Leadership Live with Debbie Wong

Debbie Wong, senior vice president of leadership development for Bank of New York Mellon, joins Christine Tao for Leadership Live. At Bank of New York Mellon, Debbie oversees the development of over 5,000 high-potential individual contributors and managers. She acts as an advisor for Sounding Board.

During the session, Christine and Debbie explore the myriad of intersections managers face as people leaders and what L&D officers can do to advocate for a culture of learning and development in their own organizations. Here are some highlights:

Empowering through Empathy and Curiosity

Debbie underscores the significance of empathy and curiosity for leaders during transformations and disruptive change. Leaders must ask questions and listen actively to gain buy-in from their teams. This approach fosters psychological safety, crucial for effective leadership and organizational development.

“Change management is people management,” Debbie emphasizes.

Integrating Change Management and Leadership Development

Debbie highlights the intersection between change management and leadership development, which might not be conventional thinking for some. “In order to solve for change, we have to be able to solve for where people are going and their engagement and their buying,” she says.

Leaders must focus on the needs and engagement of their teams. Leaders can better navigate organizational transitions by integrating leadership development principles into change management practices.

Advocating for a Culture of Learning and Development

Debbie stresses the importance of embedding learning and development into an organization’s culture. She advocates creating environments where learning feels natural and part of everyday work rather than being perceived as separate, isolated activities. This approach encourages continuous learning and growth as well as improved performance and productivity.

“It sounds like common sense but it’s not a common practice,” Debbie explains. “It’s about educating leaders on what learning can do to help grow and expand people’s knowledge and capabilities.”

“In order to have a culture-enabled learning and development area that really takes it to another level,” she continues, “you have to be able to define what your culture is. It needs to have heavy sponsorship, where you have the most senior leaders talking about learning. And the third thing, it needs to be embedded into everything you do. “

Debbie’s suggestions aren’t hinged on technology, like nudges from email, but are analog solutions such as simply asking questions in meetings related to learning and development.

Shifting Mindsets and Enabling Vulnerability

Debbie discusses the mindset shift needed for effective leadership, particularly in traditional or conservative environments. Leaders must be willing to embrace vulnerability, acknowledge their own limitations, and create spaces for open discussions. This requires challenging conventional notions of leadership and fostering a culture of trust and authenticity within the organization.

Scaling Intimate Solutions

Debbie shares her experience of implementing intimate solutions at scale within a large organization. She emphasizes the importance of framing discussions around business objectives and positioning oneself as a trusted business partner rather than just a functional expert. This approach enables L&D professionals to tailor solutions to specific organizational needs and drive meaningful impact.

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