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Proof of Leadership Blog: developing great leaders

Developing your people: 5 simple ways to achieve this new leadership performance target

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As part of wrapping up 2016 I’ve been reviewing “most requested” capabilities required of leaders in 2017.

And the winner is…developing people.

Organisations expect leaders to focus on revenue targets, customer service targets, and productivity targets.

But increasingly leaders are also are expected demonstrate how they are developing people for performance and as talent.

Here I’ve identified 5 (relatively) simple ways to develop your people.

1. Making sure they know what’s expected

A key element of this is feedback. As I said in my 9 ways to design valued and brilliant leadership development programs article, 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, well-timed, and regular feedback can help people identify strengths and career-limiting blindspots.

The other key element is encouraging forward planning. I’m constantly surprised by the number of organisations not doing forward planning at the individual level. It may be that this is tangled up in concerns about performance plans and remuneration, but knowing is expected for the year, helps people to focus and achieve results – in cognitive neuroscience terms it can create certainty and reduce anxiety.

Development can be embedded into planning, with opportunities for project leadership, contribution ensuring that learning on the job is both planned for and recognised.

2.   Developing leadership mindsets

The ability to be flexible and build strategic mental habits is emerging as a crucial capability for leaders and for development. It can particularly assist developing leaders with:

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

See a great article on the Neuroscience of Strategic Leadership

3. Getting out of the way

There are two things that are useful for leaders to consider here:

  • Giving their people opportunities and getting out of the way
  • Ensuring reflection is a structured activity for direct reports, talent, and teams
Providing opportunity

For leaders, having a developmental mindset often means taking a deep breath and giving someone a chance to be part of a new project, or team, or to do something innovative. BUT, it can bring up emotional responses that leaders generally ignore. These emotional responses can include fears that key performance targets won’t be achieved or concern about potential failures reflecting on leadership “brand”.

Enabling reflection

Reflective learning 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- it’s strategic[iii].

Reflecting often isn’t valued in organisations, and someone who says they are spending time reflecting instead of saying “I’m so busy” sets themselves up for some questions…

Leaders have the power to create structures, time and space, to help their people reflect, learn and think strategically through an enabling culture and through structuring in time.

4. Providing opportunities to understand what’s behind the strategy

Taking leaders to the next stage of cognitive development, supporting a shift in mindset, a broader strategic focus, and engagement with ambiguity[1] is becoming a feature of leadership development programs.

But you don’t need to wait for formal leadership development. You can spend time with your people talking about what’s behind the strategy aiming to broaden their perspective and help them understand that strategy is not a document, it’s a series of complex and often uncomfortable decisions and choices.

This, along with encouraging reflective capacity and development of personal leadership capability is crucial for developing talented, authentic and strategic leaders in your organisation.

5. Testing whether you have been successful

So how can you measure whether you’ve been successful in developing your people?

Here are some ideas for metrics and measures:

  • is your business unit seen by senior leaders and clients/customers/stakeholders as producing high quality people?
  • are your team members being promoted at a higher rate than others?
  • is business performance improving?
  • are your people engaged at work?
  • are talented people attracted to working in your team?

 

[i] 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.

[ii] See Carol Dweck Mindsets

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

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9 ways to design valued and brilliant leadership development programs

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leading-from-the-top

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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Getting real: leadership development for real people

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Version 2

Idealised call for “tree” leadership, Carlton 2012

 

What’s important in leadership development

Last year Jeffery Pfeffer challenged those working on the development of leaders to move beyond simple recipes for great leaders because the recipes aren’t working[i]

He says they aren’t working because the list of capabilities required of leaders aren’t real. They focus on an idealised world where, for example, leaders don’t lie and are always authentic.

The pressure on leaders

The need to aim for an unattainable ideal of behaviour, emotional stability and vision may be decreasing leaders’ interest in developing capability as a leader.

And as Pfeffer says, it’s likely that an idealised view of leadership is ignoring what it really takes to lead our organisations today.

What does this mean for the development of leadership capability?

