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St. Thomas Executive Program

Propel yourself into higher leadership potential

What leadership skills will be needed to thrive in 2020? According to the World Economic Forum, these are the top ten:

1. Complex Problem Solving 6. Emotional Intelligence
2. Critical Thinking 7. Judgment and Decision Making
3. Creativity 8. Service Orientation
4. People Management 9. Negotiation
5. Coordinating with Others 10. Cognitive Flexibility

2020 is only a few years away. What are you doing to assure your ability stays aligned with business needs?

The St. Thomas Executive Program (STEP) is designed for high-potential, mid-career leaders in business with broad level business responsibilities including setting departmental strategy, leading people and budget or revenue responsibility. Our curriculum addresses all ten of these top leadership skills during this nine-day program. The three modules of the program cover:

  • Module I: Collective Ambition & Leadership
  • Module II: Strategic Thinking & Innovation
  • Module III: Decision Making & Execution

Program Format and Schedule

This program includes 9 days of in-classroom content. You will meet for 3 modules each lasting 3 days.

Module I: Collective Ambition & Leadership

September 26-28, 2018

Focus on 2020 Leadership Skills: people management, coordinating with others, and emotional intelligence.

Collective Ambition, a term coined by Douglas Ready and Emily Truelove of the International Consortium of Executive Development Research, is a model summarizing how leaders and employees think about their organization’s purpose, vision, targets and milestones, strategic and operational priorities, brand promise, core values and leader behaviors. By clearly outlining these areas, leaders can help their teams to collaborate and shape a collective ambition rather than each individual pursuing their own single ambition.

This module will help you to understand how collective ambition can help you in:

  • Leading Self – Engage in authentic leadership and use leadership mindsets
  • Developing and Coaching Others – Develop and practice peer coaching
  • Organizational Development and Change - Understand how to use polarities in your organization to be a more effective leader

Use the ExperienceChange™ simulation to:

  • Quickly turn powerful ideas and solution into reality
  • Speak and act with a common language
  • Align and engage stakeholders around new ways of doing things
  • Build a highly engaged culture of execution


Module II: Strategic Thinking & Innovation

November 6-8, 2018

Focus on 2020 Leadership Skills: complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and cognitive flexibility. 

What happens in your organization when chaos hits? To be an effective leader in an ever changing, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment, it is critical to flex from focus on problem solving to considering the enterprise as a whole to find a solution. In Module I you build the skills to lead in a VUCA environment. Module II gives you tools solve problems with creativity, critical thinking and business acumen. When a problem arises, you will be better able to:  

  • Use human centered design as a process to guide and strengthen your creative thinking and problem solving.
  • Practice various approaches to critical thinking to determine which is the next best step for your business.
  • Build your business acumen to determine if your solution is good for the business.


Module III: Decision Making & Execution

December 5-7, 2018

Focus on 2020 Leadership Skills: negotiation & influence, judgment & decision making and service orientation.

You know how to be a stronger leader. You’ve explored the ins and outs of strategic thinking and creativity. Now, how to you approach making a decision and executing on it. There are always multiple angles to a solution depending on the viewpoint of each stakeholder. During this module, you will:

  • Identify the different perspectives to a problem.
  • Learn the tools for holding strategic conversations and practice in applying these tools.
  • Practice making decisions better and faster using the right tools, and by having the right people involved in the right ways.
  • Identify ways to prioritize what really matters and learn how to focus more of your time and attention on these topics.

The STEP Difference: Program Highlights

Leadership Circle Profile™

You’ve likely completed various assessments throughout your career that measure different aspects of leadership. Some provide measurement of competencies or behaviors that impact your ability to achieve results. Others measure of internal drivers of your behavior like emotional intelligence or personality or style-type. By completing The Leadership Circle Profile™, you’ll get all three areas measured in one assessment to help you understand the full picture. This assessment will help you better understand what is going on, why it is going on and give a pathway for change. It incorporates your own feedback and the input of supervisors, peers, and direct reports to aid in completing your feedback. Learn more about this profile»  

ExperienceChange™ Simulation

Touted as “a year of experience in one session”, the ExperienceChange™ simulation will help you and your peer group work through a realistic change project. Implementing new strategies in your organization often require change – a new way of thinking or a new way of doing. The organizations that are successful in change are those who can create alignment, move with agility, challenge and involve stakeholders in the solution and keep the organization engaged in adopting the new way of thinking or doing. Learn and practice the behaviors, tools and skillsets to make change happen in your organization with this fun and engaging simulation. Learn More about this simulation» 

Peer-to-Peer Coaching

Collaboration. It has become a buzz word but, the sentiment behind collaboration revolves around working together toward a common goal. This program incorporates peer-to-peer work groups that delve deeper into class topics. This type of activity provides an opportunity to practice your coaching skills in a low stakes environment so that you can apply this type of collaboration in your workplace when it really counts. Plus, you’ll have a group of peers from your coaching work group to turn to when you need guidance in the workplace.

