Recognizing that Organizational Success Begins with Heart Association's Leaders

Recognizing that Organizational Success Begins with Heart Association's Leaders

By virtue of the American Heart Association’s Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) program, it has been named one of the top Learning! 100 organizations in the public/non-profit sector.

LEAD is a year-long “mini-MBA” program targeted at the AHA’s 50 executive directors (EDs).

The ED for any metro area is responsible for all volunteers and staff that lead events such as Heart Walk, Heart Ball/Gala and Go Red for Women. The EDs manage and recruit high-level (such as C-Suite) talent for their boards and direct all aspects of their metro area. The intention of the LEAD program is to improve the performance (and reduce the variability of performance) of the EDs, to create an educational experience that focuses on developing leadership skills, and to provide a strong peer network.

The program begins with a two-day launch event preceded by assigned prework that consists of YouTube videos, training created in Skillsoft, articles, chapters of books, various readings, plus a webinar that follows. Then, three case studies and two projects in four days of face-to-face training. Case studies explore topics such as influence, coaching, networking, building/maintaining relationships, diversity and more. Projects deal with real-world problems that AHA is working to resolve, oriented with issues that it’s having within the organization. The program concludes with another two-day session a full year after it begins.

“The inspiration and intent of LEAD has been to strategically invest developmental resources and opportunities in the ED role so that it can have a significant impact on the rest of the AHA,” says Katherine Neverdousky, vice president of HR and Corporate Training. “If we make an investment of time and resources, we know that we are fostering employee development, impacting retention, and assuring success in AHS’s long-term strategy.”

“The inspiration and intent of LEAD has been to strategically invest developmental resources and opportunities in the ED role so that it can have a significant impact on the rest of the AHA,” says Katherine Neverdousky, vice president of HR and Corporate Training. “f we make an investment of time and resources, we know that we are fostering employee development, impacting retention, and assuring success in AHS’s long-term strategy.”

As performance, retention and engagement within the ED role are positively impacted, so too are the same areas of volunteers, boards and staff (employees) in the metro areas led by the EDs.

“AHA is a very respected brand, and as such we want to ensure that our EDs are the best brand ambassadors in the communities where we are present,” Neverdousky notes. “By focusing on such a key and pivotal role and investing in a robust and comprehensive leadership development program, we hope to achieve measureable and positive impact to the EDs.”

The program’s design provides the EDs with:

  • leading-edge content

  • exposure to internal and external subject matter experts/resources,

  • best practices regarding processes and tools,

  • experiences solving real organizational issues

  • a peer network, and

  • in-depth study in the areas designated as important to the role.

The first cohort began in August of last year and ended last month. The second cohort launched this past April.

“Participants are very excited,” says Neverdousky. “They appreciate the opportunity to interface with different executives. It’s truly a mentoring opportunity for them and the subject-matter experts assigned to them, and they also get peer networking that makes for great conversations and discussions.”

One of the big areas of focus during the first cohort was improving fundraiser retention. To that end, turnover decreased from 21 percent to 17 percent. So the AHA is already seeing impacts to the areas being measured via anecdotal data that confirms the positive effect of the program on the participants, their staff and their leaders.

AHA is a four-time Learning! 100 winner.                           Recognizing 2 

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