Sharpen your self-awareness

Mark Van Troost

Mark Van Troost, Maintenance Team Leader at Brose Canada Inc., discusses how The Ivey Academy's Frontline Supervisor Program made him more self-aware and changed his outlook on leadership.

How did the Frontline Supervisor Program (FSP) compare to your expectations?
I came into this program with the expectation that it would be similar to the many cookie-cutter style leadership courses and workshops I have attended in the past. As with every course/workshop I attend, I came with both feet in, fully expecting that I will come out of the course with something. FSP did not disappoint. The structure allowed me to make a conscious effort to look in the mirror for a new takeaway each week.

Was the format of four consecutive Fridays with an online component conducive to your learning?
The once per week format of Fridays with homework and goals for each week was excellent. Much of this course was based on personal growth and understanding yourself. Condensed into four straight days, or a week long course, the Frontline Supervisor Program would have been information overload. The payoff would have been marginal. Learning in small spurts – with time to practice in between – is essential if students are to retain anything and develop their awareness and leadership abilities.

What aspects of the program stand out for you?
The faculty team: Ann and John. Both instructors were personable and spoke from experience. They were much different from the usual executives following a text. 

Role playing. So often we practice role playing with other leaders who cannot fully commit to the subordinate role as they cannot help but empathize with their partner playing the leader. Both parties end up participating half-heartedly, usually rendering it ineffective. The professional actors were a game-changer in the act of role-playing real life situations. For the first time ever, role playing made sense to me. The role plays were meticulously planned to represent real life situations. All eight situations are similar, if not nearly identical to the real life situations I have experienced at one point or another in my own career. It really was genius!

How did the curriculum prepare you for the challenges you face at work?
FSP starts with an in-depth look at your own leadership style as well as your learning style. For me, the results were far from surprising. However, it opened my eyes to how both styles can affect one another. It allowed me to become more conscientious of the learning style of others and recognize that my leadership style may need to adapt to the learning style of others. The role plays – including Everest, mediation, and critical conversation sessions – were approached as practice reps. All of these were good indicators of what every leader will eventually experience throughout their career. 

How has FSP changed your approach to leadership?
The emotional intelligence section for me wasn't surprising. However, an exercise that allowed me to recognize one area where more time and practice should be spent was pivotal.  For me, being fairly confident in my ability to practice empathy where required, I realized that it could be possible that my definition of the situations which require empathy is much different as a leader in the trades than it is in everyday life.

A new realization for me was my predisposition to taking on too many tasks on my own, because the hassle to get someone else to do them is greater than the hassle to do it myself. Also, I know it will be done right if I do it myself. I can now see how too much of this behavior can create an environment where I am not developing the people who are not doing their tasks properly of sufficiently. In a way, doing it myself is avoiding their inefficiencies. However, what I failed to realize is that it creates an inefficiency in the development of my team. I need to let them make mistakes and allow their inefficiencies to surface so that we can act accordingly. This will allow my team to grow not only as individuals but as a unit as well. 

How did the other program participants contribute to your learning experience?
Everyone knows something you don’t and there is always something to learn from the other people who are attending with you. I love to study the other participants and their outlook on specific situations. It is certainly nice for leaders to hear other leaders speak about situations that confirm the same problems exist in all workplaces. Listening to how multiple people have dealt with similar situations and their outcomes gave me a nice confidence boost for the next time I deal with a similar situation as I now have some operational experience tucked in my memory. 

Do you think your organization benefitted from sending you to FSP?
I have no doubt in my mind that every leader in Brose Canada would come out of FSP with a different outlook on their own personal leadership. It was gratifying to be a part of this program and to watch some of the newer leaders in the program make positive changes in such a short amount of time. Some of the changes I saw in the other participants over the course of the program – such as confidence level – took me years to build. I will be recommending FSP to be a standard course for leaders of all levels in our organization.

For more information on the Frontline Leadership Program, please download the program brochure

About The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School
The Ivey Academy at Ivey Business School is the home for executive Learning and Development (L&D) in Canada. It is Canada’s only full-service L&D house, blending Financial Times top-ranked university-based executive education with talent assessment, instructional design and strategy, and behaviour change sustainment. 

Rooted in Ivey Business School’s real-world leadership approach, The Ivey Academy is a place where professionals come to get better, to break old habits and establish new ones, to practice, to change, to obtain coaching and support, and to join a powerful peer network. Follow The Ivey Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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