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Preparing executives for tomorrow’s challenges

Ask any business leader. Taking on an executive-level role can be exciting, challenging — and extremely daunting.

“Suddenly, you’re in a position where you have to deal with the company’s most complex problems and come up with all the answers,” explains Stephanie Hodnett, executive director of Executive Programs at Rotman. “It’s no easy task. As technology advances and as the way we do business changes, today’s executives are under mounting pressures.”


“We want senior executives to return to their organizations ready to use the models and tools they just learned about.”

-Stephanie Hodnett, Executive Director, Rotman Executive Programs


For organizations to stay competitive, they need leaders that can adapt and make good decisions quickly, adds Hodnett. This is where executive education and ongoing professional development are essential.

Rotman Executive Programs strives to give business leaders — from high-potential senior managers to senior executives — a solid foundation in management best practices. And these courses and workshops, which are taught by world-renowned researchers and experts in AI, analytics, behavioural economics, leadership, governance and other areas, puts current business issues and emerging trends into context.

“Our curriculum is relevant, applicable and current,” says Hodnett. “We want senior executives to return to their organizations ready to use the models and tools they just learned about.”

Acquiring business fundamentals: programs for individuals

Long-time Executive Programs participant Della Cogar often makes use of new management tools at Brightside Dental Care — a growing dental practice she owns and operates in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba.

After completing the Strategic Human Resources Management Program in 2014 she began thinking more thoughtfully about strategy. She went on to complete a number of other courses that expanded on the Playing to Win framework. Eventually, her team met with Stefanie Schram, associate director at Rotman DesignWorks, to think through the framework’s major strategic questions, and to develop a cohesive plan for the practice.


“Every time I feel like I need to improve on one area of business, I find a course at Rotman that covers that exact topic.”

-Della Cogar, Owner of Brightside Dental Care


“Since then, we’ve made sure that our entire business and every decision we are making aligns with what we were trying to accomplish,” she says.

Cogar has completed a number of open-enrolment courses at the School — including the Strategic Business Leadership Program and the Design Thinking Workshop. Because most courses tend to run for only three to five days and are repeated throughout the year, she is able to enroll in offerings that fit into her busy schedule.

“The timing has always seemed to work out perfectly,” she says. “Every time I feel like I need to improve on one area of business, I find a course at Rotman that covers that exact topic.”

A tailored approach to learning: custom programs

Meanwhile, corporate teams looking to transform their operations and improve their management practices might benefit from a more tailored approach.

Larry Indovina approached the School in 2015, shortly after becoming executive vice-president of human resources at Fleet Complete, a Toronto-headquartered technology company that specializes in GPS-tracking services.

“We had such a great team and high-potential talent, but we needed to arm them with the skills to be good leaders,” he explains. “An off-the-shelf, general program wouldn’t work for us. We needed a program that would address some of the unique challenges we were facing as we rapidly scaled to support our global growth.”


“An off-the-shelf, general program wouldn’t work for us. We needed a program that would address some of the unique challenges we were facing as we rapidly scaled to support our global growth.”

-Larry Indovina, Executive Vice-President of Human Resources, Fleet Complete


After considering the organization’s strategic aims and evaluating the team’s strengths, weaknesses and needs, he worked with the Executive Programs team to design a custom, leadership-focused program.

Now, every year, Indovina sends high-potential employees to Rotman for a custom six-day program, which covers core management strategies and approaches in unique two-day modules.

“It ensures that every manager is speaking the same language and is aware of the same methodologies,” he says. As Fleet Complete continues to grow — they’ve gone from an 80-person team in Toronto to managing roughly 400 employees, worldwide — maintaining a standardized training program is crucial.

“It’s made a huge difference for us. We’ve become more organized and more focused. I’ve watched employees move from team lead roles to manager roles to VP positions.”

Programs that address today’s business needs

Just as learners need to adapt to new demands, the School is continually designing new courses related to current business issues. This year, Executive Programs is offering new courses that focus on coaching habits, GettingItDone and giving feedback.

And Rotman will continue to deliver — and continue to evolve — the Directors Education Program. This program, which was co-developed with the Institute of Corporate Directors, teaches board members how to clarify governance aims and missions, and sets executives up for acquiring their internationally-recognized ICD.D designation.


“Ultimately, we want every participant to leave with a framework for solving organizational challenges.”

-Stephanie Hodnett, Executive Director, Rotman Executive Programs


To make the best use of technology and learners’ time, some programs will be shifting to a ‘flipped classroom’ model, where participants will be encouraged to stream lectures online and complete readings before stepping in the classroom. That way, more time can be devoted to analyzing cases and engaging in class discussions.

And the School is looking forward to introducing RotmanX, an online portal where executive learners have will access to massive open online courses and webinars.

“Ultimately, we want every participant to leave with a framework for solving organizational challenges,” Hodnett explains. “Beyond that, we hope that the executives we work with will maintain that commitment to learning and interest in continued growth. That will be the best predictor of their success.”


Written by Rebecca Cheung | «Go Back

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