Thanks to 26 years at GE, Jayne Johnson has extensive experience developing leaders. In her new role as chief learning officer, leadership development and succession at Deloitte, she oversees customized learning at the firm’s new Deloitte University for high-potential partners and principals, building a bench of leaders with the capabilities required to deliver the company’s strategy over the next several years.
Elkeles: What advice would you give to a learning leader who is just starting their career managing leadership development?
Johnson: Get to know your business. It’s important to understand your business priorities and the strategic plans of the organization. The knowledge you build during this due diligence phase will help you earn credibility and establish relationships with key stakeholders and senior leaders. It will also play a critical role as you develop your own team’s strategic goals, as you can make sure they are in line with your business priorities.
Elkeles: What do you think has more impact on developing leaders: peer feedback, manager feedback or employee feedback?
Johnson: Peer feedback because it’s tough to fool your peers. They are typically the people who give the most useful and direct feedback. Manager feedback also can be useful; however, some people are masterful at managing up and therefore won’t get a lot of constructive feedback they can do anything with. Direct reports don’t always trust the system, so they tend to play it safe. You’ll get overall trends from direct report feedback, but depending on your management style, your direct reports may not be as forthcoming. Peers, on the other hand, don’t have anything to lose, so they’ll always be very straightforward with the good, the bad and the ugly.
Elkeles: How have you gained support from executives for leadership development?
Johnson: A couple approaches work really well. One is getting stories from folks who have gone through the training. They are able to demonstrate what they learned that made a difference on the bottom line of the business. Another approach is to have leaders teach leaders in the classroom. This experience gives executives an opportunity to share and learn, as well as influence and observe what’s happening. A key to creating a successful leaders teaching leaders program is setting clear expectations with the executives who will be teaching, giving them relevant examples and stories to share. It’s our responsibility to make sure they have positive leaders-teaching-leaders experiences so they continue to be involved and committed to the program. They’ll be tremendous advocates if they have a positive experience in the classroom.
Elkeles: What do the best leaders do differently?
Johnson: It takes a special leader to stretch individuals and help them get out of their comfort zone. The best leaders connect with their employees on an individual basis and support them as they take on stretch assignments and projects. Great leaders set direction, align their teams and gain commitment from others to move the organization forward.
Elkeles: What are you working on right now that excites you about your job?
Johnson: I’ve only been in my role at Deloitte for six months, and the project that I’m working on is truly revolutionary. It’s new, it’s different. It’s a comprehensive process for high-potential talent. It’s not just another learning event. It’s everything from training to executive coaching to mentoring to assessments to IDPs (individual development plans), and we’re coupling that with formal learning, feedback and self-reflection. All the components are fully integrated and consistent with multiple touch points. We are already changing attitudes, culture and behavior. There is so much value being created from this across our leadership team, it will have a lasting impact on our firm.
Elkeles: What is one word that you’d use to describe your role?
Johnson: I would say “energizing” because I’m passionate about what we’re working on, and I’m working with such a great team of people who are dedicated, smart and pushing the envelope. While my focus is on developing others, I’m also personally learning and growing as a professional, which is chocolate icing on the cake.
Tamar Elkeles is chief learning officer and vice president of learning and development at Qualcomm and the author of The Chief Learning Officer: Driving Value Within a Changing Organization Through Learning and Development. She can be reached ateditor@CLOmedia.com.