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Angela Heyroth
Senior Honors Thesis, December 1998
Colorado State University
In Completion of the Requirements for University Honors Scholar
Thesis Advisors: Ms. Elaine LeMay and Dr. David McKelfresh

Teaching Leaders to Lead
A Qualitative Study of the Effectiveness of the Training & Development Created for The Interhall Leadership Team at Colorado State University, 1997-98


Background and Purpose

     Colorado State University (CSU) is home to many student groups, including the Interhall Leadership Team (ILT). ILT is composed of the presidents and co-chairmen of each residence hall on campus. In the 1996-97 academic year, ILT experienced many setbacks, ultimately resulting in 70 percent of halls losing at least one president (some lost more than one, when the replacement also quit).

     This struggle was the main impetus for the re-creation of ILT, which took place in 1997-98. As part of the change management process, leadership training was established, as well as formal mentoring for the presidents and co-chairmen. Primarily, this thesis was written to detail the training efforts and the results of this training. In particular, this thesis discusses (1) a literature review of industry standards for leadership training and evaluation; (2) a background of student leadership at Colorado State University; (3) an overview of ILT training and mentoring; (4) an evaluation of ILT training; and (5) the impact of ILT training and mentoring.

Current Trends in Leadership Training

     Those who seek to lead need to be trained to truly develop into leaders. People are not born with an innate ability to lead, and on-the-job experiences are limited. To train leaders effectively, four formats should be combined:

The Personal Growth Approach utilizes outdoor activities and psychological exercises to get in touch with inner feelings.
The Conceptual Approach focuses on teaching leadership theories in a classroom environment.
The Feedback Approach enlists formal feedback procedures and consultants.
The Skill-Building Approach includes lecture, exercises, and role plays.

To combine all four approaches, outdoor-adventure activities, psychological exercises, case studies, lectures, self-assessments, modules with exercises, and role plays should be used in a comprehensive program.

     After the leadership program, the training needs to be evaluated. The most popular method for evaluating training is Kirkpatrick's four-level model of reaction, learning, behavior, and results. Reaction tests whether participants enjoyed training; learning tests whether they picked up key concepts; behavior measures whether this learning was translated to the job; and results tests bottom-line impact and long-term effects.

Student Leadership at Colorado State University

     Students at CSU have several options to choose from once they decide to become leaders. Of these, student government is one choice. Within student government, there exists a hierarchy, similar to the relationship between the United Nations (UN), the federal government, and the state government. Equivalent to the UN at CSU is the Associated Students at Colorado State University (ASCSU). The federal level finds its equivalent in the Residence Hall Association (RHA). Like individual state governments, which have autonomous decision making, hall governments at CSU exist on the next plane.

     There are ten halls and nine hall governments on the CSU campus. In addition to being responsible for allocating the money given to them by RHA, hall governments also create community within the buildings by designing and implementing programs, maintaining public areas of the building, and soliciting, and responding to, residents' needs.

     Hall governments are composed of several positions, including president or co-chairmen, depending upon the hall's constitution. Mostly, presidents and co-chairmen are responsible for managing the other elected cabinet members. On a day-to-day basis, they also work with hall staffs, create meeting agendas, run all-hall and cabinet meetings, follow-up with cabinet members, and maintain communication between cabinet, staff, and residents. For many newly-elected presidents and co-chairmen, this experience is their first venture into leadership.

     To support presidents and co-chairmen, the Interhall Leadership Team was created. ILT is a support group for these leaders, where they share ideas and problem solve.

     In 1996-97, ILT encountered several obstacles. Conceptual training was conducted for ILT members at CSU's Pingree Park campus, and limited team-building activities were played. Then, presidents and co-chairmen were asked to meet each week for ILT. After two weeks, the meetings showed serious lack of attendance, and soon, meetings were discontinued. ILT existed only as a "virtual" concept over e-mail. By the end of the year, seven of the ten residence halls experienced presidential turnover. Overall, hall government performance was weak and those few presidents and co-chairmen who decided to stay all year were frustrated. Obviously, change was needed.

     In May 1997, a meeting was held to discuss the future of ILT. A new advisor was named, herself a member of the group for two years. Furthermore, a new vision and mission was created, with a commitment to carry it through the entire year. The new mission was determined to be: (1) to provide mutual support and ideas, like it had in the past; (2) to maintain a dedication to leadership training/development; (3) to provide the wisdom and assistance of mentors; and (4) to develop into an interdependent team of leaders.

Overview of ILT Training and Mentoring

     To achieve the goals set forth in the mission, a three-tiered approach to ILT was formulated: (1) formal, systematic training; (2) ongoing, on-the-job training; and (3) mentoring and consulting services provided by the two advisors.

     To create this three-part leadership training program, several needs assessments were conducted. Needs assessments were done in three formats. First, based on historical information ("What skills do presidents typically lack?"); second, based on a self-assessment of the advisors ("What do we wish we had known before becoming president?"). And third, a formal needs assessment was conducted of former ILT members, asking what problems that had had that ILT could have helped with, and why they believed ILT did not succeed in its endeavor. The feedback from these needs assessments included specific items to train ILT members on, such as how to run a meeting, as well as tips for the administration of ILT, such as creating and maintaining a team spirit.

