Management education with a difference: children coach managers
At the WU Executive Academy, innovation is high on the agenda. After the Leadership Orchestra and Leading in the Dark, the WU Executive Academy has now added another innovative training format to its portfolio: Children Coach Managers—a workshop that gives managers an opportunity to "experience" their leadership principles like never before by leaving traditional cognitive learning behind and exploring them from completely new perspectives.
Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.
WU Executive Academy (www.executiveacademy.at)

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.

At the WU Executive Academy, innovation is high on the agenda. This is true not only when it comes to providing program participants with state-of-the-art academic knowledge and tried-and-tested management tools but also with regard to pedagogical approaches and teaching methods. After the Leadership Orchestra and Leading in the Dark, the WU Executive Academy has now added another innovative training format to its portfolio: Children Coach Managers—a workshop that gives managers an opportunity to "experience" their leadership principles like never before by leaving traditional cognitive learning behind and exploring them from completely new perspectives.

The WU Executive Academy's corporate and management development programs place  special emphasis on "embedded learning": knowledge that is hard to acquire through cognitive learning—some aspects of leadership, ways and means of bringing values to life, ethics, etc.—is given an emotional quality, allowing program participants to experience it. Creating a strong link between emotional and cognitive learning ensures better internalization of learning.
Experiencing knowledge is only one important aspect, though: the programs involve a completely new concept, with experts providing the necessary input to embed it in an academic context. A traditional in-class session of usually two to three days with a professor of the WU Executive Academy forms an integral part of the format. In integrating the "Children Coach Managers" workshop into executive training, the WU Executive Academy customizes it based on the specific requirements of the client’s business.

The concept was developed by Margret Rasfeld, principal of Evangelische Schule Berlin Zentrum; a key expert in Angela Merkel's Dialogue on Germany's Future; and one of the initiators of "Schule im Aufbruch", an initiative to encourage schools to foster a culture of learning that is conducive to unlocking individual potential.

Margret Rasfeld and "Schule im Aufbruch"

At Evangelische Schule Berlin Zentrum, Margret Rasfeld and her team demonstrate how to achieve a radical change in learning culture, placing special emphasis on unlocking individual potential. The workshops are part and parcel of students' school work: "Cushioned at the bottom, open at the top," to quote the words of a 12-year-old student who has obviously understood what it is all about. Children and adolescents can do much more than adults think they can. The "Children Coach Managers" workshops illustrate this very nicely. As communication takes places at eye level and in a mutually respectful way, both sides benefit enormously from them," says Margret Rasfeld.

Students vs. managers a complete change in perspective

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.
WU Executive Academy (www.executiveacademy.at)

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.

The workshop, which the WU Executive Academy will offer its clients from now on, gives managers the opportunity to meet a group of students between the ages of 13 and 16 to jointly explore leadership principles from a new perspective. In so doing, the teacher-student relationship in schools heeding the call of "Schule im Aufbruch" provides practical guidance. Today, academics and practitioners alike regard transformational leadership as the strategy that generates the highest levels of motivation and satisfaction in employees, making the entire organization more efficient and successful. Having gone through a process of transformation in their school, the students are subject-matter experts with a wealth of experience to share. After all, their school has succeeded in creating what businesses are eager to develop for their employees: a culture of genuine appreciation that encourages high-level performance.
With their manner and their inspiring visions, the students themselves have a transformational effect on the managers, and their straightforwardness and creativity allow program participants to look at their own approaches to leadership in a different light.

•    They ask questions where adults thought they knew the answers.
•    They do not talk about theories but share their own experience.
•    They are honest, free from fear and appreciative.

The benefits managers can derive from the transfer of learning into organizational contexts are breathtaking. As they gain new perspectives, they may rediscover long-abandoned wishes and attitudes. Joining forces with adolescents is a catalytic experience. Program participants not only relearn to explain complex matters in simple terms but also benefit from the intergenerational cooperation in other ways: as a result of not wearing professional or social blinkers, the executives of tomorrow approach question in a straightforward and unconventional manner, which is in stark contrast to the diplomacy and complexity so typical of the adult world.

That being the case, the managers get to experience and understand the scope and potential of transformational leadership. Together with the students, they explore new ways and means of implementing transformational leadership in their organizations. For instance, every manager raises a question encountered by him or her in everyday professional practice that workshop participants discuss and answer in small groups composed of 2 to 3 managers and 1 or 2 students.

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.
WU Executive Academy (www.executiveacademy.at)

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.

Questions on which the adolescents can provide compelling expert advice include:

  • How can I gain the trust of employees?
  • How can I increase the motivation of employees?
  • How can I build better relationships with employees?
  • How can I promote employee development?
  • How can a culture be fostered where people genuinely trust and appreciate each other?
  • Why is enthusiasm so important when it comes to moving projects forward successfully?
  • What can managers do to foster a culture of trust where mistakes are treated as learning opportunities?
  • In the course of a workshop, the students can assume different roles. They can 
    • provide impetus (by raising topics and sharing their experience).
    • act as facilitators (during small-group work).
    • observe and give feedback (How do the managers come across? What feelings do they bring up?).
Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.
WU Executive Academy (www.executiveacademy.at)

Students and managers join forces in working on questions encountered in everyday managerial life.

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