CALM-designed program recognized with national education award

June 8, 2011
Amy Dove
Tags: news

Todd Scaber and his crew know what it means to be self aware.

As manager of water services for the Capital Regional District on Vancouver Island, Scaber and his crew have embraced the ideas and teachings of iLead, an award winning leadership education program Royal Roads University designed for the CRD.

"For me what was really good was helping the guys improve themselves not only in the workplace but as people," Scaber said. "The funny thing that came of that is the realization that self learning is not a bad thing, it's not just for Oprah lovers. It helps everyone to be a little more friendly and understanding."

Supporting all levels of staff to do their jobs as best they can is at the crux of the iLead program. The comprehensive interactive program is focused on enhancing leadership capacity and aligning leaders with a common set of skills and language. The week-long program helps staff develop their skills through coaching, conversation and other techniques that support a more engaged workplace.

The CRD's use of iLead was honoured June 1 with the 2011 National Education Award from the Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA).

For the 73 CRD managers and supervisors who took the course last year though, the iLead philosophy is entrenched in their work environments. Larisa Hutcheson, general manager of environmental sustainability, said it gave her the tools to bring up different conversations in a better way.

"It's given us a whole new ability to just bring leadership topics up for conversation as opposed to almost being completely oblivious," she said. "I use (these skills) all the time when I think about relating to other people. I have so much more consciousness about figuring them out from that perspective so that I can understand why they say the things they do, why they go the places they go."

That communication extends beyond departments too. Staff members worked with colleagues they never would have worked without outside of the course, and that has created strong bonds and understanding, said Lorraine Brewster, manager, visitor services and community development of CRD regional parks.

"It gives you that window, that permission ... to step back and learn and work with other colleagues," said Brewster, who is also an Royal Roads alumni having graduated from the MA Leadership and Training program in 2002. "It was a real privilege for me and it provided me permission to just engage in learning and working with colleagues and finding out more about the organization."

ILead was developed by Royal Roads' Centre for Applied Leadership and Management on request from the CRD, explained Zoe MacLeod, centre director. The program was the work of former associate faculty member Gail Gibson and associate faculty member Guy Nasmyth. Daniel Nelson and MacLeod, from the Centre for Applied Leadership and Management were also involved in the design. The completed program is taught by associate faculty members Nasmyth, Liz Gilliland, and Brent Stewart.

It is one of many custom design programs the centre has developed for companies and organizations, and a great example of the kinds of programs Royal Roads can facilitate, she said. The CRD program participants used real leadership challenges rather than hypothetical scenarios for their group work, allowing them to immediately apply what they learned to their daily work environment, she added.

The program was really successful because of the buy-in from all levels of staff, MacLeod said. That sentiment was echoed by Hutcheson who noted the importance of companies investing in programming such as iLead.

"It's almost an essential thing that your senior and operations manager go through a program like this... it's an investment in them you are going to get that coming back to you multiple times," Hutcheson said. "It helps you to facilitate a conversation or deal with a difficult employee. (Overall it helps you) ensure the organization continues to move forward."

For Scaber, it's as simple as infusing positive energy into a workplace.

"I don't see how companies can run without this kind of philosophy in place," he said. It's an environment of learning now. It's an environment that's embracing change. The competition now isn't for the next job posting it's just to be involved. We are attracting, for what we do, the best people."