The willingness to be accountable, have difficult conversations, and view failure as an opportunity are essential skills that distinguish good leaders. That’s what nearly 30 managers and executives learned who attended ATD’s first ACCEL conference, Foundations of Management Excellence, at the Yale School of Management.
“Lead by example,” Yale professor and management consultant David Tate told participants. “Communicate about accountability as a value, and take ownership when there are failures. Frame failure as a learning opportunity.”
The intensive, four-day conference covered such topics as developing efficient team strategies, creating a leadership mindset, communicating vision and intent, being an accountable manager, and developing emotional intelligence.
The event integrated ATD’s ACCEL skills model (accountability, communication, collaboration, engagement, and listening and assessing) with Yale’s superior management training curriculum. The conference concept was developed by Ryan Changcoco, who manages ATD’s management development and healthcare communities of practice; the research for the ACCEL framework was conducted by Dr. Megan Cole, an analyst with ATD’s research team.
Retired Army Colonel Pilar Ryan, a former professor of leadership at West Point and now a consultant, emphasized that it’s a leader’s job “to connect with people in the room over mission, tasks . . . even if you’re not going to make them comfortable.” She said that “when you won’t have hard conversations, it erodes trust.”
Having difficult conversations is part of a manager’s willingness to give and accept feedback, Ryan said. “Have respect for yourself, for the other person, and for the organization,” but “be willing to make a change.”
“Culture is determined by the worst behavior you’re willing to tolerate,” she said, a statement that resonated with numerous attendees.
Ryan and other presenters stressed that the best way to accept feedback is by adopting a “growth mindset.”
That means believing you can change and grow through experience and through applying what you learn, said George Newman, a Yale psychologist and professor of management and organizational behavior. He said that in a growth mindset, you have a passion for stretching yourself, and you persevere, even when it’s not going well.
In contrast, he said, people with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities are etched in stone, and they evaluate every situation, continually asking themselves if they will be embarrassed or rejected.
The growth mindset is an idea that Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, discovered in her research. She is the author of the acclaimed book Mindset.
Conference attendees were so impressed with the quality of the event they gave a standing ovation to the event coordinator on the final day. Clenise Platt, staff development coordinator for the City of Virginia Beach, noted the quality of the experts who presented. “The information they provided was so powerful,” she said, and the format—a theme each day, with ample collaboration—made the event more than just another conference.
“It was an experience from start to finish, and the atmosphere in the room was so conducive to learning,” Platt said. “You walked in and felt connected to everyone who was there.”
Amy Wells, director of talent programs for Comcast, was grateful for “actual management techniques that will make me a better leader.” She, too, cited the atmosphere. “They all genuinely want to be here. They all want to learn,” she said. “They didn’t come here to sit; they came here to share.”