Combine the vision of Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan; a team of academics in the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU); consultants and practitioners who partner with the business school; and Jim Collins’ stimulating book Good to Great and you have the makings of an exciting, effective program to enhance the leadership skills of Norwegian’s 240 directors.
Katty Byrd, sales manager of 150 agents, expected the 40-hour course to improve her management and communication skills and was “convinced that it did. For example, I learned techniques that made me a better listener and by extension, a better communicator,” she said.
Using Good to Great, which Sheehan wanted as a framework, afforded everyone a common starting point, without constraining the discussion.
“All ten presenters read the book, and we made sure the program—which had a very practical orientation—tied points back to the book and to Sheehan’s goals for reshaping Norwegian’s culture,” said Rosangel Quintero (PMBA ’10), senior manager, Executive and Professional Education, the FIU Business office that coordinated the course development and logistics. “Though the focus was on leadership, a segment on finance made it a bit like a mini-MBA.”
Program development involved extensive give and take.
According to Ron Gilbert, the program’s faculty director, after extensive meetings with Norwegian he, Quintero and Joyce J. Elam, executive dean of the business school “developed ten topic areas that seemed to fit the company’s unique needs. With the help of Norwegian’s human resources experts, we also made sure that we got the right faculty on the right seat on the bus—a concept we took to heart from Jim Collins’ text.”
The content was piloted to a group of 60 students, further refined, and is now rolling out to all the directors.
Of the participants—a number of them FIU alumni—Gilbert says they are “very eager to learn, have an amazing passion for what they do, are fun and are exceptionally respectful of one another and of their organization.”
And of the program, Byrd says, “I really enjoyed the course and found it very refreshing and mind opening. I use several techniques in my daily staff meetings.”