If you’re looking to invest in a startup, is your decision based on the business concept or the leaders turning the vision into reality?
An idea is obviously important, but Nasir Ali, CEO and co-founder of Upstate Venture Connect, says leadership and management drive investment dollars.
“Most venture capitalists prefer to invest in people, because people and their competencies and capabilities are how ideas turn into businesses,” Ali said.
“You’re facing a constant series of challenges because you’re forging new ground and you’re growing something that is increasing in complexity. If you don’t have the capability of building a team, you’re not going to get there.”
Right now, however, there is a general deficiency when it comes to quality leadership and management, according to Jill Knittel, president and CEO of JK Executive Strategies. Leadership training was either back-burnered by businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic or it is not perceived as a priority.
As a result, there’s a gap within companies and for those looking to hire. That’s why JK Executive Strategies is bringing in Jamie Cornehlsen, an Entrepreneurial Operating System implementer, to guide a two-hour leadership workshop. Sessions are planned for Nov. 15 and 17 at the JK Executive Strategies office at 1349 University Ave. in Rochester.
The sessions will serve as precursor to additional full-day courses in the first half of 2023, with certification very likely tied to the program, Cornehlsen said.
“What I’ve really learned is that during the pandemic a lot of people got promoted into management roles that never had any training,” said Knittel, whose firm fills C-suite positions for companies in a variety of fields. “A lot of companies for two and a half years have not done any training. Companies promoted people that had really good technical skills but haven’t learned the human part of it.”
And it shows, she said. So, the November workshop will provide guidance, with a deeper dive into leadership and management strategies at a full-day course in January.
The program will be geared toward anyone who is a leader of an organization or manages people, especially new managers, she said. The workshop is open to anyone, first come, first served, with 15 seats available for each session. Sign up is available at JKexec.com. The cost is $295.
“Are you doing what your employees need?” Knittel said. “These days, people will leave if they don’t have the flexibility they want.”
There was a time when major corporations such as Eastman Kodak Co., Xerox Corp., General Electric and IBM provided exceptional internal training programs, Cornehlsen said. Other firms often poached that talent to fill management and leadership roles.
“You no longer have that pool to draw from, and smaller firms are not making an investment in management training,” he said. “And lack of leadership is a hindrance for growth.”
There is an important distinction between leadership and management. If a company is going to grow, it needs both.
“Management is (a): caring about the person and (b): determining what they do best,” Cornehlsen said. “Leadership is about clearly articulating where you’re going as a company and how you’re going to get there.”
Both are critical, especially in today’s work environment where employees are much more willing to jump to another employer or field in order to find the work/life balance.
“Only about 20 percent of employees are committed to you,” Cornehlsen said. “They’re committed to you because, (a): they know someone cares, (b): they’re doing something they enjoy, and (c): they know how their strengths play into the organization’s success.”
Working remotely also brings into play management skills that weren’t top of mind pre-pandemic. Accountability is a concern with work-from-home arrangements, Knittel said. Part of the new leadership skillset is ensuring workers are accountable.
When attendees complete the program, Cornehlsen said they’ll have a proven set of systems and tools to apply on the job, and a roadmap for how to manage people and get them back on track. Too often, managers don’t know how to course-correct.
“Ultimately it’s all about, ‘How do we increase revenue per employee?’ ” he said.
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