There are very few organizational challenges that don’t have a solution – there’s always an innovative way to solve the problems we come across in our lives. And you don’t need to be a senior management team member or be part of an innovation team to be able to do this. But: there’s a dearth of training for mid-senior managers of small and growing organizations. Some ‘off-the-shelf’ options are available at very reputable organizations. However, few are catering to the capacity building of small and growing organizations. At Amani Institute, we’ve noticed that across many small-medium organizations in India, many don’t have a dedicated learning budget and, therefore, most training happens on an ad-hoc basis. Where a dedicated training budget exists, it usually is spent on technical/hard skills. Soft skills are not prioritised.
The beginning of the Leadership for Growth Journey
This leaves a gap and a need. To address them, we launched Amani Institute’s award-winning Leadership for Growth program in India in late 2019, after running this program successfully in Kenya for two years. We’ve run two versions of the program in India so far – an open enrollment cohort with 24 participants from 16 different organizations, and an in-house version for 30 managers from one organization. In the beginning, we had doubts. Were organizations going to find value in the program in India and be happy with their decision to provide organizational funding for training their team members? Were our efforts to customize the context to Indian organizations going to be good enough? All these thoughts ran through our head as we stared at the group of people in front of us – the first-ever Leadership for Growth program participants in India!
That we succeeded was extremely evident from the enthusiasm and open-minded learning attitude that exuded from all our participants; they had never been exposed to a training like this and were filled with positive zeal to make the most of this opportunity. And by the end, all participants had grown so much as leaders and managers and emerged from the program with a recharged desire to do more and do better. What a fantastic journey it has been till now!
Getting to know yourself and your leadership style
Our 5-month structured learning journey supports managers in their growth in three areas – leading self, leading others and leading the business. The managers develop skills not only with respect to how they can understand and lead themselves and their team better but how they can lead the organization more effectively (by developing skills around strategic thinking, understanding business models, etc.)
We often saw our participants battle between the role of a leader and the role of a manager. If I’m strong in one, does it mean that I can’t do the other? Our program is designed to start with ‘Leading Self’; most managers find very little time for self-reflection. The first and most important step is, therefore, self-leadership. Navigating some topics, such as managing emotions, made the participating managers uncomfortable but it provided a great basis for them to build upon when exploring topics in the ‘Leading Others’ module. We were able to tackle topics such as managing conflict and increasing trust in teams with ease because the managers had now understood themselves better and could bring those insights into how they can lead their teams better.
Finding your tribe
Another validation of our program design was that, across all organizations and regardless of sector or function, the broad challenges faced were very similar. There’s something very comforting about this for the participants – the feeling that they’re not alone in their struggles. This helped them open up in a safe space and really support each other through their journeys, even beyond the classroom and after the program is officially over.
This experience was true not only for the diverse open enrolment cohort, but also for our in-house program. Even though the participants were from the same organization, they were all from different roles and locations. This was the first time that all 30 of them were being trained together. It led to them understanding and appreciating each other’s roles and also teaming up across different functions/locations to solve similar challenges. As Amani Institute, this is something we pride ourselves on – this is what happens when you ‘find your tribe’; no matter how diverse a group is, when you go through a shared learning experience like this, you inadvertently find a support group of friends and peers who you can rely on.
Applying what was learned
At Amani Institute, we firmly believe that skills, unless applied, will be forgotten. Adults learn by doing. And one of the most important skills out there is innovation – how one can use a structured approach to creativity, in order to solve organizational challenges. This reflects in the Business Innovation Project, a challenging part of the program that generated the most impact. The participants were asked to create value for their organization by addressing a current organizational need through applying what was learnt in class. Working on an innovation project isn’t something that managers are used to doing, especially during a training program.
This is where we got to see the participants shine! And where we also saw a strong sense of pride within the participants; many of them were surprised at the outcomes of their projects and had a huge sense of empowerment and accomplishment at the end of the process. They all selected business challenges related to their functional area and with support from Amani Institute’s innovation framework, came up with some inspiring solutions to these challenges. You can read about Tushar’s project which saved his organization INR 29 lakhs ($38000). It’s delightful to witness participants undergo a personal and professional transformation. One part of the joy comes from witnessing the transformation and the other part comes from being the team that created the environment for it to happen!
In its final evaluation, the Leadership for Growth program received a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 82, which is extremely positive and adds to our strong belief in the impact of the program. An NPS measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others, and it ranges from -100 to +100. Scores above +70 are considered ‘exceptional’. For us, it was a huge honour to be given a score of 82 for our launch in India. It shows the trust and appreciation of our participants and validates the potential of this program to create large scale impact in the small-medium enterprise sector.
We couldn’t have asked for a better beginning of our journey with this program in India and are looking forward to working with more managers across the vast landscape of small-medium enterprises in India. If you’d like to catch a glimpse of what it’s like in the classroom, watch this video to learn more. You can also register your interest in the program here and we’ll reach out to you with further details.
Remember, your organization will grow when your people do!
Read more: How to Get Your Money’s Worth Training Your Staff