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The human story behind the award

We can all do with some good news.  And what greater news to learn that Africa leads the way in executive development!

Standard Bank, together with Henley Business School and GIBS, have won the coveted EFMD Excellence in Practice Gold Award for Executive Education recently hosted in Belgium.  They are the first team to do so in this category in Africa.  “We were in very good company,” says Shayne Weideman, the designer of the programme in the bank, “INSEAD and Moscow School of Management won in the other categories, showing that we are truly comparable with the best in the world.”

Shayne is the Head of Leadership Effectiveness for the Standard Bank Group.  “Most leadership interventions are really just a solution looking for a problem.” he says in jest.  “With this Strategic Leadership Programme, or SLP, we wanted to create an experiential solution to allow our people from a 20 country footprint in  Africa to step into their discomfort to grow.  Because the banking environment is traditionally quite analytical and highly regulated, we needed to do something very different to encourage people to think and act in non-traditional ways.”  One of the immersive experiences included a night spent camping in the bush.  Teams had to work together to get a helicopter to land at a specific location. .  “The helicopter carried their dinner for that evening,” Shayne explains.  “If they didn’t achieve the mission, they didn’t eat!”

This new approach was a risk, Shayne admits, and he didn’t quite know how people would react to this very different programme.  But together with their two partners, Henley Business School and GIBS, they crafted an educational experience that is comparable to the best in the world.

The programme is high on context and experiences and less focused on content.  “We didn’t want to throw models and presentations at people,” Shayne explains.  “Rather, we created experiences for learning, like the bush experience, a day spent with horses, and a day spent in a local township.  I was continuously amazed at how resilient and adaptable our people are!  They embraced the uneasiness and the personal growth we saw was amazing.”

A key success factor of the programme was the nomination process.  In order to attend the SLP you had to nominate yourself and explain why you need the development.  “That was the first step in getting the participants’ buy-in.” Shayne says.

Through the impact evaluation study Standard Bank saw the standard success indicators like promotions, increased performance and awards.  But it is in the qualitative feedback that the real story lies.  Shayne tells of cohorts who still maintain contact through WhatsApp groups three  years after their programmes ran.  Many delegates have taken what they’ve learnt back to their countries and implemented various academies to share the skills.  Others have established community projects that are improving lives in the various countries.  The SLP promoted the concept of “LAST” – learn, apply what you’re learnt, share it and teach someone else.  And that’s the impact that Shayne is excited about.

“This programme has inspired me personally in so many ways,” he muses.   “I remember as a child drawing on Standard Bank slips because my dad was the printer for these documents, so I have a long personal history with the bank.  I have been so humbled by the amazing people we have working for this bank, the friendships and the very human bonds.”  He also sings the praises of the various partners in the programme, from the business schools to independent consultants.  “Every one of these people are a world-class practitioner in what they do.”

With the vastly changing world in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the skills learnt through the SLP are very relevant.  Shayne explains their approach to the programme currently:  “Because it is such an immersive and experiential programme, we decided not to run a diluted online version.  Instead, we are working with Henley and GIBS to run a series of sessions for alumni and new delegates to keep them engaged.  When the regulations allow, we will continue with the programme.”

And people are waiting in line.  “In the last 3 years 328 people attended, and we already have 210 people registered for this year.”

 Shayne Weideman began his career as a field guide in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve before becoming a corporate animal. He has been in the Learning and Development field for the past 20 years with the last 13 being focused on leadership development. He has worked in many industries, including IT, consulting, healthcare and financial services. Shayne is currently the Head of Leadership Effectiveness for the Standard Bank Group.

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