In 2010, Forsyth Technical Community College’s enrollment was soaring. The Great Recession of 2008 and high levels of unemployment had spurred thousands of workers to go back to school to learn new skills and train for new careers.

President Obama had even visited the college in Winston-Salem, NC, and given a speech highlighting the efforts to retrain workers. But the weak economy and state budget cuts meant the public college’s resources weren’t keeping up with enrollment.

Dr. Gary Green, Forsyth Tech’s president, knew that the school’s senior leaders needed to work better as a team to guide the institution through these challenges.

Leadership Framework Helps College Improve Collaboration, Teamwork
Senior Forsyth Tech leaders collaborate to turn their organizational and development challenges into opportunities.

“Our effectiveness as a team didn’t match the strengths of the individuals,” Green says. “We were more effective as individuals than we were as a team.”

So Green reached out to the Center for Creative Leadership for help.

The first step was to assess the college’s leadership culture and challenges as an organization. CCL conducted a Leadership Development Impact Assessment (LDIA), says Karen Dyer, group director of the education and nonprofit sector at CCL. With those results in hand, a leadership development program plan was developed — starting at the top.

Green went through CCL’s Leadership at the Peak, an intensive leadership development program designed for senior executives. His senior leaders, a group of vice presidents who report directly to the president, each went through CCL’s Leadership Development Program (LDP)®.

Over the next several months, the entire group learned more about themselves as leaders and about each other, and they also established a common language and framework to discuss leadership and leadership development at the school.

“The training has provided us with a common foundation,” says Dr. Conley F. Winebarger, Forsyth Tech’s vice president of instructional services. “We have a way to provide feedback, but we also came away with a common understanding of how we’re supposed to work together.”

CCL crafted a program that was designed to move Forsyth Tech forward in effectively addressing its challenges. The targeted audience, however, was not just the institution’s senior leadership team. Over time, other key administrators, such as deans and directors, also experienced CCL leadership development training.

Winebarger says that these programs have helped the school’s academic leaders see outside their own organizational silos, work together more and cooperate. That allows him — and the entire leadership team — to work more strategically, he says.

“One of the things we’ve done is that we’re able to work on a number of grants to support student learning and to support the college,” Winebarger noted. “Whereas before I’m not sure we would have been as productive.”

As just one example, Green cited improvements in the way the college helps students who enter in different paths, such as the adult basic education program and non-credit job retraining programs, access the school’s academic degree programs.

“How do we transition those (students) and move those individuals into our traditional college program?” Green said. “We’ve been able to create much better, seamless pathways for students who come into the college through different portals or different doors to ultimately take their education as far as they choose.”

In addition to extending formal leadership training throughout Forsyth Tech’s leadership and management ranks, Dr. Green and his senior team participate in a retreat every couple of years, facilitated by Dyer, to help them stay focused on strategic priorities and leadership.

“We invested in leadership at a time when we were stretched for resources and I think it was probably the best investment we could make at that time to move the College ahead,” Green said. “I would absolutely do it again.”

The training has provided us with a common foundation … we came away with an understanding of how we’re supposed to work together.

Dr. Conley F. Winebarger, Vice President of Instructional Services

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