The amount of money businesses waste on poorly designed leadership development is staggering. Too often, it is only when business realize that there is no tangible impact from these training programs that they re-think their approaches. Let me share some advice based on over a decade of experience in designing strategically aligned leadership programs that fully support your business strategy and are worth the investment.
Tip #1: Identify the skills and competencies that align with your business strategy
One of the biggest mistakes leaders make when it comes to leadership development is not tying it to their organization’s overall strategy. Take a step back and assess your business strategy. What skills and competencies do your leaders need in order to help execute that strategy? Once you identify those, you can build a development program that is directly aligned with your business goals. Here’s the issue: when the learning and development professionals in your business don’t speak and understand “strategy” they will not be able to design a program that meets your needs.
Tip #2: Make it interactive and fun
Leadership development doesn’t have to be boring! In fact, studies have shown that people are more likely to learn and retain information when they are engaged and having fun. Incorporate interactive activities, group discussions, and even some friendly competition to keep your leaders engaged and excited about their development. Also, the physical environment for leadership development can play a massive role in how effective leaders learn.
Tip #3: Keep it simple
Don’t overwhelm your leaders with too much information or too many objectives. Keep it simple and focused on the key skills and competencies that are needed to achieve your business strategy. This will help your leaders stay focused and better able to apply what they’ve learned in the workplace. The worst you can do is lock a group of leaders into a conference hotel, and load three consecutive days with as much content as you possible can. Make an educated guess how much of that content they’d be able to process and successfully apply back on the job. Instead, make the connection to strategy clear in every content piece and help people master a few key skills.
Tip #4: Provide ongoing support and reinforcement
Leadership development is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process that requires continuous support and reinforcement. Provide your leaders with access to resources and ongoing training opportunities to help them continue to develop their skills and reinforce what they’ve learned. Build a scaffolding around the leadership training, consisting of executive coaching and other means. The key is to help them stay focused and committed to implementing learning in ways that support the implementation of the business strategy.
Tip #5: Measure and evaluate your program’s success
How do you know if your leadership development program is working? Measure it! Set clear metrics and regularly evaluate the success of your program. This will allow you to identify areas for improvement and make adjustments as needed to ensure your program is truly supporting your business strategy. Designing your leadership development program using methodologies like high-performance learning journeys (Robert Brinkerhoff) and Jim Kirkpatrick approaches (especially ‘flag on top of the mountain’ and ‘chain of evidence’) will create strong links back to your business strategy – and allow you to measure progress and effectiveness in the best possible ways.
Reach out to discuss how I can be a sparring partner in both your strategy design and linking your leadership development efforts to your business goals. Good luck and happy leading!
Main Image by ZSun Fu