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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Executive Learning and Development

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Page Revision: 9/11/2013 8:17:50 AM

Executive Learning and Development

Life-long learning is essential for individuals at all levels to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced environment.  Faced with constant challenges, changing technologies, and a fluid environment, executives especially must continue to broaden their perspectives and strive for continual professional executive development. Executives must specifically strengthen and reinforce their Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs), skills, and knowledge to make informed decisions and devise new innovative solutions to the complex challenges they continuously encounter.

Federal agencies often perceive resource constraints (including both time and funding) as barriers to their ability to support professional development. Irrespective of actual or perceived resource limitations, however, the Federal Government will be better served by equipping its executives with the knowledge and capabilities required to meet the leadership demands of the 21st century. By strategically prioritizing executive development, Federal agencies will maximize executive leadership effectiveness and potential, as well as significant organizational outcomes, while preparing the leadership corps for future challenges.

The Executive Development Plan (EDP) is a key tool in assisting executives in their continued development.  EDPs should outline the short-term and long-term developmental activities that will enhance an executive's performance.  These activities should meet organizational needs for Leadership, Managerial Improvement, and Results.  EDPs should be reviewed annually and revised as appropriate by an Executive Resources Board (or similar governing body designated by the agency to oversee executive development).

The 2008 Survey of Senior Executives indicated that many executives felt their training and developmental needs were not being met by their agency.  Over one third of the executives surveyed indicated they had never taken advantage of the activities commonly used for developing executives (e.g. 360 degree assessments, details, mentoring, coaching, residential programs, etc.).  The article, Three Barriers to Owning your Leadership Development, presents an interesting way of thinking about these barriers and some possible solutions.


Federal agencies are required by law (5 U.S.C. 3396) to establish programs for the continuing development of senior executives.  SES members are required to prepare, implement, and regularly update an EDP as specified by 5 CFR 412.401.

Federal Government Tools and Resources

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

  • OPM offers a variety of training and development opportunities as online or resident programs.  To learn more about these opportunities visit the Leadership and Development Page on OPM’s website.

OPM’s Executive Development Best Practices Guide contains information compiled from interviews with 17 Fortune-500 companies and 21 Federal agencies and reflects current trends and best practices in the field of executive development.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)

  • DOE has developed a Senior Executive Seminars and Courses guide.  The guide contains descriptions of over 350 courses, offered by 56 colleges, universities, and OPM.  Each course is matched to a particular ECQ, although some courses may have more than one ECQ.  Please note that course descriptions and information on dates, locations, and costs are taken directly from the course catalogs of their corresponding institutions.  Please check the institution's websites prior to registering.

  • The DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has implemented the Executive Career Enrichment Initiative.  Designed to be a comprehensive leadership program for the NNSA Executive Corps, the program (composed of members of the SES and Excepted Service) enriches the careers of NNSA Executives, develops future executives, and enhances the execution and growth of NNSA’s mission.  For more details on this exciting program, click here to view the program PowerPoint slides.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI)

  • DOI has developed an Executive Development Policy and fillable EDP, which provide guidance for continuing professional development of DOI's executives, senior leaders and senior technical staff.  At the beginning of each fiscal year, all DOI executives must develop learning goals in addition to their EDP. The policy also includes tips on writing an EDP.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS)

  • HHS began a series of SES Leadership Development Forums to provide meaningful leadership development training to its executives.  These trainings, held every few months, offer leadership development, functional training and networking opportunities for executives.  In addition to leadership and career development, these forums are a way to involve the SES in the priorities of both the agency and the administration. Please visit the HSS homepage for more information.

Other Public Sector organizations that encourage executive development:

Private Sector Tools and Resources

The Harvard Business Review: Features informational articles, discussions, and webinars for executives and managers alike. Subscribe to stay up to date on new and cutting edge trends in growing and developing senior leadership.

Federal Executive Boards (FEBs): FEBs are a forum for communication and collaboration among Federal agencies outside Washington, DC, and offer many training and development programs of interest to the executive and aspiring executive. The National network consists of 28 FEBs, located in areas of significant Federal populations, and serves as the cornerstone for strategic partnering in Government.

Private sector organizations that encourage executive development:


Helpful Tips

Remember that Executive Learning and Development can take place in a variety of forms. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • 360 Degree Feedback: A common method used by many organizations to help executives identify strengths and developmental needs.  Click on this link for information on OPM’s 360 degree survey services.
  • Formal Training: OPM offers formal training at its Management Development Centers and the Federal Executive Institute.  There are many other formal training opportunities outside OPM. For more information, visit the Executive Development Community web page.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: Mentoring and Coaching are very effective tools for personal and leadership development. OPM’s current mentoring program features the latest techniques for Knowledge Transfer, Speed mentoring, and Reverse mentoring. For more detailed information, please visit the Mentoring Wiki Page and Coaching Wiki Page, and share comments and best practices used by your agency.
  • Mobility Assignments: Both current and aspiring executives have the option to participate in mobility assignments (5 U.S.C. 3131). These assignments include details, special/short-term assignments, transfers, projects, use of Intergovernmental Personnel Act authority, sabbaticals, formal training, and other creative methods to expose executives to challenges and expand their capacity to serve.
  • Sabbaticals: SES members can also gain broader knowledge and experience by participating in a sabbatical. Sabbaticals may be used for teaching, study (independent or structured), research, or to develop work experience in the private sector, non-profit organizations, and State, Local, or Foreign governments. Other tools could include books, book summaries, webinars, and service in intra-agency work groups. 

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