The Right Stuff

Learn how Mastering Leadership Dynamics fosters leadership development.

Mastering Leadership Dynamics™ is a user’s manual for life, both in the workplace and beyond. The insight, knowledge, tools and strategies participants gain apply not just in business leadership but also for personal relationships.

Mastering Leadership Dynamics is The BB&T Leadership Institute’s most popular program because it explores the psychology of leadership. Participants, which typically include CEOs, executives and other senior leaders, gain valuable insight into the ways their beliefs and behaviors impact their effectiveness as leaders. And they gain the opportunity to focus on improving their leadership abilities during every session at this five-day retreat on The Leadership Institute’s wooded, retreatlike campus in Greensboro, North Carolina.

We spoke with Chris Smith, Ph.D., a senior consultant with The Leadership Institute, who facilitates Mastering Leadership Dynamics programs. He brings an extensive background in executive coaching, professional development and career counseling for participants.

Chris Smith, Ph.D., a senior consultant with The BB&T Leadership Institute, facilitates Mastering Leadership Dynamics programs.

Why do you think Mastering Leadership Dynamics is such a popular program?
Chris Smith: Because it meets a unique need in the marketplace. The program operates at the intersection of where psychology and leadership come together. We are experts in this powerful area of business leadership, and our program helps business leaders develop a deeper awareness of themselves (PDF) and of the factors that drive their daily decisions.

How is Mastering Leadership Dynamics different from other leadership-development programs?
What we provide in the program is based on neuroscience and psychology. That’s because who we are as individuals ties directly to our effectiveness as leaders.

Please tell us about your involvement with Mastering Leadership Dynamics and your role during a program.
I facilitate as either a first chair or a second chair. A first chair is the primary facilitator and works with the group during the entire five days. A second chair works with the group during the first two days of a program and helps facilitate a deep dive into the leaders’ self-awareness.

My preference is being a first chair for no other reason than I get to spend five days with a group of 11 or 12 successful business leaders. I get to facilitate a journey of discovery for this amazing group of individuals – and I learn from them as well.

What are the most common challenges you see from the participants? What do they want to improve?
The majority of the time the challenges come down to two related issues: communication and relationships.

The people we work with are very skilled and talented at what they do. Often, they’re experts in their line of business or industry, but they’re having problems managing their relationships at work and consistently using effective leadership strategies.

Do participants need to invest a lot of time and effort before they arrive on campus?
Not a lot, no. Before participating in the program, leaders complete a Strength Deployment Inventory and we encourage them to co-create program goals with their manager. We also ask leaders to request a 360-degree review from their team. Using that 360-degree review, they gain very specific insights about their leadership competencies and how they’re performing as leaders. For participants, there’s always an aha moment like, “I’m doing well overall as a leader, but now I can see I have some areas for growth and improvement.”

Mastering Leadership Dynamics is five days long. Can you break down how that time is spent?
In the first few days, the primary focus is a deep dive into self-awareness and the beliefs that drive leaders to think and relate to others the way they do. Then we shift to a focus on tools and strategies for more effective leadership, ending with a specific action plan to implement when they get back to the office.  

For the first six months after a program, we have a 45-minute monthly call with a group’s participants. The first 15 minutes of the call are a review of key learnings. For the next 30 minutes, participants share their issues with the group and get advice and support.

We also perform a follow-up 360-degree review with a participant’s team, so the leader can see what changes the team has seen.

Earlier, you mentioned communication as a challenge. What changes do you see participants make in how they communicate?
One common change we see is that they become more effective at active listening and asking questions. Others learn how to change behaviors of theirs they know weren’t working for them.

One woman came through the program and, before Mastering Leadership Dynamics, she avoided difficult conversations with her team and this created confusion among her team. After the program, she told us, “One change in my behavior is that now I’m not focused on being nice, but on being kind. As a result, I am more honest and direct with my team and willing to have tough conversations. Mastering Leadership Dynamics has allowed me to put on my Wonder Woman cape and be confident and true to myself.”

What are some other changes participants might end up experiencing after the program?
One of the things we teach participants is to keep a gratitude journal. We encourage participants to write down three things that they’re grateful for, either early in the morning or before going to bed. And if they’re grateful for something that someone did at work, we encourage them to tell the person.

I’ve had multiple participants tell me they’re sleeping better thanks to Mastering Leadership Dynamics. Two of these participants wrote in their gratitude journals at night and it reprogrammed what they were focused on before going to sleep. Instead of worrying about all the bad things that happened during the day, they went to sleep thinking about what went right and slept better as a result. And they started the next day thinking about how they were going to share their gratitude with people and they were much less stressed starting the work day.

I’ve been fortunate to witness some amazing changes in business leaders. And I know these changes have improved their personal lives because we get thank-you cards, letters and gifts from participants and their families.

By Jack Rosenberger

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