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How to set up an in-house leadership development program

In retail real estate, human talent is among the key ingredients for success. More companies are adopting best practices to help them nurture talent.

Phillips Edison & Co. conceived its Leadership Week to promote the firm’s new vision for leadership development. The event, which ran from April 30 to May 4, featured nearly two dozen programs, including guest speakers, roundtable discussions and podcasts. These podcasts were made available to the firm’s roughly 330 employees.

“We wanted to provide a bit of a splash for a launch, but this is really only the tip of the iceberg,” said Keith Rummer, the firm’s chief compliance and human-resources officer. Phillips Edison used the series to push a message focusing on four key leadership traits: authenticity, acumen, action and agility. All of this is a first step in weaving that message into the fabric of the company, Rummer says.

Learning has long been a core value of the firm, which has encouraged education through such programs as its PECO University and PECO NOW (the acronym stands for Networking Opportunities for Women). About a year ago the firm’s senior leaders began discussing succession planning. Among the things these executives realized is that, despite having promoted leadership development within the company, they had never actually articulated any of the personal qualities they had always sought in that leadership, notes Rummer.

“We’ve learned over the years that our associates really value storytelling”

A company team set about organizing focus groups and holding discussions to identify these traits, which would then be promoted to aid in recruitment and also to encourage associates to build leadership skills. This process, in turn, led not only to identifying the four key traits, but also to nailing down behaviors that support those traits: delegating effectively, rallying a team to achieve results and taking an active role in helping others succeed, among others.

“This Leadership Week is really something that was designed to appeal to the masses and give everyone a nice introduction to leadership,” said Rummer. Throughout the week, attendees received daily emails sharing recommendations from PECO leaders and citing articles, books and similar resources. They also had opportunity to attend on-site or virtual educational sessions with executive teams or with such guest speakers as consultant Beth Azor, founder of Azor Advisory Services, and chef-restaurateur David Falk.

“We’ve learned over the years that our associates really value storytelling,” Rummer said. One way that Phillips Edison promotes leadership, therefore, is to have specialists come and share personal experiences and discuss what the key leadership traits have meant to them.

“We envision that this will become part of our recruiting process, and it will become part of our talent management process,” said Rummer. “What these leadership traits will really do is provide a language for leadership.”

By Beth Mattson-Teig

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today