Whether you’re new to Western or new to leading a team, participants in the university’s latest cohort of the Excellence in Leadership training program agree there’s much to be gained from learning together.
“Every course is like a pearl you take away with you,” said participant Dr. Gildo Santos, associate dean, undergraduate dental education in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. “When you string them together at the end, you have a very nice, beautiful necklace.”
Excellence in Leadership supports Western’s academic and administrative leaders in fulfilling their roles, focusing on developing four competencies: leading self, leading people and teams, leading programs and services, and leading innovation and change. The program, which started in 2018, is facilitated by Western Human Resources talent, learning and engagement team.
This year, there were more than 1,300 workshop completions by 465 individuals. Sixty-two participants received a certificate of achievement for completing nine or more workshops. Many were among the participants who attended a leadership recognition event July 12.
For Santos, the time commitment to complete the workshops proved to be a worthwhile investment in his professional and personal growth.
“The impact is greater than you would think,” he said. “It’s not just your job. It’s your work environment, your family, your wellness. At the end of the day, you feel more prepared to face some challenges.”
And that includes those arising in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I felt extremely supported by the university because of this opportunity,” Santos said. “Once COVID came, I had the tools to help me implement changes, hone my negotiation skills and communicate more effectively with faculty, students and staff.”
He also appreciates the knowledge he gained not only from the instructors and facilitators, but from his classmates across campus.
“Each person contributed by discussing the different approaches and answers for various questions,” he said. “It is like a butterfly effect.
“People from social science, for example, might not know the tremendous impact they are causing in dentistry because of one comment they made when we all came together.”
The networking aspect of the program was a pleasant surprise for Rachel Cabunoc, associate director, residence life.
“Over time, I had the chance to meet so many people from different departments and see faces I would never cross paths with on a day-to-day basis, especially in a virtual setting,” she said.
Coming into a leadership role within the past six months, Cabunoc was seeking to gain and refine skills that would help her best prepare for the position and help others thrive.
“It’s my first time formally supervising full-time employees, and it was really helpful that Western offered this suite of foundational tools for me to start with when it came to furthering my professional development,” she said.
A strategic planning session, led by business consultant and Ivey Business School graduate Anne Becker, MBA’90, provided knowledge Cabunoc’s now applying as her team looks to the future.
“I found that course really valuable because she taught the elements of developing a strategic plan, step-by-step, from start to finish. It’s not something you pick up intuitively, so it was helpful to work with her while making a plan of our own and integrating what we are doing with our team.”
As more workshops become available and evolve with new topics, Cabunoc said she’s “looking forward to seeing the offerings grow and develop over time to reflect our campus, and to seeing my team members take advantage of these great learning opportunities.”
‘Apprenticeship in leadership’
For education dean and program participant Donna Kotsopoulos, “there are opportunities people give you to be a leader, and there are opportunities you take to be a leader, and this program falls into the latter category.”
Seeing 11 fellow education faculty and staff members take advantage of the workshops was heartening.
“It’s one thing that I participated in this training as a leader but looking at the list of individuals who made time to invest in themselves and create what I like to call an ‘apprenticeship in leadership’ really matters to me in terms of who they are and where they want to go in their career.”
As a newcomer to Western, Kotsopoulos was looking for a sense of what the university prioritized in terms of people, process and culture.
“This course really helped provide that,” she said. “Coming as a new leader in the middle of a pandemic with significant pressures on our time, health and well-being and our learning, this was an incredible opportunity to meet people from every aspect from across Western and connect with colleagues at all levels of the organization.”