When Education and Business Partner on Development, it’s a Game-Changer!

Recently, we embarked on a journey to capture both client and partner stories about their work in helping organizations build Constructive individuals, leaders, teams, and cultures. Tasked with interviewing, filming, discovering, and divulging the complex and rewarding work of development, we loaded up the SUV and traveled through Wisconsin to bring together an applied perspective on leadership and culture.

We’ll be sharing these stories and videos over the next few months and hope you find them useful in planning for your own change journey.

For our first profile, we are pleased to highlight an education powerhouse, the Wisconsin School of Business Center for Professional & Executive Development (CPED) and their partnership approach to continuous development and performance improvement.

It’s about development

For individuals and organizations looking to gain a competitive advantage in today’s modern work environment, developing oneself and improving the organization is an economic imperative. With a deep-rooted tradition of academic excellence and a reputation for integrity, CPED has a rich history of helping individuals and organizations become better prepared to meet real-world business challenges while achieving their highest working potential.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” –Nelson Mandela

For new and experienced professionals alike, being able to explore and analyze personal behavior and thinking styles for improvement and awareness in a focused and disciplined manner can provide a launch pad for personal achievement. Additionally, taking part in helping others reach their personal developmental goals or attain their organizational goals is tremendously rewarding and has a profound impact on all involved. Coaches and consultants, no matter the field, will vouch for this. Finally, and uniquely—as is the case with higher-education-based programs—a core benefit of the development journey is learning from the collective experience of classmates from different organizations, industries, and global cultures with similar real-world challenges requiring right-now resolve.

Begin with assessments

Jon Kaupla, Executive Director
With a leadership background in HR, Kaupla joined CPED in 2017 and set the vision, direction, and tone for the organization. And when you’re working with more than 100 different instructors, these leadership fundamentals are essential in executing a successful curriculum in the competitive segment of professional and executive learning.

Kaupla’s strategic direction for the Center included examining how CPED delivered its products and services as well as determining the role of assessments in expanding the learning factor and deepening partner relationships over the course of all development work. As Kaupla describes it, “This is an executive education center where we have literally thousands of students come through in executive development courses […] and many of them really like that we have some sort of an assessment tool built into the classes and programs.” He adds, “We hear over and over again from our partners that this is truly life-changing in helping them propel and accelerate their careers as leaders.”


To orchestrate and implement a sustainable change strategy requires some heavy lifting, and Kaupla is flanked by very capable specialists who know this domain well: Tracy Nelson, Kate Schlesinger, and Jon Zulawski bring both industry brains and brawn.

Jon Zulawski, Director of Learning Development
“Offering a broad spectrum of programming across a variety of topical areas, CPED provides people at different points in their career with assessments that utilize a common and consistent language people can use throughout the course of their career as they’re evaluating their professional and personal growth, whether it’s how they’re communicating with others, how they’re leading their teams, or whether it’s behaviors they’re engaging with in building a Constructive workplace culture,” says Zulawski. The newest member of the team, he works closely on new product development and supports both the public and custom sides of the business, ensuring smooth logistics and delivery of assessments while also overseeing a full portfolio of assessments, including those developed by Human Synergistics.

Align for business priorities and key partnerships

Tracy Nelson, Vice President of Talent Solutions
Responsible for understanding partner and learner needs, Nelson ensures that CPED solutions are extensive in order to help address critical business needs and professional development. As she points out, “We moved away from just doing training events and are focused on developing more comprehensive development experiences—packaging together a variety of different development tools and doing overall professional development solutions for our learners—and assessment is a really important part. We use leadership assessments extensively in our programming, and we often hear from our learners that it’s the thing they value most about the program. It really gives them an opportunity to look in the mirror and do some self-reflection on their leadership style. And it’s part of their entire growth and development experience that they regularly express a lot of value in.”

“To me, the #1 key to success is creating lasting positive change in yourself and others. That is what is most rare, most difficult, and most valuable about leading people.” –Marshall Goldsmith

In order to deliver assessment technology to thousands of professionals seeking development learning each year, Nelson shares, “The partnership with Human Synergistics really benefits us as an organization and our learners and partners because […] the breadth of assessments available gives us a comprehensive suite of tools that we can use for a variety of needs. We especially like that when we approach a client, we’re not having to pull from different tools that don’t align. So, having that suite of assessments and tools available that are all aligned is a real advantage.”

Capitalize on your “Why”

Kate Schlesinger, Senior Director of Corporate Learning
With a senior leadership, educational, and sales background, Schlesinger and her team help organizations meet their talent needs by developing custom solutions for CPED corporate partners. Having built close relationships with the business community, CPED will be brought onsite to help organizations address varied challenges based on need, such as assessing a senior leadership team’s impact on their culture, providing debriefs and feedback for awareness, taking a deep dive into their culture and mapping a change process, or designing a program for transitioning managers. CPED also provides access to accredited trainers and instructors who stress-test how individuals respond to simulated scenarios to demonstrate how situations might actually play out in organizations. Seeing the advantage of having access to a suite of assessments and simulations with a common language, Schlesinger shares, “I recognized pretty soon that there were going to be some really great ways that we could incorporate all of those tools into the programs that we offer here.”

“You never really stop learning. You have to experiment and reinvent life to sustain your interest.” –Soni Razdan

As one of the first in the U.S. to earn the Certified Professional in Learning and Performance designation through the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Nelson adds, “At the Center for Professional and Executive Development, we believe in lifelong, continuous learning. While we are partners with the Wisconsin School of Business, which offers for-credit education, we are the natural next step for graduates as they go out into the business world. Your learning journey really should never end, and your leadership journey should never end. So, we like to pick up where higher education ends and become partners with our clients and individual learners as they continue their learning and leadership journey throughout their lives.”

