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9 ways to design valued and brilliant leadership development programs

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Designing leadership development strategically

About brilliance

There really isn’t much written about how to design and facilitate great leadership development activities, so I’m interested in capturing what has really worked over 20 years of working with more than 10,000 leaders, and of course in working on my PhD which is focused on leadership development practice.

Here are some emerging approaches to leadership development, integrated with some old but good development strategies. When integrated well, they can ramp up leadership capability shift and value to both participants and their organization.

If you would like to talk more, please contact me: amanda@proofofleadership.com

Amanda

1. Leaders need to experiment

Design thinking is increasingly popular, and the idea of human centered design and “experiments” to test ideas with clients and employees can be adapted to leadership development. Having leaders undertake low risk, low cost leadership and behavior change experiments is proving to be incredibly valuable for our approach to development.

2. Leaders need feedback

We mostly mess up feedback – it’s outsourced to surveys and responsibility for results is targeted at the survey process, instead of the feedback givers and the individuals involved. Creating structured feedback that can help people identify strengths and shift out of blindspots is crucial, particularly early in life, as is owning the results.

3. Leaders develop across time

We all know this, but challenging the current drive for leadership “events” and shallow dives into development is difficult. It is clear that leadership development is more effective where it is “multilevel and longitudinal” rather than on short-term or one-off leadership events[ii] and taking a long-term perspective helps deliver on the 70 of the 70/20/10 if designed well:

  • these approaches ensure the development of enterprise capability and collaboration
  • learning over time also supports learning at work which supports the gradual development of self-efficacy, leadership confidence and identity, interpersonal and intrapersonal processes through giving time to trial new behaviours and reflect on what may be changing
  • this type of development requires sophisticated leadership development design as well as highly experienced facilitation of development and methodologies to support challenge and transfer of learning to work.

4. Leaders need cognitive development

The Centre for Creative Leadership’s Nick Petrie[iii] proposes two distinct areas to focus on to support the development of leaders, following in the footsteps of Robert Kegan and of course Bill Torbert:

  • horizontal development: the transfer technical skills needed for well-defined issues and solutions
  • vertical development: taking leaders to the next stage of cognitive development which will allow a shift in mindset, a broader strategic focus, and engagement with ambiguity.

5. Leaders mindsets are important

Cognitive neuroscience offers ways of new thinking about leadership development including: neuroplasticity; mental habits; mindsets and how the mind works. It can particularly assist leaders with:

  • understanding and changing mindset habits
  • responding to values and ethical challenges
  • decision-making and problem solving
  • collaborating with and influencing others[v][vi].

6. Development needs to be real

Business focused action learning helps explore and resolve critical challenges and opportunities for the organization at the same time as enhancing leadership development and self-awareness[iv]. This is a very intensive boost to development when done well. Leadership development cubed!

7. Reflection accelerates behaviour change

The need to take action and be seen to be taking action is the major driver for leaders in many organisations. So reflection is mostly counter-cultural, but my research into impact indicates it’s one of the program design elements that most supports leaders in making behavioural change[i].

Reflective learning when integrated into development design, requires each individual to explore “how” as well as “what” they are learning. This supports acceleration of the development of not only the individual but also the enterprise and organization.

8. Strengths are often ignored

Positive organisational psychology suggests that leadership development benefits from moving from a purely deficit approach – what needs to be fixed. There is a lot of debate about this, but from my own practice in executive coaching and program design, people rarely focus on their own or others strengths.

And this approach is incredibly valuable to help people:

  • build on strengths that are already in place
  • use leadership development to instigate positive cycles of change
  • support the interpersonal aspects of leadership development[vii]

9. Leadership development value isn’t measured

Measuring value isn’t about ROI. It’s about each person understanding what the value of the program or development has been for them. And about capturing what has changed for both individuals the organization, along with “investors” – those who are funding, supporting and designing the activity.

Little is done about measurement in the leadership development industry. Mostly people rely on how it went on the day – and often on how the facilitator went on the day. This is fraught with danger. Learning can create discomfort, and probably should create discomfort.

Not measuring can also mean that capabilities developed and strategies put in place over time and in the 70% development frame are totally lost to the organization in its thinking about development and talent.

If you would like to talk more, please contact me: amanda@proofofleadership.com

 

Amanda

 

 

[i] See Bob Dick’s work on Action Learning

[ii] Day, D. V., et al, (2013). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.11.004

[iii] Petrie, N. (2011). Future Trends in Leadership Development, The Centre for Creative Leadership www.ccl.org

[iv] McGonagill G. & Pryn, P.W. 2010. Leadership development in the US: principles and patterns of best practice, Bertelsmann Stiftung Brookline, MA, USA, Gutersioh, Germany

[v] Waldman, D. A., Balthazard, P. A., & Peterson, S. J., (2011). Leadership ad neuroscience : can we revolutionise the way that inspirational leaders are identified and developed? Academy of Management Perspectives. (25(1) 66-74.

[vi] See Carol Dweck Mindsets

[vii] Cameron, K. & Spreitzer, G. (Eds) (2012) Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship. New York: Oxford University Press.

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WHAT IMPACT SHOULD LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT DELIVER?

portgerinjetty

Seeking the long-term…

We all say that leadership development is important but does it really have impact?

