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Building a community of leaders: how ICAN is transforming leadership in Greater Omaha

ICAN Press Release

More than just an annual women’s leadership conference, ICAN provides programs designed to inspire leaders and transform organizations.

– Released June 20, 2023 –

Inspiring leaders. Transforming organizations. This is the ICAN value proposition. For decades, companies have relied on ICAN to develop the next generation of talent, creating a community of authentic leaders and allies.

“The best part about ICAN’s approach is it isn’t one-size-fits-all,” said Stephanie Francl, senior director of government and association accounts at Blue Cross Blue Shield Nebraska (BCBSNE), a custom programs participant. “The principles they teach can be tailored to your personal leadership style. This has made it easy for me to integrate what I’ve learned through ICAN into my role at BCBSNE.”

Founded in 1981, ICAN is noted for inspiring vital, resilient and balanced leaders (2,500+ graduates across programs and counting) who are dedicated to building and sustaining strong, inclusive, and healthy organizational cultures. Those lessons also impact our communities — with each leader continually making their boldest and best contributions for the good of all.

As our community grows and modernizes, leadership skills are more crucial than ever to navigate change effectively. And thriving communities rely on everyone, not just a handful of people at the top. With a focus on ALL leaders, ICAN has made a commitment to providing financial assistance for their leadership programs through their scholarship fund.

“It’s important to us that everyone has opportunities for advancing in their career, managing and activating a team, and finding intention and meaning in their work,” said Aileen Warren, ICAN’s president and CEO.

What began as a partnership to provide scholarships to the annual ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference has now grown into additional support for nonprofits and individuals hoping to participate in Defining Leadership and other ICAN programs who may not otherwise have the access or financial means to make the tuition investment.

To meet the varied leadership needs of our community, ICAN programming includes:

  • Defining Leadership: Offered to both women and men, Defining Leadership graduates master effective techniques for leading, living and working in alignment with their values, ethics and strengths. Defining Leadership is an intensive, transformational experience, building and bolstering self-awareness, emotional intelligence and leadership agility. Defining Leadership will be celebrating it’s 20th anniversary in 2024 and has nearly 1,300 graduates. This month ICAN also launched their Defining Leadership Alumni Network so graduates can continue their leadership education, participate in social gatherings in Lincoln and Omaha, build community and expand the network’s reach and access while recruiting new members.
  • Leadership and Manager Essentials are proven, custom leadership programs that organizations build in partnership with ICAN to run internally that develop leaders at the managerial and front-line supervisor levels, empowering participants to build strong and motivated teams, provide an environment of open communication and to ultimately retain employees and lead with purpose.
  • Emergenetics participants gain greater self-awareness and understand on a deeper level how to utilize diverse ways of thinking and being, both for themselves and their team. Through the Emergenetics assessment and workshop, ICAN provides participants the understanding and tools they need to connect with others, fuel talent development and build better teams.
  • Individual Coaching clients are paired with one of ICAN’s faculty members who advises them on their career, leadership development and more.
  • As part of Custom Programming, ICAN partners with companies to build custom workforce development programs designed specifically to address their needs, to fit their culture and to inspire growth within their company. These programs are delivered directly to employees, making these professional development opportunities convenient, relevant and immediately actionable.
  • The ICAN Women’s Leadership Conference, held annually focuses on women’s leadership development (allies welcome) and draws attendees from across the country and around the world (this year attendees hailed from 43 states and 5 countries). Individuals have attended for the last 30 years to learn about the latest business trends and find inspiration. The next conference will be held May 15, 2024.
  • 7x7x7 features 7 different topics from 7 local leaders for 7 minutes each. After the presentations, attendees have the opportunity to enjoy drinks and appetizers and join circle conversations for additional insights and networking. Omaha’s next 7x7x7 will be held Nov. 1, 2023.

Companies find value in ICAN programming across the board to invest in and develop their talent pipeline – and ICAN engages around 50 organizations in our region for leadership development support and programming annually. More than a smart business decision, participating in ICAN programming is a smart people capital decision, ensuring a company’s future leaders are equipped for success in a changing business landscape.

“BCBSNE is proud to partner with ICAN to help our employees grow,” said Joni Wheeler, executive vice president of talent and enterprise solutions and ICAN Board Member. “From their signature women’s leadership conference to customized training for our organization — they help individuals develop their authentic leadership style. We’ve seen the impact of that here at BCBSNE, as ICAN’s training enables our leaders to build new strengths that benefit their teams, the company and our members alike.”

Companies and careers don’t exist within a bubble — leaders rely on a community of people to enhance their leadership journey, grow their business potential, evolve their contributions and deepen their knowledge. When individuals graduate from ICAN programs, they leave with meaningful, professional relationships throughout the community (and beyond), greater self-awareness, a defined leadership voice, renewed purpose, clarity on how to contribute to their business at a higher level, and with more empathy and understanding of others. Opportunities for connection happen long after sessions end, with many cohorts organizing organic meet-ups and supporting fellow classmates.

“The best part about ICAN’s approach is it isn’t one-size-fits-all. The principles they teach can be tailored to your personal leadership style."

Stephanie Francl

Blue Cross Blue Shield of NE

Our region must not only attract new talent, but also retain the talent that currently exists here. Companies know that one of the key factors in an employee’s decision to stay or leave a company is their relationship with their direct leader and a genuine sense of support and role advancement. Ensuring that leaders are equipped with skills, courage and confidence to keep their teams engaged and performing at a high level is critical, especially in today’s competitive talent landscape.