AHTD Preps Next Generation of Industrial Automation Leaders
Future Leaders Program
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
by: AHTD

Section: Press Releases

When Adam Jackson walked into the 2018 AHTD Spring Meeting, he noticed “a definite age gap between the majority of the room and me.” Jackson, 35, is the Regional Director of Sales in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska for Power/mation, an automation solutions provider.

During that first session, he did spot other people his age. After networking with them following the day’s events, he came to AHTD Executive Director Leigha Schatzman with an idea. “I wanted to put together a group of younger future leaders and executives in industrial automation so we could build up experiences and enjoy the same benefits our mentors have had as part of AHTD,” Jackson says.

Jackson created a proposal that included a mentor program and leadership and financial skills development. “The priorities of the program were split between developing a network of peers that we’re going to be in business with for the next 30 years and developing the skills necessary to continue the success our mentors have had,” he says.
With the support of the organization’s board of directors and executive committee, Jackson’s idea of creating the next generation of leadership has become reality as AHTD prepares to launch its Future Leaders Program (FLP) in fall 2019.
A Comprehensive Curriculum
AHTD’s Future Leaders Program is a comprehensive, practical approach that develops the competencies necessary for individuals to lead successfully. MRA, the management organization for AHTD, is tailoring its successful Principles of Leadership Excellence (PLX) curriculum to the industrial automation sector.

FLP will take place over two years in a blended-learning format, starting at the AHTD Fall Meeting later this year. At this and the next three biannual meetings, students will spend a day and a half in the classroom and network with industry insiders. The remaining content is handled in distance learning formats that include on-demand lessons, interactive group discussions and activities, and individual assignments.

The program comprises six different modules, all of which emphasize case studies or real-world scenarios to give students skills practice. The first two sessions form the foundational pieces for people in leadership roles. The first module, Trust and Influence, focuses on how to build trust in relationships. In the second session, Communication Skills, students perform an assessment of their communication style.

“This session is about how we flex our communication style to meet the needs of the other person,” says Janet Kloser, Learning and Development Manager at MRA and one of the developers of the specially tailored curriculum for AHTD. “Because in a leadership role, it’s not about you. It’s about you taking care of everybody else’s needs.”

Session three on Culture focuses on how company tradition and environment can influence someone’s success in a company, while session four on Motivation delves into what keeps workers engaged.

The fifth session emphasizes Performance Management Skills, which include training, delegating, coaching, and counseling. “Here, we determine how to give people feedback and set them up for success,” Kloser says. “From setting their foundational expectations of the job to determining performance standards, we paint a picture of what leaders should be doing.”

Whereas the first four sessions are geared toward the relationship between the leader and the individual contributor, the fifth session on Performance Management Skills is based on managing a team that may have different motivations, incompatible work styles, or simply don’t like each other.

“This is where we talk about how to manage conflict and get productivity out of people despite their differences,” Kloser says.

Leading Change, the sixth module, provides tactical actions on scenarios such as overcoming resistance and change, adapting communication styles for different employees, and what it means to build a trusting relationship.

“In every session, students will take away very specific tools that they can implement in the workplace,” Kloser says. “We encourage them to practice what they’ve learned and report back to other students, who can provide feedback and assistance.”
Success Story
As they are doing with AHTD’s Future Leaders Program, MRA has adapted its PLX curriculum to a variety of learners in different industries. After being promoted into a management position at Power/mation, Julie Ross participated in PLX to build her leadership skills. Ross, an inside sales manager, took MRA’s six-module series. She found DISC, the personalized worker profile, most useful.

After students answer a series of questions, DISC categorizes each participant into one of four work styles: dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness. “It tells you how to achieve results with your employees, but it also tells you how to work with those other three styles,” says Ross, who falls into the steadiness category.

What’s more, the AHTD FLP and MRA PLX curricula alike promote student engagement. “Instructors will put you in scenarios where you have to solve a problem with people from your own DISC style, and then you have to solve the problem with people from a different DISC style,” Ross says. “This allows participants to see the problem solved from different perspectives. The entire curriculum is very hands-on and informative.”
AHTD: The Next Generation
AHTD’s Future Leaders Program gives tomorrow’s industrial automation managers and executives a head start on the road to leadership. It also provides a critical step as companies come around to the reality of a generation gap.
“Our senior leaders understand why investing in the development of future management matters,” Jackson says. “This program will help in filling the pipeline with quality individuals who will be prepared to lead.”

Ultimately, Jackson aims to improve how his team performs — a common goal for his peers as well. “With a strong Future Leaders Program, I’m a better leader who can positively impact our organization and our industry,” he says.

To sign up for FLP or to learn more, contact Leigha Schatzman at Leigha.Schatzman@ahtd.org or call 262-696-3645. https://www.ahtd.org/futureleaders