There are any number of excuses companies use to avoid investing in leadership training. Interestingly, none of them include, “We don’t think leadership training is important”, or, “Our leadership is great all the way around, we don’t need help.” In fact, the opposite sentiment prevails, “Leadership is the most important thing for our company and we need more good leaders.” Another day I will elaborate on the litany of excuses I’ve been given for companies to avoid pursuing leadership training. Today, though, I’m sharing my experience with a company that has gone all in, from the top of the company executive ladder down to, yes, the Millennials. The Select Group, a technical services firm based out of Raleigh, NC has realized that the best investment a company can make is in its people.
My recent experience with The Select Group will also debunk the thought trend that Millennials need to be handled differently from everyone else. They don’t. They need good, old fashioned, leadership. Give Millennials guidelines and expectations, hold them accountable to those guidelines and expectations, and guess what? They will respond…just like everyone else. Don’t believe me? Keep reading.
The guidelines and expectations for leadership at the Select Group start exactly where they are supposed to, with CEO, Sheldon Wolitski. It is made very clear to everyone at The Select Group that leadership development is a priority and that everyone who takes part is expected to take the training to heart and use lessons learned to achieve greater heights of excellence. And, at the risk of sounding self-serving, I am only one of many leadership consultants Sheldon utilizes to generate the high-performance culture he seeks for his employees and his company. Sheldon understands that, as the CEO, he must set a leadership example. But he also understands that, as the CEO, he does not have time to teach leadership himself. So, in true leadership form, he relies upon experts to assist him.
I started my journey with The Select Group’s Executive Leadership Team. We embarked on an intense, three-day leadership retreat that included lecture on various leadership topics, followed up by a series of unconventional, but practical exercises that demonstrated how the lectured leadership principals were applicable in any scenario. Then, approximately 6 weeks later, we followed up for additional lecture on behavioral change and what stops us from becoming the person and leader we want to become. During our time together, these seasoned corporate professionals enthusiastically relayed to me which elements of the training they had implemented with great success. Ego was cast aside and positive gains were made. Just like that? Yes, just like that. The explanation is simple, the guidelines and expectations for the Executive Leadership Team were made crystal clear by their CEO; find a way to get better!
In September, I had the distinct privilege of participating in a leadership retreat known as the High Performance Experience Weekend, with The Select Group. Of the 50 or so attendees of this 3-day event, probably 90% were non-supervisory employees in their twenties…Millenials!!! Each day began at 5:00 am sharp and ended around 11:00 pm. The lectures and practical exercises were conducted by several leadership consultants, medical doctors, nutritionists, cooks, yoga and Wim Hof expert practitioners. The message was clear, The Select Group is investing in its future leaders in a huge way.
The expectations for this event were set early and clearly; the investment in the event would not be a one-way street. Employees had to apply to attend the event, and were required to sign a pledge of commitment to the event. And one more thing: no cell phones permitted. Participants, Millennials, were permitted to check their phones a few times a day during breaks. But, the phones were not permitted to be with participants during the event.
Guidelines, expectations of performance, commitments, consequence, and no cell phones? Conventional wisdom says these are all things that Millennials reject. Wrong! These young professionals never let their enthusiasm or commitment wane. They took pride in conducting themselves as disciplined professionals who were committed to excellence and appreciated the investment that was being made in them. They were told what was expected of them and they happily delivered. The number of these young professionals that contacted me and the other presenters after the event to share their action plan to achieve a new level of excellence was nothing short of mind blowing.
How can CEO Sheldon Wolitski and The Select Group pull this off? They practice what they preach. Investment in their people is a way of life, not a check the box. There is a new model for building a high-performance culture and it is being constructed by Sheldon Wolitski and The Select Group. Stay tuned.
Errol Doebler is the founder of Ice Cold Leader, a leadership consulting firm. After successful careers as a Navy SEAL Platoon Commander and FBI Special Agent, Errol founded Ice Cold Leader to realize his passion of empowering great leaders and better human beings. Ice Cold Leader provides executive coaching, keynote speaking, and corporate retreats to individuals and teams across the world.
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