This is particularly important when you are aiming to invest in the development of a key section of your leadership team.

blog-24-september-2016

Short-term impact

Some of the short-term (just after the program) indicators of impact can include:

  • People are talking about it positively – both participants and their managers – (there may be some pockets of negative talk and this is useful to investigate)
  • Participants are behaving differently and taking action, and this is being seen by their managers
  • You are seeing more “informal” connections happening across the organisation.

Long-term impact

Research evidence suggests leadership development should deliver long-term impact for:

  • Improved individual, team and organisational performance
  • Improved organisational reputation with external and internal stakeholders
  • Increased agility and ability to lead in complex business environments
  • Strengthened employee engagement and organisational culture
  • Increased attraction and retention of talented people
  • Reducing leader derailment and replacement costs
  • Which all support sustained and sustainable performance

While of course there are many contextual issues that impact upon these type of organisational results, leadership development is a contributor. Some useful research is provided below.

CONTRIBUTING TO THE DIALOGUE ABOUT LEADERSHIP IMPACT AND ITS DEVELOPMENT

While there is a lot written and researched about leadership development, particularly in relation to the “capabilities/competencies” that need to be delivered and about the “how to” or methods of development, much less is available help us explore what we should seeking through leadership development.

  1. Improved individual, team and organisational performance
  • Organisations with the highest quality leaders were 13 times more likely to out-perform their competition in key bottom-line metrics such as financial performance, quality of products and services, employee engagement and customer satisfaction.[1]
  • High-performing workplaces – characterised by leadership that supports innovation, employee engagement, fairness and customer focus – have profit margins nearly three times higher than low-performing workplaces.[2]
  • These workplaces are better at achieving their financial goals, are stronger at building customer relationships, are more innovative and recognise that leadership capability is fundamental to their success. [3]
  • The recent Study of Australian Leadership (2016) noted that leadership is also foundational to the performance of organisations in more complex business environments.[4]
  1. Improved organisational reputation with stakeholders

Research indicates that the effectiveness of the senior leadership team is regarded as the second most important factor (after financial results) in determining business success [5] and the evidence includes: the quality and reputation of leadership make a significant difference to stakeholder and shareholder support for organisations (research indicates that investment analysts place a premium of 15.75% on effective leadership).[6]

  1. Greater agility and decision-making in a complex operating environment

A recent IBM study, of 1,500 CEOs worldwide, identified complexity as a factor increasingly affecting the leadership capabilities required across organisations [7] and some interesting data includes:

  • While leaders being are being given more responsibility, being asked to achieve more and broader objectives and to deliver results faster, studies suggest that only 7.3% of leaders are considered to have the full skill set of capabilities that are required to work in this complex and emergent environment.[8]
  • Research indicates that some of these new capabilities include:
  • a global cultural perspective;
  • a mindset of growth and openness to understand the environment;
  • an ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances;
  • a capability to engage people across the business in change; and
  • an ability to identify and respond to complex operating environments.[9]
  1. Improved culture and employee engagement in organisational performance

Leadership quality affects much more than the financial bottom-line; it also affects employee retention and engagement:

  • a recent study has identified organisations with higher-quality leadership as being up to three times more likely to retain more employees than their competition.[10]
  • another study indicates that high performing workplaces have higher levels of commitment and engagement than in other workplaces.[11]
  • High-performing workplaces with effective leaders have better results in attracting and retaining good quality people as well as in building employee engagement and job satisfaction.[12]
  1. Greater organisational ability to attract and retain talented employees

Where talent management in organisations once focused on recruitment, the focus is now broader. Development and support during transition are the keys and the research [13] In this way, organisations can create a culture in which talented individuals can thrive.[14]

  1. Reduction of leadership derailment

Leaders in transition – including moving functional areas or being promoted from individual contributor to management – are particularly vulnerable to disillusionment and derailment.

‘Leadership derailment’ can include behaviours such as poor performance or lack of delivery; not updating leadership style; lacking core skills for new challenges; and poor focus on people development, is expensive for organisations.[15]

Organisations can support transition, and reduce derailment, through: being clear about the capabilities required at each leadership level; establishing mentors for individuals taking up new roles; and requiring that individuals take up leadership development (such as executive coaching) to support transitions.[16]

© Amanda Martin 2016

Amanda

amanda@proofofleadership.com

 

[1] Boatman, J. & Wellings, R.S. (2011) Global Leadership Forecast. DDI.

[2] Boedker, C., Vidgen, R., Meagher, K., Cogin, A., Mouritsen, J., & Runnalls, J. M., (2011) Leadership, culture and management practices of high performing workplaces in Australia: the high performing workplaces index, Society for Knowledge Economics.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) 201, p.23.

[5] Holland, S. & Thom, M. (2012). The leadership premium: How Companies win the confidence of investors. Deloitte.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ancona, D. (2005). Leadership in an Age of Uncertainty. MIT Leadership Centre.

[8] CEB. The rise of the network leader: reframing leadership in the new work environment. Executive Guidance for 2014.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Boatman, J. & Wellings, R.S., op.cit.

[11] Study of Australian Leadership (SAL) 201, p.26.

[12] Deloitte 2013 Human Capital Trends 2013 Leading Indicators. Deloitte: U.S. edition.

[13] Deloitte 2013 Human Capital Trends 2013 Leading Indicators. Deloitte: U.S. edition.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Bumker, Kram, & Ting, 2002; Hughes, Ginnett & Curphy, 2008.

[16] Watkins, M. (2003). The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

 

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