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Creating high performing teams

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“We learned a lot about the human element of what makes teams great. So, you think about high performance teams, and you think about numbers, and you think about strategy, and sometimes you forget that there is a human element – that’s the thing that drives it” says Todd Weiden, an EVP at SunTrust Bank, and participant in one of Emory Executive Education’s custom programs, where the focus was on converting high performance individuals into high performing teams.

Professor J. B. Kurish, Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, sees that the human element is central to great leadership and incorporates this in the design of their custom programs. He is clear on how vital the human relationships between the school and its clients are for successful programs to be delivered over the long-term.

Drawing on his previous experience as an investment banker, Kurish recalls that long-term partnerships are the key to good business. He advocates “taking advantage when markets are not in your favor, so that you already have relationships in place when the market does turn.” This long- term approach of nurturing client relationships and really understanding the client’s issues and challenges is key to Emory Executive Education’s custom programming approach.

Since Kurish took over leadership of Emory Executive Education at Goizueta Business School he has been keen to expand their geographic footprint – and has overseen building new relationships, nationally and internationally. Creating alliances with institutions outside of Atlanta and the U.S. opens the door to deliver content across the globe to new and existing clients. Frequently, participants in a custom program represent an organization’s global geographic footprint.

Kurish has also expanded the ‘intellectual footprint’ with a broadening of the programs offered, drawing on the expertise and depth of knowledge of the wider Emory University faculty. “With an increased intellectual footprint – we can cover more topics that are vitally important for senior leaders” says Kurish, highlighting that Emory University has world-leading expertise in healthcare. With renowned schools of medicine, nursing, and public health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention located just off campus, Emory Executive Education has access to an extraordinary nexus of knowledge about healthcare.

Emory Executive Education combines its strength in organizational strategy and leadership with cutting–edge content to deliver custom programs that are founded on deep knowledge of real-world challenges and new solutions. Access to real- world applications and dovetailing these into the curriculum makes the learning more tangible and impactful, and allows participants to gain enduring insight from applied theories.

One of the major challenges facing corporations today is understanding how to handle data analysis effectively. Emory has special expertise in delivering instruction on this, having launched its Master of Science in Business Analytics program (MSBA) – in 2017. Kurish, himself a respected finance professor, views the deluge of data available to organizations as a growing challenge. Emory Executive Education brought content from the MSBA program into its open enrollment and custom programs in recent months. At Emory, the Executive Education team spends a great deal of time with custom clients working through the data and identifying what is relevant and what is not. Kurish asks “how do we stop ourselves from drowning in all the information out there?” I think we need to slow ourselves down and think more broadly about the questions  we need to ask. In this day and age, with all the tools available, and all the data available, it is too easy to drive to solutions. I think organizations spend a lot of time driving to the wrong destinations. What we find with our custom clients is that they look to us to help them think about ways to sort out the relevant information.”

“This is where I think we do excellent work, in talking with executives and assessing what they need… and they appreciate it. They might say, ‘wow, we knew there was something but we really didn’t have it defined very well’ and they are open to us pushing back on them when we dig a little deeper and say ‘here’s what we perceive you really need. This allows us to build a better program with the client in mind. We very much stress the importance of collaborating with our client.”

Kurish’s conversation loops back time and again to the importance of relationships, the connections that grow between participants in programs and that endure long afterwards; the trust fostered between faculty and participants; and the vitally strong relationship between program provider and client – all of which are needed to create impactful program results. He is clear that Emory’s relatively small size, compared to some of their competitors in this top field of executive education providers, allows their relationships to be nurtured more successfully. “We truly view ourselves as a family and an intimate community of scholars and leadership professionals. We consistently get evaluated as being excellent on this rubric. We believe our small size really helps us perform better. We’re great on the tough analytics – you need to have the technical skills, which are necessary but not sufficient conditions for you to be successful as a leader. You need to really understand how to deal with people, small teams, big teams, and organizations. Personal relationships are what count in the end.”

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