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For almost every Friday from Jan. 26 until May 4, six employees of the Firestone Industrial Products facility in Williamsburg made the hour-long trek up Interstate 75 to Eastern Kentucky University’s Business and Technology Center.

It’s what they took back with them that made the long days worthwhile.

The Firestone representatives were among 20 individuals from six different industries throughout the region participating in the Leadership Excellence for Middle Managers course offered through EKU’s Center for Career and Workforce Development.

Mary Perry photoMary Perry from Firestone said the course “reminded me why I went into supervision: to lead, motivate, inspire and encourage people. The best leaders do more than focus on structure and processes. They are innovators and influencers.”

Other participants came from industries in Winchester, Paris, Berea and Richmond.

The Leadership Excellence for Middle Managers course was established in 2007 based on a need expressed by local employers. Since then, 121 managers from 12 manufacturing organizations and the EKU campus have completed the program.

“We have strived to provide timely, relevant knowledge and skills training and to deliver that content in a way that will maximize the value to individual managers and the organizations to which they belong,” said Dr. Mike Roberson, professor of management at EKU and academic coordinator and lead instructor for the course. “We have been fortunate to have 12 manufacturing organizations from our region and parts of our own campus community share some of their fine management talent with us. The strength of those participants and their commitment to personal growth and development have contributed greatly to the impact of the program, and we appreciate the partnership with the companies that have participated.”

Most of the program’s students arrive with supervisory experience, ranging from a few years to more than 20 years. Roberson said the students desire and receive a comprehensive overview of topics aimed at enhancing their leadership knowledge and skills; in-depth discussions about issues and challenges they face as leaders; and tools, tips and techniques they can use as they strive for excellence in their current and future roles.

“Leadership is the means through which managers plan, guide, energize and mobilize their people and resources to get results,” Roberson said. “Middle and senior managers face additional challenges compared to first-line supervision due to the increased breadth of their responsibilities and the added challenge of managing direct reports who are supervising others. This program combines a thorough review of essential leadership and management knowledge with practical recommendations and perspectives. Great emphasis is placed on practical application and use of program content.”

A variety of active-learning strategies are employed, including in-class discussions, exercises, case projects, role-playing and electronic postings and discussions. Topics include principles of human behavior, performance management, goal setting, communications, teams and groups, organizing, decision making, presentations, and assessing the costs and benefit deductions.

Donald Carpenter, one of four participating employees from Hyster-Yale Group in Berea, said the program “re-energizes existing concepts of a leader and outlines areas where one falls short.”

In addition to Perry and Carpenter, participants this semester were: Chris Brock, Deaon Douglas, Stephen Roerich, Darren Smith, Aaron Taylor, Firestone Industrial Products; Amy Carpenter, Jeff Cromer, Dustin Lainhart, Hyster-Yale; Deanne B. Cottengim, Andrew Parsons, James Powell, Nikki Powell, AGC Automotive Industries, Richmond; Scott Cates, Jason Ingram, Mikron Industries, Richmond; Tamara Daily, Hidehisa “Hisa” Nagai, Kentucky Smelting Technology, Paris; Sandeep Dambla and Benjamin Lepage, Catalent Pharma Solutions, Winchester. All earned a certificate of completion, with corresponding CEU credits.

All instructors in the program are full-time faculty in the EKU School of Business. Roberson was assisted this spring by Dr. Beth Polin, an assistant professor of management at EKU.

Roberson said that EKU faculty benefit from the course, as well as their students.

“My job as a professor of management requires that I not only know the content of my field, but also that I remain fully in touch with the issues and challenges today’s managers and leaders face,” he said. “Each time I have led a group through the Leadership program, I have gained new examples and perspectives that I have taken back to my academic classes here on campus.”

EKU’s Center for Career and Workforce Development partners with the Bluegrass Business Consortium, with 28 member firms from Richmond, Berea, Lexington, Winchester, Harrodsburg and Paris; and the Southeast Kentucky Regional Training Consortium, with 12 member firms from London, Corbin, Williamsburg and Somerset.

The Leadership Excellence for Middle Managers course is offered on an as-needed basis, with the next iteration planned for January-May 2019. For more information, or to reserve a slot, contact Dani Gift at 859-622-8845.

In addition to the Middle Manager course, EKU’s Center for Career and Workforce Development also offers a popular first-line supervision certificate program on the Richmond, Corbin and Manchester campuses, as well as on site and online. For a full list of courses, visit

“If we don’t have it, we’ll create it,” said Tammy Cole, executive director of the center.

Inset photo: Mary Perry of Firestone Industrial Products