Training Top 125 Best Practice: Gables Residential’s LEADER Program
Gables Residential is a vertically integrated real estate company and privately held REIT (real estate investment trust) specializing in the development, construction, ownership, acquisition, financing, and management of multifamily and mixed-use (apartments plus retail) communities.
The organization realized that fewer on-site leadership positions were being filled through internal promotions. Talent & Development (T&D) examined this situation and found the feedback was consistent: “Employees aren’t ready.”
T&D then did a curriculum content review and realized the training program primarily focused on developing technical skills—Gables Residential was developing employees who were knowledgeable and competent in their respective jobs, but the organization was not developing leaders. To address this critical skill gap, T&D designed and developed an internal front-line manager leadership development program called LEADER.
LEADER is a blended learning program centered around six once-a-month, all-day sessions. Pre-work includes the MBTI personality assessment and StrengthFinders 2.0. Other assessments used include Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode, and 5 Dysfunctions of a Team. Participants learn concepts such as:
- Coaching versus feedback
- Change management versus change readiness
- Bill George’s “True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership”
- Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”
T&D introduces MBTI personality types in the first session, and the “Intro to Type” content builds upon each session and carries through to Session 5.
At the beginning of each session, a senior executive shares his or her personal leadership philosophy and thoughts on the session’s topic, followed by a Q&A session. The exposure to senior executives demonstrates Gables Residential’s commitment to their development, as well as allows employees to interact with these executives on a more intimate level. Within two weeks after each session, a regional T&D manager meets with each participant to discuss lessons learned and application of content and provide coaching to help them improve their ability to develop others.
To practice applying what they have learned, participants demonstrate their new skills through a video role-play software called Rehearsal. At the closing session, participants:
1) Share their personal leadership philosophy
2) Receive insights/feedback shared by others
3) Provide feedback about the program
4) Are placed in teams to solve for a regional business challenge and present their recommendations to senior regional leadership
The ultimate display of success is in changing participants’ leadership behaviors. Gables Residential has seen this LEADERship change take form with program participants through increased promotions of their direct reports. In one example, a LEADER participant actively worked with his team to develop both needed technical skills and core leadership skills. Through applying what he learned in the LEADER program, he was able to develop his team so that his second-in-command achieved a promotion to manager and then was able to promote one of his entry-level employees to fill the vacancy.
Since inception, 20 percent of LEADER participants earned promotions. In addition, employee engagement has increased by up to 5 percent in the Texas region alone. The program also inspired the creation of an additional leadership development program called “Emerging Leaders,” which is targeted toward individual contributors.