MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

The coaching approach in MIT Sloan's Advanced Management Program

1:1 Leadership Coaching in AMP

While the myth of the impenetrable, steely, bottom-line-driven executive prevails, it’s far from the truth. Executives are just people—even the greatest ones. Even Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg, and yes—even Steve Jobs. Mere mortals. Challenged by limitations.

The truth is, an executive may feel completely guilt ridden by conducting a vast layoff, or believe he’s vastly inferior to his fellow executives, or be completely exhausted by high levels of stress. She may become frozen with fear by large decisions, or need a more holistic business knowledge, or not be able to convince others to follow her lead. The list goes on and on...

Leading, as it turns out, isn’t so easy. And so we are left with two very basic ways to improve our leadership abilities: learning and practice.

That’s what our MIT Sloan Advanced Management Program (AMP) is about. One month to step away from work, to create a space for learning, and to practice, practice, practice before heading back to the office to implement new lessons. AMP participants engage in custom learning components led by MIT’s world-renowned faculty, including interactive classroom sessions, management simulations, and case studies. Participants also explore the many companies, labs and centers that make MIT and surrounding Kendall Square the epicenter of innovation worldwide.

In addition to all the above, AMP participants benefit from 1-to-1 leadership coaching and individualized feedback assessments—aspects of the program that make AMP extremely valuable to its participants and sets it apart from other programs of its kind.

Each year, AMP participants hail from more than 20 countries, and each brings a unique set of perspectives, skills, and challenges. Some are preparing for new roles, or they have recently made a career advancement that requires a major paradigm shift. Other AMP participants may be navigating their company through significant change, such as a merger at their company, new leadership, or a redirected strategy. Or, perhaps they’re managing the trial and tribulations of a start-up venture. Personalized guidance can be extremely valuable to executives in any of the above scenarios.

AMP participants are paired with an executive coach for three individualized sessions during the program—typically during weeks 1, 3, and 5. These conversations are completely confidential, and can be focused on any topic of value to the participant. These coaching relationships are often so powerful that the participant elects to continue the sessions beyond completion of the program.

“The role of a coach in AMP is a very important and dynamic one, says Court Chilton, co-director and faculty member of the program. “As people train to become stronger leaders, they need a confidential place where they can learn without judgment.”

This safe and confidential place may stand in stark contrast to their day-to-day work environment. “Many executives are being watched from all angles and are never off the record—their superiors, staff, peers, clients, competitors, stockholders, board members, investors, even the press—there are very few people they can be completely candid with, and certainly not vulnerable,” says AMP coach Dave Sollars of the UK-based Inuous, Ltd.

“The competitive landscape is moving faster and faster—the 24 hour news cycle and the investor focus on quarterly earnings is much more prevalent now than ever before. As a result, senior executives can feel a growing pressure to deliver stellar earnings every single quarter,” adds Cory Little, AMP coach and founder of Formations Consulting, LLC. “This can make leaders feel pressured to underemphasize long-term goals and grasp at the short-term wins. Can you imagine trying to really learn anything new in an environment like that?”

“In AMP, we’re creating a very fast, ongoing feedback loop,” says Colleen Berger, co-director of the program. “Our coaching approach is supported by a 360° online leadership tool that captures qualitative data about participants in four key areas of work behaviors—task management, relationship management, business knowledge, and reactive tendencies. For many, one area is stronger or weaker than the other, and sometimes strengths have become areas of overcompensation. This tool helps them learn how to find balance within those four key areas. It can be a very powerful and accelerated learning experience.”

Sollars says leadership coaching is also about unlocking the person’s tacit talent and vision by sifting through the noise of their pragmatic, strategic or political situation, and boiling down for them—what is it you’re really trying to accomplish here? What are the outcomes you really want? “This helps them set clearer long-term goals and develop their own voice as a leader … and create a line of sight between their current state and their future state,” says Sollars.

“MIT Sloan’s mission is to develop principled, innovative leaders, and we take that very seriously. We help executives create a far-reaching, positive impact that flows directly from their work. AMP participants are all highly motivated people who want to accelerate the trajectory of their careers. We help them understand the crucial differences between managing and leading, and they strive forward to be impactful leaders,” says AMP coach Dick Eaton, founder of Leapfrog Innovations.

“I think participants leave AMP with a better self-awareness and a fresh set of eyes, equipped with actionable tools and solutions to put to use,” says Ali Farquhar, an AMP coach and founder of GTL Coaching & Consulting. “I enjoy seeing them bring their own authenticity to bear in their leadership style, and sometimes changing patterns and behaviors that aren’t serving them anymore. That authenticity carries over into other areas of life, too.”

To learn more about the MIT Sloan Advanced Management Program, visit the program’s webpage or reach out to us with any questions. The next session of AMP is offered May 29–June 28, 2018. Applications will be accepted through Friday, April 13.

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