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Leadership Development at Farm Credit Services of America

There’s a familiar adage that employees don’t leave their company, they leave their leader. This is one impetus behind the Farm Credit Services of America leadership development strategy, which targets improved business results as well as increased employee satisfaction and reduced turnover.

“Leaders can have an outsized impact on the work and the lives of their team members, based on how effectively they lead and the individual interactions they have throughout the day,” says Jessica Langenberg, Vice President of Organizational Development and Learning with FCSAmerica. “We believe it’s worth the investment to ensure that our leaders have the knowledge, skills and capabilities to impact their team members positively.”

FCSAmerica’s leadership development strategy encompasses every level of leadership in the organization, from individual contributors with high potential for leadership in the future, to new and more senior leaders who lead teams. Their programs are founded on an extensive assessment of the skills and attributes needed at every step on the leadership ladder and providing content that supports improvement in these key capabilities. One critical skill being developed is leading teammates through change.

“The pace of change has increased and the changes have gotten bigger than ever before, and as we all know, change is hard,” says Jessica. “It takes solid leadership to guide a team and an organization through all these changes.”

One of the populations FCSAmerica focuses on is emerging leaders, developing individual contributors to build a bench of future leaders for the Association. FCSAmerica manages a proprietary Emerging Leader program and also sends employees to FCCS learning programs, including the Leading Others learning journey.

Both programs teach participants how to coach team members, build trust, have tough conversations around accountability and conduct after-action reviews, among other key leadership skills.

Each year, high potential employees are identified based on a number of factors, such as readiness and succession planning needs. From that group, some will be invited to participate in the internal Emerging Leaders program and typically five will be enrolled in Leading Others. The distinction, says Jessica, is whether the employee will be better served building internal relationships and networks, or would benefit from external connections and insights.

“The content is not dissimilar, or the types of conversations, but the FCCS programs provide the unique opportunity to build networks across Farm Credit,” says Jessica. “Those relationships are valuable – for instance, we engage some of our business development teammates in almost every cohort and those connections have led to business opportunities with Farm Credit partners.”

On an individual level, FCSAmerica teammates have expressed their appreciation
for the organization’s leadership development programs, recognizing the investment
that’s being made in their career progress and the different opportunities
available to them.

“Our teammates really appreciate that we’re not just making point-in-time
investments that will primarily benefit FCSAmerica operations, but that there are
plans to help them grow and develop at every point along their career,” says Jessica.
Organizationally, benefits are harder to measure using a clear-cut ROI analysis
because they’re incremental over time. This can make it difficult for an organization
to make the investment, but it’s well worth it, according to Jessica.

“You don’t see an instant return, but it’s one that compounds over time,” she says.
“It’s hard to overestimate the value of strong leaders. We’ve found that by investing
in developing skills like communication, decision making, strategic thinking and
the ability to have crucial conversations, really good things happen within the
organization.”

“Forward looking cooperatives like FCSAmerica are making concrete investments in
developing their leaders as the lynchpins in employee productivity and engagement,
and they’re seeing results,” says Jeannie Clinkenbeard, Director and Senior
Consultant, and facilitator for FCCS’ Leading Self and Leading Others program.

“Improving leadership capabilities across an organization and throughout an entire
career builds necessary abilities, of course, and it also supports success amid
changing business needs and an evolving business environment.”

For more information about FCCS’ Leading Others or other leadership journeys,
contact Jeannie Clinkenbeard at 404-617-6917 or via email.

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