My PhD research examines the practice of leadership development. I’ve also been establishing, facilitating, and designing leadership development programs for more than 20 years and more than 10,000 people (I know it sounds  a lot but I’ve developed programs for large organisations, education, health and also for the state public sector system in Queensland Australia). I have also evaluated the impact of leadership development for organisations from the Cape York (Australia) Indigenous Leadership Program to global companies like Nestle Malaysia and Singapore.

There are some fundamentals that I’ve learnt – based on my experience and impact measurement evidence, and also based on leadership development academic research.

Developing real, impactful, leaders

  • Leadership can be learnt but it requires time and space and program designs need to provide time for sensemaking, for exploring personal perceptions, practicing change, seeking feedback on behavioural patterns and leadership impact, facilitated by experts in experiential and group learning, and supplemented by other expertise, generally including coaching
  • Leadership in context – for leaders to get engaged, development has be crafted to recognise and relate to their organisational context and their lives – this will mean the program is much more likely to be embedded in post-program behaviours
  • Development recognises strengths leaders bring. And this is incredibly energizing and different from their experience of many leadership development activities that are focused on gaps or how far they are from the ideal – for more see the work of Kim Cameron, Jane E Dutton and Robert (Bob) E Quinn
  • Integrated learning includes exploring leadership through academic models and theories; along with stories of leaders and organisations; active reflection; promoting the practice of new behaviours; receiving feedback that is about them – which together ramps up the impact results
  • Learning and unlearning takes time, so programs need to be designed to recognise that leaders take time to build awareness of changes they need/want to make and then to actually undertake the change, modular programs held over time – edutainment it isn’t
  • Focus on what can be taken back to work – working with participants to understand how they can take what they have learnt back and embed it in the complexity and chaos of the real world of work. See Nita Cherry’s book on Energising Leadership for some great tips
  • Help to understand impact – new changes in behaviour are often subtle and leaders may not notice that they have changed, so providing methods of reflection, for example interviewing them some time after the program has ended, can help them recognise what has changed and celebrate success.

Great leadership development has a flow on effect, it’s not only good for leadership at work but it’s good for life at home – this is one of my ways of informally measuring the impact of a program.

What’s real about this approach is that it focuses on where people are at and provides them with many ways to move to where they want to be, and where they need to be to lead organisations.

Acknowledgements

I’d been alerted to Jeffery Pfeffer’s book through a presentation by Bob Quinn at the Academy of Management in Anaheim in August and was intrigued to learn more about the leadership industry critiquing the leadership industry.

I’d like to acknowledge the work of my colleague Professor Michael Fischer, whose article on transforming leadership development I found recently, after I’d developed my “list” above. Michael and I work together on the Leadership and Change in Healthcare Program for Melbourne Business School and it’s great working with colleagues who have similar thinking about leadership and its development.

[i] https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/jeffrey-pfeffer-why-leadership-industry-has-failed

 

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Research about leadership development

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Having just returned from the premier academic conference on management, the Academy of Management in the USA – around 7,000 people attend, here are some thoughts about leadership development coming from the conference.

And while those of us who work in leadership development practice will recognize all of these elements of impactful leadership development programs, it’s always useful to test against the research.

AOMleaddevt

Missing focus on leadership development

There were a lot of sessions (around 350) on leadership covering topics like:

  • Ethical Leadership
  • Responsible Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Authentic Leadership
  • Positive Organisational Leadership
  • Relational Leadership
  • Meaningful Leadership
  • Complexity Leadership
  • The Dark Side of Leadership

BUT

There was a missing focus on leadership development – only a few sessions focused on this billion dollar topic.

So what were the “hot topics” for leadership development?