Celebrating learning partnerships

Lifelong learning and evidence-based research are at the core of both organizations. CPED strives to improve performance and productivity for individuals, teams, and organizations in the areas of leadership, business analysis, supply chain, project management, and business process improvement. Human Synergistics specializes in developing and providing tools, information, and change strategies that enable individuals to reach their potential, groups to realize synergy, and organizations to achieve sustainability.

This year, CPED celebrates 75 years of helping individuals and organizations move forward. As a longtime supporter of academic institutions, Human Synergistics is proud to partner with CPED in their active support of personal and professional development.

Kaupla concludes, “I would say the partnership between Human Synergistics and the Center has truly been life-changing for our partners, whether at the organizational level or at the individual leadership level. It has been a game changer.”

It Starts with “Us” – The Importance of Leadership Team Alignment

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.”
~Stephen Covey

Leadership is indeed a position and level within an organization, but how we lead is our choice. More importantly, how we work with our fellow leaders can help us inspire the best in our teams, be true role models for members of the broader organization, and shape our culture in a more positive and Constructive way.

“You don’t lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership.”
~Dwight D. Eisenhower

As Uncle Ben from Spider-Man said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Sometimes, when a person is promoted to a higher level, they lose their grasp on reality and begin to go on a “power trip” because of their new title. When they become consumed with their authority and status, tunnel vision begins and the focus shifts to ensuring that “my team” is doing well and meeting performance measures, rather than how the broader team and organization is performing. This, of course, leads to silos and a lack of cooperation and alignment that spirals and leads to poor performance and, more importantly, signals poor leadership. Members of their teams begin to lose hope, and you can often hear, “Well, if they aren’t doing it, why should we?”

It’s important to measure the impact we are having on our direct reports. And it’s equally important to measure the impact we’re having on our peers.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
~Henry Ford

One approach to begin looking at the impact a leadership team is having is to assess the team’s effectiveness. This can be done by working with the overall team while conducting individual development with each of the leaders to increase their effectiveness with their own teams. Through these nine steps, you can begin to see progress within months.

  1. Purpose & vision. Complete a requirement-gathering session to clarify the purpose and vision for both the team as a whole and the individual members’ development journeys.


  2. Team observation. Work with an outside expert to provide support to the team. The leadership expert can observe the team dynamics and individuals’ interactions to understand the team’s quality of communication, coordination, and overall performance. He or she can then help the team identify key focus areas that would elevate their effectiveness.


  3. Individual 360 assessments. Each team member begins their individual journey by completing a 360 assessment, such as Leadership/Impact® (L/I).1 L/I provides unique insights into a leader’s personal leadership strategies—and the impact of those strategies on others’ behavior and performance—to identify gaps between others’ perceptions of their leadership approach and how they would like to be perceived.


  4. Education. Coach team members to help them gain insights into the factors that make a leadership team effective. Show them how their individual behaviors and leadership strategies contribute to greater team success and shape the organization’s culture or the sub-culture of their divisions.


  5. Team development plan. The results of the 360 assessments show the team members the impact they are having on each other and connect it back to the ideal impact they would like to achieve. The team can identify the structures and systems needed to support their purpose and create a team development plan to help them move toward a more Constructive operating style.


  6. Individual development plans. The leadership expert carries out individual debriefs of the assessment results and helps each team member create a development plan based on their 360 results and the priorities identified as part of the team development plan. They also review the impact they are having on their direct reports and the manager to whom they report.


  7. Implementing the team development plan. The team can begin practicing refined and more sophisticated group processes and new one-on-one behaviors based on their team development action plan. Other assessments, including those measuring group styles and processes, can be utilized periodically to confirm the team is operating in a more Constructive and effective operating style.


    In this video clip, colleague Corrine Canter shares a brilliant case for using the Group Styles Inventory™ (GSI), a group dynamics instrument that allows teams to gain essential insights.2, 3 And for Rolling Stones fans, enjoy Corrine’s opening observations.


    Download Corrine’s presentation here.

  8. Ongoing coaching. Each team member participates in a regular one-on-one check-in with the leadership expert to receive ongoing support, track progress, reconcile individual development activities with team plans, and make any (other) necessary modifications in their development plan. Ongoing coaching can take place on a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly basis to support each individual in their development efforts.


  9. Progress and evaluation. Hold ongoing, facilitated team discussions to track progress toward operating in a more Constructive style. A complete re-measure via the individual assessments and any group surveys administered (as part of step 7) is recommended to confirm the progress with respect to individual and team outcomes and overall effectiveness. Importantly, these measures should be connected back to business measures at the organizational level (such as turnover, customer experience, etc.) to ensure the movement toward a more Constructive impact is increasing those metrics as well as overall business performance. Based on these results, the leadership team and expert can determine the next areas on which to focus to continue the team’s development journey.

By going through this process, leaders can inspire exceptional performance, serve as better role models, and constructively shape their organization’s culture by working effectively as a team.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
~Helen Keller


Interested in taking a deeper dive into leadership and the ways leaders drive culture and performance? Attend our popular Impact Accreditation Workshop and take the first step toward becoming accredited in the Leadership/Impact® (L/I) and Management/Impact® (M/I) 360-feedback assessments.


1 Cooke, R. A. (1996). Leadership/Impact® (L/I). Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.
2 Cantor, Corrine (2018). Working Teams: That’s Culture. Presentation at the 20th Annual Culture and Leadership Conference. Sydney, Australia. https://www.human-synergistics.com.au/resources/content/2018/09/24/that’s-culture-conference-videos 
Cooke, R.A. & Lafferty, J. C. (1989). Group Styles Inventory®. Plymouth, MI: Human Synergistics.