What to expect in the Exchange sessions

Since course content is determined by an issue analysis of each group, there is no set curriculum. However, the following session descriptions serve as an example of the varied approaches Senderlea uses to educate and engage participants.

Dealing with Difficult Employees                                                                      

To address this common and important challenge, participants are guided through a complete case study analysis. When encouraged to discuss problems they may be having with “difficult” employees, participants, by necessity, must describe the situation, their thoughts on the issue and any solutions they may have already attempted in order to request valuable feedback from other group members. By doing so, the situation immediately becomes clearer to the manager describing the problem, and often generates parallel stories from within the group. This quickly creates an atmosphere of acceptance, inclusion and empathy, and therefore encourages further discussion.

Participants help each other discover the root of each problem and through subsequent role playing, suggest possible solutions. For instance, if a manager learns that her “difficult” employee is struggling to perform his duties because he does not have the skills necessary for the job, the group sets out to design a strategy for understanding the root of the poor performance and a method of improving his job skills.

Similarly, if another “difficult” employee is assessed as having control issues and difficulty accepting the authority of her superiors, the group may launch into a discussion of Power—how it relates to respect, status, knowledge, connections, how it is used and abused. A group activity may include writing a personal reflection on the subject of Power for later discussions. Also, the facilitator may assign relevant readings.

In both scenarios, managers return to work with a list of possible actions and solutions.

Diversity in the Workplace

This topic has become increasingly popular, and not surprisingly. By 2010, over half of the Canadian workforce will be landed immigrants. It is critical for managers to understand how the various backgrounds, cultures, beliefs and value systems of their employees affect team dynamics. And, more importantly, managers must learn how to effectively lead such diverse teams.

One group benefited greatly from a discussion lead by Chantal Bernier, then an Assistant Deputy Minister at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. She shared her insights on the benefits and challenges of diversity, stressing the importance of developing social contracts to guide team behavior and productivity amidst obvious individual differences.

Group discussion led to the conclusion that women managers shared a common approach when dealing with employees with backgrounds that differed from their own: they were inclined to be lenient and non-confrontational in an effort to appear accepting of other cultures. Participants were comforted to learn that others reacted similarly and together they found the confidence to accept that while it is important to understand how different backgrounds may influence working behaviors, the priority should always be productivity and delivery of services. Revelations like these are made possible by a group environment of openness and acceptance, which encourages lively discussion.

Career Management

Managing careers as ambitious women leaders takes some serious planning. Who among us could not use the help and advice of those who have succeeded before us?

To answer this growing demand, the Senderlea Exchange brings in many senior level managers to share their histories and the decisions they made in their career development.

Sheridan Scott, Helene Goulet, Mary Carman, Dawn Walker are just a few women who were gracious enough to dedicate time to reveal their career histories.

Since many of the participants find themselves at a crossroads in their respective careers, not sure whether climbing the corporate ladder is the right move for them or not, hearing from women who had previously made similar decisions was invaluable.

These Contributors share their professional backgrounds, the personal support mechanisms that allowed them to commit to their advancement, the decisions they made in their choice of positions, and what they wish they had known before they chose to rise in the ranks of the Public Service.

Participants engaged these Contributors and walked away with personal advice for their respective careers, including valuable tools for getting ahead--the most valuable of all? The opportunity it afforded them to network with some of the most powerful and connected women in government.


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