January 2019 Message From UNICON Chair Peter Hirst

January 2019 Message From UNICON Chair Peter Hirst

January 2019 Message From Unicon Chair Peter Hirst

The Power of Passion

I hope everyone had (or is having) a wonderful holiday and we are now full of energy for the year ahead!

It being January, my year as the Board Chair of UNICON is already in its seventh month. As my esteemed predecessors in the role told me it would, this is turning out to be a very rewarding and humbling experience. The visibility that one has from the Chair makes clear the full range of activities and commitments that UNICON as an organization and that its members undertake—all on essentially volunteer basis. It is very awe-inspiring (that is both awesome and inspiring!).

Our industry is dedicated to helping our customers and clients understand, survive, and thrive in all the complexities, uncertainties, and ambiguity of the business environment. And it looks like despite the constant challenges, we are in good shape!

Our own annual UNICON Benchmarking Survey, which was published last November, showed that the 113 members of UNICON generated nearly two billion dollars’ worth of executive education programs in the previous year. This number is growing steadily and yet must surely be the tip of the iceberg—not only in the global investment in executive and leadership development, but perhaps even more importantly, in the investment that is needed more than ever.

Benchmarking Survey Highlights

  1. The Executive Education market increased, with diversified offers and delivery methods
  2. The number of offices has increased over five years, focused on a specific set of institutions (larger ones), but may have peaked for most schools
  3. New learning methodologies are being used, with different perceptions of effectiveness
  4. Business simulations, coaching, and online learning are the new normal; also partnerships with university and non-university organizations
  5. Both open enrollment and custom programs reported increased activity (titles; starts; program days) with 64%/78% of institutions reporting a revenue increase in open/custom

Another Benchmarking Survey, conducted by UNICON member University of St. Gallen, found that only one in six out of some 300 companies surveyed were what they called “champions” in the field of leadership and executive development. However, two thirds of “champion” companies were in the top ten performers in their industry. Of course, we know that is a correlation not a causality, but it does show how significant it still is for us to do what we do, and how we can help businesses and individuals excel.

All of us in UNICON are driven by a passion for our work as educators and agents of positive change, which our customers and clients recognize and appreciate (and I would argue is reflected in the robust state of our industry).  While we have plenty to be proud of, sitting back and relaxing is not an option. Yes, we have created great momentum and yet we must keep moving!

Those who attended the UNICON Team Development Conference in November of last year may remember an energizing talk by Dr. J. Gerald Suarez, now a professor at the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business, and an accomplished public-sector leader who served for eleven years under two U.S. presidents from different political parties. Suarez’s presentation made a lasting impression on me from the start, when he asked us, “Are you fired up?” He explained that one of the presidents he served started every meeting with this question.

The opening certainly spurred the audience to pay attention, but what I found particularly interesting was that Suarez has had an incredible career in a senior leadership position and is a seasoned and exemplary leader in his own right, and he’s now giving back to develop future leaders in all walks of life, including current and future generations of leaders at business schools. I think we were all inspired by his accomplishments, motivated by his energy, and entertained by his storytelling.

To all my UNICON colleagues and friends—old, new, and yet to be made—I wish you a happy and successful new year and let’s all stay fired up!

Peter Hirst, UNICON Board Chair 2018-2019


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