by Dinah Adkins
NBIA’s foremost proponent of professional development — including building leadership skills — is likely Karl LaPan, president & CEO and “Certified Dream Manager” of the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center in Fort Wayne, Ind. LaPan takes seriously managing dreams and building a culture that will help him and others succeed.
“Everything starts with the leader,” LaPan says. “Engaged professional development starts with the leader’s philosophy about continuous lifelong learning.” He requires that all staff learn to respect each other’s ideas, teaches that authority equates with accountability, and stresses that “higher expectations yield higher performance.”
These aren’t empty words at NIIC. LaPan relies on a performance management system that includes performance reviews, soft skills assessments, and other tracking and measurement tools to assist in growing staff. “I believe in regular self-assessment, linked and shared goals between and among employees, and evaluation of actual results metrics to determine success in reaching and aligning individual and organizational goals,” he says.
NIIC serves a 10-county region, and LaPan insists his crew of 11 (five full-time and six part-time employees) be diligent in career development, staff development and personal development activities. (See Sample professional development activities for examples.)
LaPan believes personal development should be based on finding the answers to questions he has gleaned from personal study:
These are all big questions. LaPan believes in opening himself up to learning moments; reflective thinking; and finding how to advance the incubator, improve himself or identify a gap or opportunity. He also believes the best leaders are lifelong learners engaged in a purpose that keeps them connected and motivated. “I am always open to creative self-destruction of the model that has gotten our program where it is.
“I believe strategy is not only about being better but different, so I am always looking at how we meet the higher order and more complex requirements of entrepreneurs,” LaPan says. “For example, I think incubators can be engaged in the executive recruiting business, but in order to do so, we need credentials in hiring the right-fit talent. My certification in a psychometric instrument like Predictive Index allows me to provide a service that would be cost-prohibitive for our clients.”
LaPan says professional development should be ongoing. “I believe incubation program leaders must be active lifelong learners, demonstrating their relevance and intellectual curiosity and investing in the most relevant toolkit and skill set to deliver the highest quality entrepreneurial training, coaching and services to their clients,” he says.
“I am driven to achieve my personal best, and in doing so, I have committed myself to the highest standards of performance and personal accountability. Personal reinvention is a prerequisite for staying power and success as an incubator CEO,” he stresses. LaPan then quotes legendary former GE CEO Jack Welch: “‘An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.’ This mantra drives me daily — personally, professionally and organizationally.”
For career development:
For staff development:
For personal development:
Keywords: management systems, professional development – general, leadership development
Phone: (740) 593-4331
Fax: (740) 593-1996
340 West State Street, Unit 25
Athens, OH 45701-1565