Expert reveals tips on successful leadership training

Nadia Golenkova discusses the characteristics of future leaders, how to build a strong leadership development programme, and how to upskill in a hybrid environment

Tradelink’s learning and development manager Nadia Golenkova discusses the characteristics of future leaders, how to build a strong leadership development programme, and how to upskill in a hybrid environment

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Kylie: Hello and welcome to HRD TV. I'm Kylie Speer and today I'm talking with Nadia Golenkova, learning and Development manager at Tradelink. Tradelink has won the Best Leadership Development Program Award at this year's Australian HR Awards 2022. Congratulations to you, Nadia, and thank you so much for joining us today. 

Nadia: Thanks, Kylie. It's wonderful to be here. 

Kylie: Well, firstly, Nadia, what makes an outstanding development program in your opinion? 

Nadia: Well, I think it comes down to three things, Kylie. First, it's got to be meaningful. Everybody has their own leadership journey and everybody is a leader in their own way. So whatever you're offering for your people has to be meaningful to them as well as meaningful for the organizational context as well. So it's got to be tailored and it's got to be individual. Secondly, I think it's got to be measurable. You've got to be able to say what's changed, what's different, what's shifted, Who's noticed that it's shifted. So for us, I think it's been really important to get lots of different data points and make sure that we're actually measuring the program, both from participant's point of view, from the leader's point of view before the start, after it's finished and and in lots of different ways. And finally, it's going to be integrated or embedded, I guess, into the broader organization. So in our case, we use our leadership program as a jumping off platform for talent development, for succession conversations, for other conversations throughout the organizational cycle. And it's also connected to our Fletcher Building parent company as well. So everything kind of fits together. So those would be the three things that I can think of meaningful for the person, measurable for the organization and fully integrated. 

Kylie: So how do you go about upskilling your leaders in hybrid or remote models? 

Nadia: Well, we're no strangers to the hybrid environment and to distance learning and hybrid learning in our organization. We're highly geographically distributed. We've got over 220 locations across Australia. Some of them are quite remote. We have quite a complex organization and we also operate at quite small scale too. So some of our branches are say no more than about three people. So we actually started our blended or hybrid learning model and a digital first learning model in 2020. And what we do with this is we take an approach that I'm the best teacher for me and you're the best teacher for you. So our learning in a hybrid environment is self driven, but where it does require a facilitator, the facilitator acts as a guide rather than a teacher. And that's what we've done in our leading performance program. The facilitator is there and we bring teams remotely into the digital space from all over the country. But the facilitator is there as a guide and it's really a community experience and a sharing experience that leaders can, I guess, be able to support each other fully as well as get some information from the sessions. And the other component is that we found that it's very helpful in hybrid environments to have champions on on our sessions or on our programs that are senior leaders within the organization. So any time we run a hybrid program, we do have our guide facilitator, but we also have, for instance, our leading performance strength champions, senior leaders in the organizations that help contextualize and embed the program and add to the richness of the conversations as our leaders learn remotely. 

Kylie: What skills and characteristics do you look for in a future leader? 

Nadia: Well, the really funny thing about our program is that there is no set skills or characteristics that we target. We have based our program off the strengths methodology. And what that means is that everybody has a set of talents that they have within themselves, and it's those talents when they're productively applied that turn into strengths and therefore can be used for leadership. The way that I lead might be different to the way that you lead, but we can both achieve the same outcomes, and that's the kind of that meaningful component of the program that I was talking to you about before. So in that instance, we don't necessarily look for specific characteristics. We look to help our leaders raise awareness of their talents and gain the skills to productively apply those talents into leadership strengths. So that's the best part. Anybody can be a leader, a Tradelink, and an incredibly effective one. Now, of course, we do have operational capability models and product models and so on, other learning tools that help our leaders with the practical skill set. But in terms of that leadership capability, that's the approach we're taking. 

Kylie: And Tradelink. What are your L&D plans for 2023 and beyond? 

Nadia: So it's quite an exciting time for us at the moment. We're actually in the last year of our three year strategy for learning. So we're envisioning at the moment and trying to see what the future looks like for us. So, you know, the plan is not fully baked yet, but some of the things we're looking at is that while we're at a maturity point with our learning strategy, that we can actually start introducing some career paths and and using our core operational capability platform to kind of bring in more of a career journey experience for our leaders and for our people across the board. We are exploring gamification, and that's coupled with some more advanced analytics as well that we're able to introduce. And the other part of it is that now that our leading performance program is quite well distributed in our organization, although there's still work to do there, we are looking to introduce or start shifting this culture into a leaders coach culture. And that starts with strengths and that starts with understanding your talents and capabilities, but then applying them not just to leadership, but to becoming a leader as a coach in a unique way. 

Kylie: And finally, Nadia, what advice do you have for employers looking to supercharge their L&D strategy? 

Nadia: Ah it's funny because. Well, supercharge. I don't know if this will supercharge a strategy, but something that I've always found really helpful to focus on and I think it works in most organizations, is that you have to try and not get caught up in the urgency of the day to day or the urgency or the desire to respond immediately to things. There's that optimal word, which is strategy and not tactics. So I think from my perspective, what I found always helpful is to be able to understand the goal that the organization is trying to achieve and review the landscape fully from a learning point of view, from a people point of view, from inside the organization, from outside of it. And what that will do is it'll emerge some forces that are impacting leadership, that are impacting learning or capability in the organization. And when you understand those forces, you can actually understand what levers to pull to be able to adjust them to remove barriers. And and that's where your strategy comes from and that's where your solutions come from. So it can be really tempting to jump on the the first idea or to go where it hurts the most in a moment. But I've always found that taking this quite thoughtful view or thoughtful approach to strategy building usually pays great dividends down the track. And it actually means that you can be also much more agile and much more flexible because you understand things so deeply that you can respond really quickly to the right opportunity rather than just what's kind of in fad or what's in hype at that time. So I don't know if that's super charges a strategy, but it's certainly the foundations that that I think has worked for me. 

Kylie: It's fabulous advice. Thank you so much for your time today, Nadia, and congratulations once again. It was lovely speaking with you. 

Nadia: Thank you. It was a pleasure to be here. 

Kylie: And thank you, of course, to our viewers for watching the latest episode of HRD TV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.