Managers play a crucial role in organizations. Their work is often hectic and seemingly without boundaries, as they are required to simultaneously organize, control, direct, coordinate and lead. They connect organizational goals to their team’s work and are the strongest drivers of employee motivation, and engagement. When it comes to being a manager within the UN system, the challenge is even more complex. Agenda 2030, the UN reform process, and initiatives such as the UN System Leadership Framework call on UN managers to be the role models of UN leadership values and behaviours; foster a culture of innovation; implement change; and ultimately strengthen the UN’s ability to support countries to achieve a sustainable future.
A tailored programme to support UN Managers in their career
Given the weight of responsibilities and expectations that fall on UN managers, it is crucial to provide them with focused and tailored support that reflects the high demands that accompany their position. With many years of experience in designing and developing training for the UN system, UNSSC is offering a learning opportunity tailor-made to such UN managers, the "UN System Executive Management Programme".
Delivered by the UNSSC Knowledge Center for Leadership and Management, the programme has a blended structure. It begins with an online learning phase followed by a 360-Degree Assessment and individual coaching sessions, and is completed by a face-to-face workshop with participants meeting in Turin, Italy. The third edition of the programme concluded in February 2020, receiving high ratings by the 35 participants who hailed from positions throughout the UN system. When examining the evaluation data, we can identify how the three distinct, yet linked phases of the programme impacted the professional lives of UN Managers.
Nine management skills in nine online modules
A full 72 per cent of participants who responded to the evaluation indicated that the learning delivered through the in-depth online component was tailored to their learning needs, describing it as “well rounded and structured.” This phase comprises nine modules, each one focusing on a specific core management skill required to successfully navigate in their role. At this stage, the professionals have the opportunity to engage in moderated online discussions, in which UNSSC engages with them and aligns the baseline content of each module to their specific needs and realities.
A 360-Degree Assessment for professional improvement
The second phase consists of a 360-Degree Assessment aligned with the UN System Leadership Culture Framework, through which participants receive feedback on their leadership and management performance from a set of colleagues. “The 360-Degree Assessment allowed me to access and recalibrate my connection with other staff, peers and subordinates.” one participant reported. This component represents a unique opportunity for UN managers to examine their strengths, weaknesses, and aspects of leadership as rated by the people in their sphere of influence, paving the way for professional improvement and growth.
From coaching sessions to action plans
The results of the 360-degree assessment lead to two coaching sessions with an experienced executive coach who supported the managers to understand their personal career visions and make action plans to lead to desired change. The coaching sessions were rated as particularly useful for the participants of the last edition: 90 per cent of respondents indicated that they could apply what they learned during this phase directly to their work, and 85 per cent considered particularly helpful the part of creating action plans to incorporate into their daily professional lives. “Coaching has allowed me to identify priority leadership behaviours, and programme in corresponding actions to strengthen those behaviours in my day-to-day work.”
Growing through peer-to-peer learning
The programme ends with its critical capstone, the five-day Residential Workshop at the UNSSC Campus in Turin. Considered as “the vital ingredient to the success of the entire programme” this face-to-face stage see participants working in groups and examining a specially designed “eco-system” of UN-focused case studies, developed to apply what they have learned during the online phase to common organizational experiences. The structure of the workshop allows for the curation of the right environment for the contextualising of learning and the combined sharing of expertise among participants, contributing to the development of a like-trained Community of Practice. This opportunity to develop collaborative peer-to-peer learning and network building has been appreciated by previous participants, being described as “the most valuable aspect of the workshop”.
Achievements and positive impacts
"Transferring the knowledge and skills acquired from the UN System Executive Management Programme became so important, relevant and applicable. I have had to use my leadership, substantive coordination and overall management skills but heavily supported by the knowledge gained from the programme to help me strengthen UNODC’s position in Ethiopia. "
Margaret Akullo, Representative a.i., UNODC Programme Office in Ethiopia
Overall, the significant achievements that were reported by previous participants are a strong indicator of the positive impact of the "UN System Executive Management Programme" in supporting UN managers to succeed in their leadership and management positions. Enrolments are now open for the 2020/2021 edition, which will start in April 2020. UN officials serving at P5+ or equivalent levels can apply by 31 March to embark on a learning path that will lead them to gain a critical edge in their career.