Leading through Change – “Endurance” Movie Review

You are faced with different challenges than Ernest Shackleton had in his 1914 Antarctic expedition, but the underlying themes in his story of crisis, survival and triumph may appear in your workplace. After watching the movie “Endurance” about Shackleton’s expedition, you’ll work with your peer groups to discuss how leadership played a role in this story. For Shackleton, what started out as planning what he hoped would be the first-ever trek across the Antarctic continent turned into a significant shift in leadership objectives. He needed to change plans to ensure the survival of all 28 expedition members. This case provides a great backdrop to discussion around leading in turbulence and the role of agility and focus in leadership.

The Ethics of Leadership – “The Big Kahuna” Movie Review

Grab your popcorn. Using the fictional story line in “The Big Kahuna”, you’ll watch the movie and discuss empathy, emotional intelligence, and other ethical traits that make employees better peers and leaders. The story features two seen-it-all industrial lubricant salesmen and a new employee from the research department. They gather the final night of a convention for a party in the hospitality suite with a main goal of getting the business of one particular big fish. When it becomes apparent that it is the new employee who has developed a direct line to the “big fish”, his strong religious beliefs bring him into sharp conflict with his older and more cynical colleagues.   


You never know how those you meet could be influential in your future. Whether it is gaining a connection with industry peers to talk through specific challenges or getting to know the faculty teaching in the program for specific follow-up questions, you’ll add additional like-minded peers to your network.  

Our Faculty

Our top-notch faculty combine real-world experience with cutting edge research


Module One:

Peter Krembs

Peter Krembs, a senior partner at the Center for Character-based Leadership, has almost 40 years of experience as a consultant to major U.S. and International Corporations in leadership development and change leadership. 

Peter specializes in the unique issues found in professional and expert-based cultures in financial services, health care, law, science and technology.  Specific examples of Peter’s work include helping professional experts make the transition to leadership and influence work, such as helping physician leaders balance clinical work with leadership responsibilities.  Peter’s health care experience includes work at the Mayo Clinic, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Mission Health of North Carolina.   Science and technology organizations include General Electric Schenectady Laboratories, Applied Materials, Medtronic, Imation and Genentech, a Roche Company. Financial Service organizations include Wellington Management, US Bank and several financial professional service consulting firms.

Peter was a faculty member of GE leadership development courses for engineers and scientists in the U.S., Europe, India and Asia for over 20 years, and is currently with the University of St. Thomas in Executive Education.  He is the co-author of On-The-Level, Performance Communication that Works, and the author of many essays and articles on leadership in professional work environments.  

Alison Smith, M.S.

Alison loves leaders and her passion is to inspire and support them to create extraordinary organizations.

She is the founder of The Really Useful People Group, leads the leadership development community at Wooddale Church and is part of the adjunct faculty at the University of St Thomas.

Previously she was vice president of organizational design and development for Caribou Coffee and the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group where she was responsible for organization wide training, leadership development, coaching and OD consulting. Prior to that she led the organizational effectiveness team for Carlson Hotels & Cruises. She is a master facilitator, licensed social network analyst and certified professional coach specializing in organizational and relationship system coaching.

Alison is a graduate of the London College of Fashion, Thames Valley University and the Roehampton Institute - Surrey University; She moved to the USA in 1999 and holds a master of science in positive organizational development and change from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Ohio.


Module Two:

Laura Dunham, Ph.D.

Laura is an associate professor at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship within the Opus College of Business at the University of St. Thomas and chair of the Entrepreneurship Department. She teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation. 

Dr. Dunham earned her Ph.D. and MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia. Her research focuses on the managerial challenges involved in innovation and new business start-up and development. Prior to her doctoral studies, Dr. Dunham worked as a management consultant in the strategy division of Renaissance Worldwide, helping clients such as Oracle, IBM, Lucent, and GTE to identify, evaluate, and develop new growth initiatives.


John McVea, Ph.D.

John McVea researches and teaches in the areas of entrepreneurial strategy and social entrepreneurship. His work had been published in journals such as The Journal of Business Venturing and The Journal of Business Ethics. He has written more than a dozen business case studies focusing on issues such as market entry strategy, innovation field studies, cash flow forecasting, challenges of growth and the use of social media. 

His teaching philosophy brings together three approach: students centered learning through case discussion, writing across the curriculum and place-based education. These approaches result in highly interactive discussion based classroom experiences. 

Originally from the North of Ireland, he has undergraduate degrees in both engineering and economics from the University of Birmingham, England, an M.B.A. from the Darden School and a Ph.D. from The University of Virginia.

Before returning to academia, McVea spent a dozen years working in industry for Dupont, initially in product/market development in the U.S. and ultimately as manager of textile filament manufacturing operation in the U.K. After earning his M.B.A., he worked for Bain & Co. in Boston as a strategy consultant advising in fields ranging from paper manufacture to oil drilling to private equity acquisition assessment.

