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Hungry for Development

This article accompanies Mass Appeal.

Monday, March 7, 2016
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One common problem among employers across all industries is the "Peter principle" -- rewarding employees who are high performers in their current job with management positions that they may not be fully qualified to handle. Last May, AstraZeneca decided to do something about it.

The global pharmaceutical firm partnered with Minneapolis-based executive search firm Korn Ferry (now Korn Ferry Hay Group) to develop BeExtraordinary, a leadership-development program for its 1,000 managers throughout the United States. The program supports three modules: a 360 assessment that includes an individual coaching session focused on the 360 feedback; a full-day "Leader as Coach" workshop that teaches effective coaching skills or how to develop staff; and another workshop called "Managing Tough Conversations" that helps managers develop skills for leveraging positive outcomes when delivering tough messages or constructive feedback to staff.

"If you're going to target a broad population, it's those managers [below senior leaders] who have so many touch points and so much influence in the organization," says Liz Moran, senior director of engagement, leadership development and culture at the global pharmaceutical company in Wilmington, Del. "We really needed to do a better job of equipping them to . . . drive high performance, keep their teams engaged and motivated, and make sure we're meeting and exceeding our numbers."

She says managers were "resoundingly receptive" to the program, which will also help reduce the variability of their skill levels.

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One goal of the program is to help managers feel comfortable leading coaching conversations with staff -- which, in turn, will increase their frequency and also build leadership abilities and competencies among staff, adds Keith Halperin, senior partner who specializes in leadership and talent development at Korn Ferry Hay Group.

"One of the major criticisms I hear from senior leaders across industries is that everyone is working at one level lower than they should be," says Halperin. "They're solving problems their [staff] should be solving. People on the line need to get pulled up to learn how to solve problems so their bosses don't have to zoom in and do it for them."

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