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Empowerment through WMEP’s Leadership Institute of Wisconsin

Leadership development is a top priority for all businesses

Leadership drives key decisions in a business, from defining the vision and setting strategic priorities, to determining what is communicated, who gets hired, promoted or transitioned, and how work gets done.

Nothing happens at a company without leadership involvement and approval, which is why having the right leaders, with the right competencies, in the right positions and at the right time is critical for profitable growth.

Oftentimes, however, frontline employees who have the desire for more responsibility are promoted before they have the leadership competencies to properly and effectively do their jobs. This points to leadership development as a top priority for all businesses.

CEOs and top-level executive leaders already are empowered with the highest decision-making authority. They are entrusted to define the strategic priorities, communicate them to the organization with the appropriate level of detail, and work with the respective teams to develop and monitor project roadmaps.

But many fail to let go of tactical responsibilities and become burdened with details, duties and deadlines that creates a jarring bottleneck in the organization. They become more reactionary than proactive, missing scalable market-leader opportunities. Over time, this leads to top performers leaving the company for more competitive cultures.

While every leader says they want a high-performing culture, most fail to take the time to understand what that means in terms of how they lead. Expectations must be clearly communicated and understood at all levels. People come to work to make a meaningful difference and leadership is responsible for setting them up for success.

Unfortunately, leadership isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” quality. Different situations require different leadership strengths and styles. For example, a distressed business may need a turn-around leader who can stop the bleeding and align employees around short-term goals that create liquidity and stability.

A business facing fierce competitive headwinds may need an innovative leader who understands how to breathe new vitality into the company and be a change agent.

Likewise, a company experiencing exponential growth that has outstripped some essential resources (software, inventory management, scheduling, project management), may benefit from having a collaborative leadership team grounded in problem-solving skills and open communications to mobilize people around key initiatives in a cooperative and organized fashion.

Too often, leadership is identified by a title rather than a mindset. True leadership can be found at any level of an organization – from the shop floor to the boardroom. At its core, leadership is the desire to help others succeed, step into their potential, and make intelligent decisions that advance organizational success. When done well, loyalty, trust, and respect are created. We all know people who have left a company, and individuals who used to work for or with them soon follow.

As companies continue to deal with mass retirements among baby boomers, cultivating the next generations of leaders has become a critical strategic priority. To accomplish this, many companies have embraced talent management planning to identify the positions and timing of job openings, the competencies required to back-fill those positions, and a succession plan that includes, but is not limited to transferring as much tribal knowledge as possible to others and outlining a career path for newcomers.

Wisconsin’s extremely tight and competitive labor market intensifies this process, as it takes much longer to find capable and reliable employees. Executives today have two brands to manage – their company brand (products and services) and their employer brand (employees and potential candidates). Clear, compelling and irresistible value propositions for both brand groups must be defined, shared and leveraged in all marketing vehicles. Yet, company leaders haven’t invested the time to define these messages and as a result, haven’t created differentiation between themselves and their competition. These value propositions need to answer two questions:

  • Why should I do business with you?
  • Why should I work for you?

Finding and hiring employees is only one side of the coin. Retaining them is the other. When people feel welcome, valued, appreciated and heard, it becomes extremely difficult for competitors to lure them away. The WMEP’s Leadership Institute of Wisconsin provides the leadership tools and insights that empower leaders up, down and across an organization with the know-how to engage and develop talent, better prioritize and manage their time, handle difficult situations, lead change and effectively communicate to advance the company’s goals.

The results are quite telling:

  • 91 percent of graduates receive promotions within 12 months
  • 97 percent report feeling more empowered at work
  • 93 percent report a higher “happiness” factor at work
  • 98 percent report feeling more confident
  • 98 percent report being better communicators

As new generations enter the workforce in increasing numbers, it’s important for leaders to create a welcoming and supportive environment where people are invited to learn, grow, and expand their capabilities. They need to see that the company values are not just words but are guidelines for effective and insightful engagement.

With the right tools, strategies, insights and practice, employees become prepared for expanded responsibility as they strive to be their best self, doing their best work.

For more information on the WMEP’s Leadership Institute of Wisconsin, go to

Christine McMahon & Associates, LLC, is a Strategic Partner of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

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Christine McMahon helps leaders develop strategies and improve speed of execution by developing leadership talent, creating alignment between business functions and improving communications and accountability up, down and across a business. She is co-founder of the Leadership Institute and is in partnership with the WMEP. For keynote presentations, executive coaching, sales and leadership training, she can be reached at:

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