Building Leaders: KA’s Leadership Development Program
Professional development and continuous education are keys to building success within any industry. Kraus-Anderson’s commitment to building and training successful leaders is exemplified by its robust continuing education programs led by Kraus-Anderson University (KAU). One of the most successful programs in recent years is the Leadership Development Program (LDP).
Now in its third year, the LDP is “making a significant impact on future leaders by giving them the tools and techniques to hone their leadership skills for both personal and professional success,” said Al Gerhardt, COO, Kraus-Anderson Construction Company (KACC). “LDP students walk away with a refined set of leadership skills which helps ensure that KACC will be successful for years to come.” Graduates of the LDP are enthusiastic about their experience in the program.
“The program helped me open my mind to different leadership / management practices, which I implement daily,” said Mark Kotten, a senior project manager and LDP graduate from 2016.
Mike Smoczyk, director of professional development, detailed the LDP approach.
Q: Why and when was Leadership Development Program developed? What are its goals?
MIKE SMOCZYK, KRAUS-ANDERSON UNIVERSITY: Our overall goal is to improve and grow our employees’ leadership skills. We want their leadership skills to match their already excellent technical skills. Most of us either went to school or have extensive work experience, but we are not necessarily taught leadership skills. There is a need, in all industries, to develop these skills. In the past, we’ve sent people away to learn and attend leadership classes. But now we get to develop the material and assessment process and tailor it to the needs of our company.
Q: Who participates in the program?
MIKE SMOCZYK: We encourage all Kraus-Anderson employees to apply; it isn’t limited to project managers or metro employees only. It is our goal to see a mixture of offices and positions. We limit the number of participants to ensure a quality experience; and have found ten to be an ideal group size.
Q: What is the course structure and content focus? When and where do participants meet?
MIKE SMOCZYK: The program extends throughout a calendar year and is about nine full days away from work to attend the classes. We also read two books, which they are to complete on their own time before the next session where we will discuss and have an assessment on what was read.
The class is based on nine core competencies:
- Building a Successful Team
- Continuous Improvement
- Decision Making
- Delegating Responsibility
- Driving for Results
- Managing Conflict
- Planning and Organizing
MIKE SMOCZYK: It is like a graduate program where you have a cohort of students that get to know each other and get to know people they may not have otherwise come into contact with. There is a nice mix of group and individual activities.
Q: What else is covered?
MIKE SMOCZYK: The program isn’t just about work and communication; one of the key things we work on is listening. In school, throughout our lives we’re taught to read, write and speak, but we are never taught to listen. We focus on empathetic listening, trying to really understand the speaker’s message. Often when we’re talking or debating, we are forming responses in our minds and jumping to conclusions before we take the time to actually listen to someone.
Q: Is there a “final exam?”
MIKE SMOCZYK: They are required to do a one hour presentation/discussion with senior management at the end of the year. This presentation revolves around an idea that will improve our business, ideas that are thoughtful and creative. We want to hear ideas that are “out there,” this gets people thinking and stirring the creative process.
We like to give them the opportunity to be heard by senior management and to show them what they are learning and how they are applying it to improve Kraus-Anderson. It is always heartening and cool to listen to people when they are leading this talk. I learn something from every participant and it is impressive to see people learn and grow over time.