May 8, 2023

Learning to work through volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity with Strategic Leadership Development at Haskayne

Six-month Executive Education program provides tangible benefits to organizations
Justin Binsfeld completed the six-month Strategic Leadership Development Program
Justin Binsfeld completed the six-month Strategic Leadership Development Program. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

VUCA is an acronym that describes the challenging times modern leaders need to work within. It stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Justin Binsfeld learned this term — and how to better work in this environment — during the Strategic Leadership Development Program through Executive Education at the Haskayne School of Business.

One of the biggest ‘aha’ moments for Binsfeld from the program was the metaphor of looking at organizational leadership as a party — and the instructors asked the participants if they were on the dance floor versus the balcony, an analogy used by Ronald Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie to demonstrate how strategic thinking leads to adaptive work. This not only shifted Binsfeld’s perspective but also helped him to take steps to change his approach.

“When I joined, I was on the dance floor, and I was kinda crawling into the stairwell when I could,” says Binsfeld. “Since then, there's still times when you have to visit the dance floor, but I try to be on that balcony, overseeing the bigger picture for the organization.”

Binsfeld has spent his whole career in upstream oil and gas, mostly on the drilling side of the service sector. He joined Beyond Energy as a sales manager and then transitioned to the role of vice-president of sales and marketing. It was then that Binsfeld decided to enhance his skills for this next step in his career. He and his wife, who is in human resources, explored different programs throughout Western Canada and found that the Strategic Leadership Development Program was the right fit.

The six-month program is a mixture of live, synchronous, online workshops and asynchronous self-directed online modules. Live sessions are held every other Friday morning, with learning engagement activities for participants to complete during the intervening weeks. These might take the form of assessments to complete, one-on-one coaching, or a tool to implement the learning from the previous week. The idea is that every Friday is set aside for learning — a day for participants to shift their focus from day-to-day tasks to focusing on their own growth and development.

“It wasn't just lecture,” says Binsfeld. “It's a working course. Why I took the course was to be able to lead change at the organization. So really being able to apply what we had learned to make an impact was important to me.”

Tangible benefits to organizations

One of the key components of the program is the Action Learning Project (ALP) process, which provides an opportunity for participants to practically apply program content, assess knowledge gained, and drive action through critical thinking and effective communication.

The ALP is designed in consultation with the participant's senior leader and guided through an in-depth mentorship process. Past program participants have achieved impressive results through their ALPs, including developing a new process to reduce mandatory auditing costs by approximately $5 million over five years, identifying an additional 20 per cent in annual revenue by identifying a new opportunity in the sales process, and creating a system to reduce company risk and control testing costs by 75 per cent.

Cohort continues on

Friday mornings are still blocked off for Binsfeld even after he completed the six-month course.

“That has really helped me create that time for me to be able to regroup, focus and strategize,” says Binsfeld. “It ensures I am not running around fire to fire and allows me to think more strategically.”

Binsfeld was a part of a cohort of 30 individuals that included executives and people moving into executive roles. One organization had their entire leadership team as a part of the cohort. While Binsfeld is a part of the energy industry, there were executives from design, funeral services, the electrical industry and the non-profit sector.

“There's a small group of 10 of us that have continued on with the cohort — meeting once a month,” says Binsfeld. “We're trying to look at real problems that some of the individuals are facing within their businesses. We're trying to continue that as long as we can. That's one of the dividends of the program.”

Attend one of the upcoming information sessions to learn more about the program. Register early to save a spot.

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