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.”

About the Author

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Alysun Johns

Currently a Culture Navigation Strategist at Compass, Alysun's focus and experience over the years has centered on organizing, planning, developing, and facilitating client projects and workshops throughout the US and globally. She previously presented and guest lectured at various local universities and professional associations.