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How executive education can help navigate through a crisis

How executive education can help navigate through a crisis

Executive education can help professionals and business leaders stay resilient and beat sudden disruptions

A few months into the pandemic, leaders and organisations that have managed to endure the unforeseen storm are now looking ahead to find the best way forward. The pandemic has brought many shining examples of such leaders to the forefront, all of whom have one trait in common: resiliency.

Resiliency is the ability to recover from setbacks or thrive despite sudden disruptions. Developing resilience means to become more perceptive in managing your personal thoughts, attitude, and emotions.

It may not be intrinsic to all, but one platform that helps build resilience among mid- and senior-level executives, business owners and emerging leaders across all sectors is executive education.

Executive education has traditionally been viewed as the big ticket to the next promotion and an accelerated career growth. It is also, from an HR perspective, one of the most effective tools for recognising and retaining key talent. However, employee training and development is among the first to go during an economic downturn.

Although some might see this as a non-essential cost, especially due to budget constraints, it is during these times that it becomes more crucial to invest in top-level and high-performing employees who will help the organisation in riding out the storm.

While we continue to navigate the pandemic, there is a steady rise in the appetite for executive learning in the UAE  among those looking to hedge against job and career uncertainties by upskilling and reskilling.

Here’s how executive education provides the skills needed to survive and thrive in an uncertain world:

HEIGHTENED PERCEPTION TO TACKLE DISRUPTIONS
Critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and innovation are required to take on the challenges of a rapidly changing environment and a fast-evolving business model. Executive learning programmes simulate real-life business environments that require participants to grapple with complex scenarios and to respond with creative solutions. Simulations, group exercises, and case-studies help develop the strategic foresight and cognitive skills that in turn enable executives to deal with sudden disruptions. Agile firms use executive development to help critical
employees address immediate challenges and build the organisational capabilities needed for securing the firm’s future.

TRANSFORMED LEADERSHIP TO DRIVE CHANGE
In times of crisis, leaders are evaluated for their ability to strategise and drive their organisation on the road to recovery. As such, they need advanced interpersonal skills to initiate change and empower their employees. Executive education allows participants to improve team dynamics, build relationships and grow their network through collaboration with peers.

Moreover, leaders need to know how to manage employees belonging to a diverse set of cultures, backgrounds and experiences. The diversity of the student cohorts at executive programmes enrich the participant’s perspective by introducing new thoughts and ideas that can in turn benefit the way an executive receives new, and sometimes, opposing ideas at work.

HARNESSING FEEDBACK TO INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY
Employees benefit the most with prompt feedback, as it helps nip key issues in the bud and improve productivity.

However, this is not the case in most jobs, where they usually receive feedback on a periodic basis such as the annual performance review. In a learning environment, executives receive rapid and objective feedback on their performance from faculty, peers, and assessors. Exercises conducted during the programme provide executives with insights on how essential feedback should be imparted to others.

The way executives receive, process and respond to feedback is crucial, as it proportionately affects the way they evaluate and share feedback with their teams at work. The ultimate goal is to harness the power of feedback for improving employee productivity.

Dr Paul Hopkinson is an associate head of Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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