiring or we’re not. It’s actually a skill, and if you’re committed to becoming a leader, it will be one of the best skills you learn.

In this article I share some of the everyday ways you can build inspiration into your life and leadership path.

Inspiration is about intention, and it takes awareness of the words we use and how we respond to people. Recently, my sister emailed me about wanting to apply to nursing school, after a 13-year career in the human resources and compensation fields. First of all, I had no idea that she even had an interest in nursing, which was a lesson for me in making more effort to learn what’s important to the important people in my life.Honestly, my first reaction was that it was a crazy idea. That it’s going to take years for her to rebuild her career, that she had no idea what she was getting into, and on and on and on. (I hope she doesn’t read this post!) But after I turned it over in my mind a few more times, I realized that this is her dream; our dreams should propel us to take these leaps into the unknown. After all, I left my technology career six years ago to pursue my own dream of being an entrepreneur. By being intentional, I was able to see past my own reactions and get to what really mattered – that my role is to be a source of inspiration and support to her.

Choose to spend your time with people who inspire you. The days in my life that are the most productive and fulfilling are the ones where I get to spend time with people who inspire me. I had the opportunity to do that one day this week in three separate meetings, and it’s amazing how much that charges my batteries. Even after a 14-hour day, I was absolutely jazzed. I’ve learned that I almost never feel that way after a day of being in front of my computer. At least three days a week I plan my days to be around those who inspire me – my team, my customers, other entrepreneurs and leaders.

Build inspiration into the structure of your life and work. For me, the choice to spend time with people who inspire made me change how I structured my days. I now make it a priority to get out of my office three days a week to be with inspirational people.

Other things I do:

  • Each night, I write down three successes or things I was inspired by that day. It’s quick, and you’d be surprised at how that adds up over time.
  • I capture inspirational stories. I have notepads everywhere! Everyday people and situations inspire me. I share those stories with my team, and I often use them in public speaking or writing.
  • I create whitespace in my calendar every week. A completely jammed calendar doesn’t inspire me at all. (I can admit though, I’m a work in progress on this one!) For example, I’m writing this article on a day where I have zero appointments scheduled. That gives me the time I need to focus. Or, if I have a particularly busy week, I try to keep weekend activities to a minimum. Openness creates opportunity and inspiration.
  • I write lots of personal notes. There is such power in a personal note. The connection from that can’t be underestimated – you never know who you’ll inspire by reaching out to thank or recognize someone, or to let them know you are thinking about them.

I’m reminded of Maya Angelou’s words that say it all about inspiration:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Inspiration is everywhere around us if we’re open to it. As a future leader, you have the opportunity to be that spark for someone else!

5 Ways to Ensure Critical Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge transfer is a constant in any organization, because passing along experienced-based knowledge is essential. Especially as we see baby boomers retiring and other top employees leaving for new opportunities. How can you ensure that wisdom is passed on? This article from CLO magazine provides five tips, plus some reader reaction from our founder and CEO, Amy Franko.

Read more. (See page 20 for Amy’s comment.)

Webinar On-Demand: Closing Skill Gaps with Curriculum Planning and Design

Greater Cincinnati’s Chapter of the Association for Talent Development Webinar Featuring Impact Instruction is Available On-Demand

071415-GCATD-Webinar-JPG slide

Watch the webinar now.

More than 70 percent of organizations surveyed for the 2014 Corporate Learning Factbook cite “capability gaps” as one of their top five challenges.

Within many of those companies, it takes 3-5 years for a seasoned employee to become fully productive. Solving these challenges around capability gaps and time to productivity becomes even more complex given virtual teams, global operations, information overload, and ever-changing business priorities. These are real issues that impact the overall effectiveness and competitiveness of your organization.

Curriculum Planning and Design is a foundational solution to addressing these challenges. It improves the talent management process, the ROI of training, and ultimately business outcomes in some key ways.

Curriculum Planning and Design:

  • Creates a clear and consistent set of skills and learning paths for a role
  • Improves engagement by allowing employees to envision their future in the organization
  • Helps lines of business and training organizations better prioritize and align training investments
  • Streamlines the onboarding process, improving time to initial productivity

In this session, we address:

  • The framework and key outputs of Impact Instruction’s curriculum planning process, from initial planning through implementation and maintenance
  • Aligning curriculum plans to other key organizational initiatives
  • How to involve key audience members and stakeholders to create an environment for success
  • Best practices we have uncovered in conducting this process for other organizations
  • Practical next steps to consider for your organization

Greater Cincinnati
  Watch it now.
Hosted by: Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the ATD
Facilitators: Amy Franko, Founder & CEO, Impact Instruction Group
Lisa Gearhart, Senior Instructional Designer

Next Stop: Austin! Talent Management Exchange

tmxAt Impact Instruction Group, we know it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. That’s why we make it a point to be a part of some of the industry’s top events. We’re hitting the road again in July.

Our Founder & CEO, Amy Franko, is attending the Talent Management Exchange in Austin this week. Will you be there, too? Be sure to connect with us during the event. In the meantime, check out a video welcome, highlights of our services, and resources just for you on our Talent Management Exchange page.


Executive presence: Are you born with it, or do you cultivate it?

smart bizWhile our Founder and CEO Amy Franko has met many people who innately possess executive presence in spades, she’s also known many who worked to cultivate it. But these attributes and skills aren’t just for someone aspiring to become an executive leader. In this article in Smart Business, Amy shares how to make an impact in any aspect of your personal and professional life.

Read more.