A number of sessions presented the results of impact analyses across leadership development programs reported in academic journals. The results from a number of these presentations can be encapsulated as:

  • A needs analysis is critical if you want to ensure that learning is transferred
  • Specifying the type of theory that underpins the program design has an impact on results, so this should be identified as part of the program design
  • Leadership development does make a difference to performance on the job and to organisational results both in the short-term and long-term
  • Where mixed methods of development (instruction, practice, group work) are used, there is increased learning transfer back to work
  • Where experiential learning methods are used, there are increased organisational results
  • Sessions that are spaced out over time deliver better organisational results
  • Sessions that are longer than 24 hours have a significantly larger impact on behaviour, social and emotional results
  • Face to face and multiple development sessions support increased transfer back to work and long-term organisational results
  • The type of theory used as the basis of development affected results – transactional/contingency theory provided an immediate effect after the program ended but transformational type leadership theory had better long-term effect on organisational results
  • The practical application to work of the program elements delivers both on the job and organisational results
  • Even some time after completion, leadership development programs still continue to deliver leadership behavioural change and organisational results
  • Who you choose to deliver the program is critical – they need to meet the objectives of the program
  • High Potential and Senior Leader programs are different and need both different approaches to development as well as different practitioner to deliver.

Note:

These items reflect notes taken at a number of sessions and have been collated across these sessions

 

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Increasing complexity is changing how we develop leaders

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21st century organisations operate in an increasingly volatile and unpredictable environment with intractable challenges for which there is no single ‘right’ solution[i].

In this context, leaders are faced with a work environment characterised by high levels of complexity and change requiring exceptional levels of personal maturity, people leadership and change agility[ii].

At the same time there are increasing expectations and demands of leaders in business and in the broader political and social context. Where are the good leaders to come from? How are they to be educated and supported in their work? And what are the core capabilities they need to be successful? [iii]

Primary leadership capabilities for complexity

Research and experience indicates these capabilities include:

  • ensuring delivery of enterprise-wide performance and the culture to support it
  • developing the relationship skills and acumen required to influence, negotiate and collaborate with stakeholders effectively
  • building capacity to deal with ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty
  • strengthening self-insight and emotional regulation as a foundation for development
  • understanding leadership styles and identity, and when to shift these to more effectively lead
  • developing capacity to monitor and challenge personal and others’ mindsets and behaviours [iv]
  • focusing on managing energy to support team performance and development[v].

 Addressing these challenges: developing leaders and leadership

To address these challenges, development needs to focus not only on individual capability but also organisational capability[vi].

Leadership development can no longer be simply described as an individual characteristic or capability but rather as a collective or group activity using a relational, strategic global and complex social dynamic[vii].

How to take action?

The next time you’re creating a leadership program, it’s useful to consider your program objectives – should you be focusing only on development of each individual, or should you also be building capability to build performance of the organisation in complexity.

[i] _O’Connell, P. K. 2013. A simplified framework for 21st century leader development. The Leadership Quarterly, Article in Press, 1-21.

[ii] Allen, S. J. & Middlebrooks, A. (2014). The challenge of educating leadership expertise. Journal of Leadership Studies, 6, 84-89.

[iii] Van Velsor, E. (2008). A Complexity Perspective on Leadership Development. Complexity Leadership Part 1: Conceptual Foundations. M. Uhl-Bien and R. Marion. Charlotte, North Carolina, Information Age Publishing Inc. 1: 333-346.

   [iv] Bunker, K. A., Kram, K. E., & Ting, S. (2002). The young and the clueless. Harvard Business Review, 80(12), 80–87.

[v] Cherry, Nita. 2015. Energising Leadership Oxford University Press

[vi] Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E. & Mckee, R. A. 2014. Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25, 63-82

[vii] Uhl-Bien, M. & Marion, R. 2008. Introduction: Complexity Leadership-A Framework for Leadership in the Twenty-First Century. In: Uhl-Bien, M. & Marion, R. (eds.) Complexity Leadership Part 1: Conceptual Foundations. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing Inc.

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Measuring the impact of leadership development – 4 Steps

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4stepsforimpactYou are only 4 steps away from measuring the impact of your leadership development program

This article outlines what I’ve learnt about measuring the impact of leadership development both from experience and from reviewing the research.

While most people say measurement is important, only around 3% of organisations globally measure the results achieved through leadership development and the impact on organisational outcomes. [i].