     With these needs assessments completed, a training program was designed to address each issue raised. The first phase was formal training at CSU's Pingree Park campus during the Fall Hall Leadership Conference. The training there included opening exercises, with team-building games, brainstorming on the difference between "leader" and "manager," and a discussion of group development. After the opening exercises, four training modules were presented, utilizing various techniques, including lecture and role-play. The four modules presented, from a workbook created for ILT for the lead trainer and co-advisor, were (1) "Introduction;" (2) "Running Effective Meetings;" (3) "Delegate or Do It Yourself?;" and (4) "Interpersonal Skills." Team-building activities, including a hike and a psychological assessment, were also part of the time spent at Pingree Park.

     The second phase of the training program was on-going and on-the-job training, which included consulting and mentoring, as needed. Additionally, on-going training, feedback, and support, was achieved by meeting with ILT every other week.

Training Evaluation

     Evaluations of ILT training were conducted four times throughout the 1997-98 academic year. Together, they touched on each of Kirkpatrick's four levels.

     The first was done immediately following the formal training at Pingree Park. It tested simply ILT members' reactions to their experience. The evaluation used a likert scale of one to five for each training activity. There was also a scale of one to ten for an overall question of ranking the training as a whole. The average score on this final question was 8.6, showing members did enjoy their experience.

     The second evaluation was done one month after formal training. The questions were oral and open-ended. This evaluation was designed to measure learning and behavior; it also measured retention. The responses to the questions showed that members recalled key points from training, and that they were utilizing this information on the job.

     The third evaluation was done at the end of first semester, three and a half months following the formal training. Questions were open-ended, but the responses were amazingly similar, as members recalled much of the same information, had similar reactions to training and to ILT, and had many of the same behaviors, as attributed to ILT. Such consensus displayed the power and effectiveness of ILT training.

     The fourth, and final, evaluation was done at the end of second semester, a full seven months following formal training. It was designed to measure all four of Kirkpatrick's levels. The overall satisfaction score, asking members to rate their enjoyment of ILT training, was 8.33 out of a perfect ten. Next, members remembered main elements of training, and these elements were transferred dramatically to their jobs. Some members, in fact, rated ILT as responsible for 90% of their effectiveness as hall leaders. Lastly, the long-term results show that training made a positive impact, as members each sought to continue in leadership.

     Besides these four formal evaluations, ILT could also be easily evaluated by the lead trainer throughout the year by observation. This informal evaluation showed members enjoyed ILT (reaction), learned the desired skills (learning), and transferred this learning to their positions (behavior).

Impact of ILT Training and Mentoring

     First, the impact of ILT training was shown in that ILT members in 1997-98 were centrally supported by Residence Life and the Housing system. Secondly, the turnover rate in 1997-98 was much lower than in 1996-97. In fact, only two halls experienced turnover In 1997-98 (rather than seven the previous year), and one of these was because the president became an RA.

     Next, ILT met its four-point mission statement, by providing support and ideas for members, by creating proper and effective training, by providing mentors, and by developing into an interdependent team.

     Furthermore, individual hall governments accomplished some major projects in 1997-98, including a benchmark recycling program, and a "save the cafeteria" rally.

Conclusion and Recommendations

     ILT training made a deep impact at Colorado State University, fostering leaders for the future and putting hall governments in a position of power. It was effective because it used so many proven techniques and approaches, and did so over the course of an entire year.

     To be truly rewarding, this training must continue. Additionally, ILT will benefit from the following recommendations:

Create a presidential reference library, compiled from the agendas, reports, and letters of former presidents.
A contact list should be created for new presidents to talk to former presidents, for help, consulting, feedback, and continuity.
Communication should be maintained with the presidents on 1997-98, to see how their leadership development has affected them post-ILT.
A succession plan needs to be implemented to find a new lead trainer for 1999-00, who can be taught by the incumbent trainer.
Hall government advisors need to be trained as well, so that they can reinforce ILT training, and so that their advising is effective.
Lastly, a formal feedback system should be implemented, so that presidents are more aware of their own progress to leadership.

     A final recommendation is to extend this program to other colleges and universities. Following these suggestions will result in an ILT that continues to create effective presidents and capable leaders.



      A. Why Train Leaders?
      B. Leadership Training Formats and Techniques
      C. Evaluating Leadership Training
            - Kirkpatrick's Four Level Model

      A. Student Government
            - Individual Hall Governments
      B. The Interhall Leadership Team
            1. ILT in 1996-97
            2. Re-creating ILT for 1997-98

      A. Defining the Gap: Needs Assessment
      B. Classroom Training at Pingree Park
            1. The Fall Hall Leadership Conference
            2. Opening Exercises
            3. ILT Training Modules
            4. Team-building Activities
      C. On-going Training and On-the-job Training
            - Mentoring and Consulting

      A. Formal Questionnaires
      B. Informal Evaluation (Observation)
      C. Mentoring

      A. ILT 1997-98 As Compared to ILT 1996-97
            1. Support
            2. Turnover
      B. Meeting ILT's Mission Statement
            1. Effectiveness of Training
            2. Was ILT a Team?
      C. Individual Hall Government Accomplishments