Jim Shovein

Jim Shovein

Jim Shovein (CPA, MBA) is a Clinical Faculty member in the Finance department at the University of St. Thomas. He has been the recipient of the Opus College of Business Teaching Award. Jim has almost twenty years of industry experience, most recently as Vice President of Finance at Best Buy and previously as Vice President of Finance at Ecolab in St. Paul. He continues to actively consult with a number of Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities.


Module Three:

Leo Hopf

Mr. Hopf is the author of “Rethink, Reinvent, Reposition:  12 Strategies to Renew Your Business and Boost Your Bottom Line” which was named the book of the month by the Institute for Management Studies.  He gives a dozen keynote speeches each year on strategy, decision making, and business renewal. 

He has led hundreds of strategy sessions with CEOs, leadership teams, and boards of directors.  He designed the decision making and strategic planning processes for five of the Fortune 100 largest companies.  He has facilitated sessions with dozens of CEOs on behalf of two different industry associations.  Mr. Hopf also works to build strategic bench strength in the next generation of leaders. 

Mr. Hopf has worked in numerous business sectors: medical devices, health care, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, banking, insurance, real estate, food manufacture, retail groceries, office products distribution, high-tech materials, remote sensing, travel, upstream and downstream oil & gas, pulp and paper, chemicals, mining, engineering and construction, and building products.  He has led major consulting engagements in Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Kuwait. 

Each year he lectures on decision making at Stanford University in their graduate Management Science and Engineering department.  He also teaches strategy and business renewal at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Business where he is a Fellow of Executive Education. 

Before founding Teamhopf he was a Managing Director for Strategic Decisions Group, and served on their Executive Committee.  He is an angel investor and has advised and invested in dozens of startups.  He was formerly a member of the Band of Angels in Silicon Valley. 

Mr. Hopf earned a Masters of Business Administration degree with highest distinction from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and has B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and in Metallurgical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.  He received the Walter Jacobs Prize for inspiring confidence and enthusiasm amongst his peers while at the Tuck School.

The Ideal Candidate

You are a busy professional balancing a demanding workload in the office and an equally important personal life. The STEP program format has been designed with your schedule and learning needs in mind.

This program is ideal if you currently:

  • Have experience in the supervision and development of talent either through leading an in-tact team or leading multiple member project teams across a matrix of talent.
  • Understand the basics of disciplined project management: how to plan, organize and track the progress of a project.
  • Know the basics of budgeting; how to set and measure objectives that link to a larger strategy in the company.

Complete this program if you aspire to lead at a higher level within in the organization where performance expectations require you to:

  • Move beyond day-to-day implementation.
  • Transition from purely individual contributor problem solving to a role where you are responsible for collective performance results.
  • Manage higher level complexity such as navigating inter-dependencies spanning across boundaries or cross group responsibilities.
  • Shape the work environment to effectively support performance and take the initiative to coach for development beyond providing effective performance feedback.
  • Build strategy perspectives within a particular sphere of influence in the organization.
  • Balance an enterprise-wide view as well as a single functional perspective on a product or service. 

Your Investment

Invest in your career - Gain a strong ROI

Price: $9,995

Why choose the St. Thomas Executive Program?

  • Learn the skills needed to be a leader in 2020 and beyond. From the ability to solve complex problems to leading others, emotional intelligence to critical thinking, you’ll leave this program with tangible skills to be an influential leader.
  • Develop your coaching ability through peer coaching. Practice this important skill in class to be able to apply a coaching mindset in your organization.
  • Complete a leadership assessment. Gain a better understanding of where your current skillset lies as you begin the program. This will help provide focus areas to build upon and insight into opportunities for your own development.
  • Practice Change Management. So that when the stakes are high, you know what to do.
  • For a different way to learn. This cohort-style program will help you to build a network that is beneficial beyond your time in the program. We’ve incorporated classroom learning with peer coaching and movie reviews to aid in discussion of leadership. 

Additional Program Details:

  • Cost includes tuition, learning materials and refreshments.
  • Program sessions are held on the downtown Minneapolis campus. Parking is available within one block.
  • There are no prerequisites for this program.

Application Process

Learning with the right mix of peers is an important part of STEP. For that reason, there is a short application process for this program so that we can get a better understanding of your background and share this information with the faculty.

STEP Application and get started today!

Why St. Thomas Executive Education?

At St. Thomas Executive Education you will:

  • Gain practical tools from experienced faculty
  • Learn current, real-world skills you can apply on Monday (and every day)
  • Network with other professionals working in business
  • Have a personalized experience from program exploration to successful completion

All of this leads to a smart, practical and personalized experience to gain confidence and excel in your career. With over 30 open enrollment programs, we can help you dive into a specific topic area, understand business terminology and further develop your leadership and management skills.

Looking for other leadership programs?

If this program isn’t the right fit, you may want to consider other leadership program offerings at St. Thomas including:

The Coach Approach to Management

The Leadership and Management Program

The St. Thomas Executive MBA Program 

The St. Thomas Part-time Flex MBA