March 2023 – We Are The (Executive) Champions of the World. And of your Business Simulation Class.

With all due respect to the band Queen – we are not ‘the champions of the world’ in which our business simulation classes run.  Instead, we need an actual Executive Champion to keep on fighting ‘til the end.  And through their participation and influence, to help support our classes.

Executive support is valuable for anything you do at a company, including leadership and development initiatives.  A study from the Association for Talent Development found that companies in which senior leaders clearly supported and communicated the criticality of learning and development were much more likely to exhibit high performance.  But there’s room for improvement: the ATD study also found that only 20% of companies had senior leaders strongly expressing support for learning and development initiatives.

What Exactly is an Executive Champion?

Let’s turn to Black’s Law Dictionary to get an official definition of an Executive Champion including its ‘legal meaning’:

Stakeholder-Advocate supporting certain activity, policy, process, view, etc. who is an executive in the organization.

Even the government has come up with a definition for an Executive Champion via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The definition outlines several attributes including: internal to the company, respected, trusted, committed, enthusiastic, and dynamic.

Regardless of whether you turn to the legal meaning or to the government’s definition, having an Executive Champion involved can be a very good thing for a business simulation class.  When people know that an executive is championing your business simulation class, it tends to raise awareness – and enrollments.  In fact, according to a Forbes article, a Champion is one of the 4 must-haves to drive key initiatives, such as learning and development, at an organization.

How a Champion Can Help the Class – and Themselves

An Executive Champion can bring many benefits to your business simulation class including:

  • Provide intense support and lend credibility.
  • Bring momentum, excitement, and enthusiasm for the class – and yes, increase enrollments.
  • Participate by opening and closing the class.
  • Merely by their presence, ensure that no one is ever late to the class.

And this is not a one-way street – several benefits also accrue to the Champion including:

  • Demonstrates their commitment to the company, the people, and the learning culture.
  • An opportunity to meet and interact with emerging leaders in the company.
  • Boosts their visibility.
  • Gives them something to do besides just running the company…

Find Your Champion and Prep Them

Work with your L&D counterpart at the company to find someone who can fill the role of Executive Champion for your class.  But a word of warning – people often find the business simulation process so fascinating that you may get people fighting to be the champion of the class (the CEO often wins that one).

The person you’re looking for should be:

  • In a recognized executive leadership role within the company such as CEO, CFO, founder, Senior VP, etc.
  • Respected, trusted, interested and engaged, enthusiastic, dynamic, energetic, personable, and committed to the class.
  • Available to appear at your class, whether live or virtual.

That’s a tall order, and only a partial list.  But to make things a little easier, here’s an interactive lesson from UNC to guide you and your team to identify and recruit an Executive Champion, complete with a toolset to frame and score candidates based on the competencies and attributes of the high-functioning Champion you are looking for.

Once you find them, you need to get them prepared for your class.  Depending on the amount of time they can spend with you:

  • See if you can get a brief block of time on their agenda to give them an overview of the class, the agenda, and the business simulation process.
  • Show them a few screens from your business simulation.
  • Discuss the learning objectives of the class: business acumen, financial literacy, teamwork, leadership, etc.
  • Give them some ideas of what could be valuable to say when addressing the group.

Put the Champion in Front of the Group

Visibility is key to getting the most value out of executive sponsorship for your class.  You’ll want to give your Executive Champion the opportunity to interact with the class in several ways, such as:

  • Sending a welcome email to the participants prior to the start of the class.
  • Addressing the group for 15-30 minutes at the start of the event:
    • Personal stories are powerful, especially those that reflect on the upcoming experience regarding business acumen, teamwork, persistence, finance, business growth, driving results, etc.
    • Have them reference success stories at the company from people who have gone through previous classes.
    • Make sure to leave time for audience Q&A at the end.
    • If your Executive Champion is not available to appear at a live class, set up a Zoom meeting for them to address the class virtually.
    • If they won’t be able to appear at either a live or a virtual class, or for a large multi-class rollout, have them record an intro video that you can play for the group at the beginning of the class.
  • Speaking at the end of the class about what they hope the participants got out of the experience and how it will help them and the company.

It’s cool to drop names at a business simulation class – especially the name of your Executive Champion.  And be sure to also let them drop the mic at the end of your class…