For a full background to the changes in leadership development that are influencing how to measure leadership development impact, please go to our Articles page.

Measuring leadership development impact

These four steps are drawn from experience, together with a review of the academic research and program evaluation case studies. The questions, within each step of the process, support measuring the impact of leadership development beyond the level of individual participant to include results for the organisation:

  1. embedding measurement into the design of the development from the beginning;
  2. establishing program learning goals so that learning activities clearly contribute to individual and organisational change and results;
  3. developing a robust measurement methodology creating multiple points of evidence at the same time as recognizing the reality of organisational life; and
  4. reporting results to the people who have sponsored, supported and been a part of the development both celebrates the outcomes and provides accountability for their investment in the program.

4 Steps – designing your impact measurement strategy

1. Embed measurement into the design of the development activity
Key questions to consider during the design of a leadership program or development activity are:

  • What are the metrics that will tell the organisation that the program has been successful?
  • How will this program contribute to the organisation’s outcomes and strategy?
  • How will the program deliver on the organisation’s HR strategy?
  • Who are the key stakeholders for this impact measurement strategy?
  • How does the program fit with the overall leadership capabilities required for this organisation?
  • What are the assumptions underlying the design of the program and how will the design contribute to these objectives [ii]

These questions contribute to the development of robust program objectives, reflecting what the organisation is aiming to achieve, right from the early phases of the program design.

This is one of the most difficult stages of measuring impact – these questions are not easy to answer and may feel frustrating when stakeholders ‘just want to get the program going’.

2. Establish program learning goals
At this stage, program developers should be asking:

  • How will this program support participants to build their capability and to deliver on the organisation’s strategy?
  • What are the most effective learning activities that will ensure these learning goals are achieved?
  • How will these learning activities build on each other to deliver impact?

The temptation is to focus on the instruments, methods and tools that support development such as 360 degree feedback, executive coaching, digital learning, and specific learning models. However, bolting these together without considering how they support learning doesn’t deliver a well-designed and impactful program.

3. Develop a program measurement methodology
Embedding measurement into the learning design means asking:

  • What data will be needed to measure these program objectives?
  • Which measurement methods will help identify the required changes in knowledge or behaviour?
  • What is the cost of undertaking these measurement methods?
    What is the best timing for collecting data?
  • How will this data contribute evidence of the link to the program objectives?
  • How will the data be used to support iterative learning design, participant learning and engagement with program stakeholders?
  • What else is happening in the organisation that may affect the data collection or results?
  • While being founded in the rigour of research, methods for measurement of impact also have to be balanced with the relevance of organisational life and must be pragmatic.

It’s also important to identify whether the resulting data can be integrated, analysed and reported in a timely way to tell the story of the impact of the program for key stakeholders.

4. Report the results
In this stage, understanding who the program stakeholders are is crucial, as this guides reporting and insights:

  • What is the data saying about the program results when measured against the program objectives and learning goals?
  • Who needs to be involved in reviewing the data and in identifying insights?
  • What are the key insights: what is the analysis showing or not showing about the program impact for participants, their teams, their direct line managers, and for the enterprise more broadly?
  • What are the recommendations for change arising from the evaluation results and key insights?

Taking action: translating leadership development into impact

Understanding the impact of leadership development programs is crucial in an economic environment where organisations are under increasing pressure.

Learning and development programs are often the first to be cut in these circumstances yet there is significant evidence to demonstrate that investing in the ongoing development of leaders is essential to organisational success.

Understanding the impact and effectiveness of development is foundational in identifying what has been achieved and also what can be achieved, and it’s time that more than 3% of organisations use more effective approaches to measurement than “happy sheets”.


References

[i] McGonagill, G & Pruyn, P W. 2010 Leadership development in the US: Principles and Patterns of Best Practice, Bertelsmann Stiftung Leadership Series

[ii] Packard, T and Jones, L. 2015. An outcomes evaluation of a leadership development initiative. Journal of Management Development Vol 34, No 2 pp 153-168

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