In response to a need for a high-quality development solution for their recently promoted and newly hired director-level leaders, this Fortune 500 global pharmaceutical company sought the help of UNC Executive Development. They hoped to achieve two goals: accelerate their new leaders’ timeline to proficiency and set clear expectations. In partnership with UNC, the Director Transition Program (DTP) was created in 2014. “To date, we have had a six-year, successful relationship with UNC, so I think that’s a pretty powerful statement in itself,” says the Head of Executive Development for the pharmaceutical company.
“We have found in UNC a partner who is willing to learn about and understand our business and our culture, and then help us create an experience for our leaders that support both,” she explains. “UNC doesn’t give us what they want us to need; it’s not just a ‘plug-and-play’. But at the same time, they are not afraid to pushback. Sometimes we’re just too internally focused, and I know that’s not unique to our company. An external partner who can call that out, help us identify it, and subsequently challenge our thinking is so valuable. This is a very different approach to other providers we’ve seen.”
From its initial launch in 2014, the DTP has evolved year over year and continues to play a critical role in the success of the company’s leaders. “Our partnership with UNC has developed as our company has grown in size and shape. We’ve been very privileged to have UNC, specifically Anthony Laffoley, our Program Director, as well as Rob Goldberg, one of the core faculty members, for the entire span of our working relationship. I feel, quite honestly, they both take as much ownership of this program as we do. They have been with us through multiple design iterations, they bring unique perspective and professional expertise, and challenge us along the way. It is truly a blended effort of our capabilities and UNC’s, always with the goal in mind to create as high quality of a program together as possible.”
As a unique component of the DTP, participants bring in their real work projects for immediate application of the learning within their own context. “UNC’s faculty have gotten to know our organization so well over time, they are great about focusing the content to solve the problems our leaders are currently facing on the job. This approach helps our leaders take a hard look at how they work to improve their efficiency. It’s all grounded in their specific day-to-day challenges, and that makes a big difference. And, our people have some good fun in the process!”
The learning environment of the DTP is both comfortable and challenging. “They have very meaningful, thoughtful, intimate conversations, but they also have some fun with each other, which is really important in furthering our culture,” she explains. “The idea that, in the program setting, they feel a connection to a group bigger than themselves and, at the same time, they can get practical new tips and tools to use immediately on the job is very energizing for them. And we see that energy carry over when they come back to work.” Furthermore, participants of the DTP continue to utilize the practical application tools well beyond the program. “Former participants come to me and ask, ‘I went through the UNC program, can you resend me X or Y?’ The notion that our people continue to use the tools they learned in the program truly shows the impact it has on our leaders.”
The DTP experience has been so overwhelmingly positive that the program has developed a strong internal brand and, as a result, a long waitlist for participation. “We consistently have participants who recommend the program to their colleagues, and that’s a powerful recommendation to me. We have no shortage of people who want to participate. Our people think it is a really good use of time.”
She concludes, “What I so value about our partnership with UNC, and it really does feel like a partnership, is that it is not a transactional relationship. UNC continuously demonstrates a willingness to be flexible and to meet us where we are, within our own context. They speed up and slow down with us; they go at our pace. We have peaks and valleys, and sometimes more peaks than valleys, but they are on the journey with us. I think that we are clients who expect a lot, and UNC has stayed with us through it all.”