Justine Zavitz, Vice President & Advisor at Zavitz Insurance and Wealth, shares how the Ivey Leadership Program helped her deeply understand her strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and provided her with an actionable plan to improve – and stay accountable – with the help of post-program coaching.
What led you to take the Ivey Leadership Program (ILP)?
I have always sought out coaches during my career, whether it’s to help develop the vision or strategy for the business or to help me develop in my role at my company. My role is dual in nature – I’m a financial advisor who attracts new clients and works with existing clients, and I’m also the Vice President of my company. The coaching I’ve received over the last 14 years has been focused more on the advisor side of my role and not the VP side. Within the next two years, I will be transitioning into the role of President so I felt it was time to focus on my development for this role.
Ivey has always been prominent in London, Ontario. London is where I was born and raised, and it's where my business was built. It was natural for me to look first to Ivey to find the program that was best suited to what I needed.
How did the program compare to your expectations?
The program blew my mind. The days were long but always interesting and relevant. The curriculum was so well organized and delivered that the hours flew by. I was engaged and enthusiastic all the way throughout. I left the program knowing exactly where my strengths and weaknesses as a leader were and had great ideas on how to improve. The ongoing coaching that is provided following the program is invaluable because it keeps me accountable for working on the things I said I would.
What are the biggest challenges facing you/your organization, and how has the program helped you meet them?
Our company is growing, which is always a great thing for a business. At the same time, we are going through a transition in leadership and the two primary revenue generators are the President and Vice President. As such, our time is divided between developing the strategy and vision, communicating it to the staff, managing the staff and office, working with our clients to develop their own financial plan, and to put the pieces together to help them implement it. Time is always at a premium and this program helped me identify areas where I can delegate, how to communicate more effectively and efficiently with the team, and how to provide constructive feedback along the way.
Which aspects of the curriculum were most relevant to you?
As much as I was entirely out of my comfort zone in the role-playing scenarios, they were the most effective at helping me identify my areas of strengths and weaknesses. The role-playing involved difficult situations that included conflict and confrontation. The biggest key to the role-play was that the other person was played by a trained actor who knew what buttons to push. The actor knew how to stick to character at any cost and understood the outcome we were looking to achieve. This made it feel very real! No matter what the case was, or who the character was that I was up against, it became very clear that I am great at adjusting my communication style to the communication styles of others to help them feel comfortable. However, this adjustment usually resulted in me not getting to the point and/or not addressing the conflict at hand. When I read my 360 Performance Feedback, my raters were very clear that I was great at communicating with them but that I didn’t offer constructive criticism and tended to avoid conflict. They found this difficult for them to accurately gauge how they were doing in their role or if there were areas for them to improve. This is definitely requiring practice on my part, but I am getting better!
How has ILP enhanced your skills as a leader?
The program helped me identify and practice areas where I needed to improve my leadership skills to elevate my team and help them progress beyond where they’re at. When I look at my role now I see the importance of me being an effective leader because it directly impacts the futures of everyone on my team, as well as the company. It also helps bind them to you and your organization, helping with retention of high quality, experienced employees. We are responsible for our teams’ development and being a strong, effective leader makes all the difference.
Have you found peers that you can continue to use as sounding boards, referrals and lifelong friends?
Absolutely! The people in our cohort are included in my biggest takeaways from the program! We shared openly during the program and afterward at the bar and we continue to stay in touch. Their insight and experience is invaluable.
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.