Many South Sound managers turn to South Puget Sound Community College’s (SPSCC’s) Leadership Development Certificate program to develop their skills and advance their careers. 

Courtesy of Robert Jeffers

Developed by Robert Jeffers in 2010, the program offers five three-day courses — Mind of a Manager, Heart of a Leader; Motivating & Coaching to Build Top Talent; Managing Change & Making Great Decisions; Leading from the Middle: Influencing Without Authority; and Leading Through Difficulty: Emotional Intelligence, Communication, & Conflict Management — that can be taken either as stand-alone classes or as a group in order to earn the certificate and learn an integrated approach to the skills needed to be successful in leading and managing yourself and the people around you.

Each class can accommodate up to three-dozen students, and the courses are so popular that waiting lists are not unheard of. 

“When organizations invest in people, their motivation goes up, their commitment goes up, their energy goes up,” Jeffers said. “Consequently, I think people get shots in the arm going to leadership classes to figure out how to both diagnose and determine what needs to come next for an organization to improve. People like growth; they like to understand bigger perspectives.”

Prior to developing the program at SPSCC, Jeffers, an Olympia resident, spent 20 years on faculty at the University of Wisconsin School of Business in Advanced Management. He also worked as a coach and consultant for companies such as Deloitte, GE Medical, Harley Davidson, Kodak, Small Business Administration, Weyerhaeuser, and many others.

Jeffers shared some of the leadership development observations he has made over the course of his career. 

On the Importance of Immersion

Most people get into management because they are good producers in previous jobs. But management is a very different skillset. Suddenly, they have not only authority but responsibility to make decisions happen. If they haven’t really had the proper training, vetting, mentoring, or coaching — the proper immersion into how to consider the role and how to act responsibly — there are so many mistakes. I made them, too, when I first got into management.

On Developing Actionable Plans

Adult learners barely have time to get their jobs done, let alone go out to training. I feel like I am wasting their time if they don’t walk out of that room with an actionable plan. People need to walk out of that training room having it be crystal clear what they are going to go implement. It can’t be a philosophy. It can’t just be concepts that they can see are good ideas, but they have no clue about what to do with them. 

On Difficult Conversations

Not all of them, but a lot of (supervisors) will not have the difficult conversations that need to take place at work to make an organization keep rolling forward. People come to these classes to figure out, “OK; here is my situation at work. What am I supposed to do about it, because I feel like my hands are tied?” We practice those conversations. People are extremely energized when they walk out of these classes.

On Leadership Training ROI

People tell me, after the fact, that they are getting promotions, becoming parts of teams, and leading teams that they were never able to do before. They are leading change initiatives that had not occurred until they were able to figure out, through these courses, how to go bring them up in ways that didn’t just sound like they were complaining. They bring them up with actionable strategies, get kudos from leadership back at work, and also green lights.