In a demanding business environment, adding one more thing to the mix can feel impossible. With a persistent worker shortage, increasing stakeholder demands, and the ever-present need to produce business results, leaders may think that expecting ongoing development is too much. The temptation is to avoid leadership development initiatives or shuffle them to the back burner for a more convenient time.
Of course, that convenient time may never come, and companies that ignore leadership development risk falling behind the competition in the long run.
For HR professionals and learning officers tasked with promoting leadership development initiatives, selecting or designing a program is just one aspect of the overall process. If the programs aren’t manageable, participants will be reluctant or resistant. After all, who has time to participate in more training when there are more pressing needs?
Here are six questions to ask that can help make your leadership development programs more manageable—and more effective in the long run.
1. How is senior leadership supporting our efforts?
Your leadership development programs can be the best in the world, but if senior leaders don’t support the efforts, you’ll struggle to make a long-term impact. Are senior leaders supporting the efforts in tangible ways? Are they vocally supportive? Do they encourage delegating to take some work off the plates of those going through programs?
If senior leaders aren’t supportive, try to find out why. Some obstacles may be easier to solve than others. For example, if leaders don’t realize how important their voices can be in the overall approach, they may be more than willing to jump in and provide more support once they have some direction.
2. Is leadership development tied to real-world initiatives?
If time or mental bandwidth is a significant obstacle to participation in leadership development, it could be that leaders just feel overwhelmed with daily tasks and don’t want to take on additional work that may interfere with doing their jobs.
You can minimize this sense of overwhelm with learning by tying development programs to real-world initiatives and embedding training into the expected workload of leaders and managers.
3. Are we using a variety of learning methods?
Not everyone learns the same way, or at the same pace, and in a hybrid work environment, leaders may have a variety of schedules that make it tough to meet in person. Deliver supporting information through microlearning experiences, books, or other self-directed programs. Use in-person sessions for work that needs to take place in a team environment and reinforce it with self-directed learning.
4. Can we break leadership development into multiple sessions?
Multi-day offsite leadership development can produce results, but such programs require a tremendous outlay of money and ask leaders to put their usual work aside for multiple days. In addition, cramming a large amount of information into one long session can make retention more difficult and prevent real-world, real-time application that results in lasting change.
Try breaking up the sessions into multiple short-term sessions. With multiple sessions, leaders can have time in between to apply learning.
5. Are we learning from our experiences and feedback?
Leadership development in the modern era is a little experimental. Everyone is still adapting to a hybrid world, and an increasingly dispersed workforce presents new challenges. Don’t be afraid to try new programs and methods. Be sure to get participant feedback, and ask questions to help you design future programs. Use the information you gather to adjust the program for the future.
6. Are our programs geared toward the right people at the correct phases of their careers?
Putting all leaders at all levels in the same leadership development programs doesn't make much sense. New managers may not be prepared to take on the rigors of a high-level leadership development program, and more senior leaders won’t get much out of a program that focuses on skills they’ve already developed.
Make every effort to put the right people in the right programs at the right time. For new leaders, focus on training the essential skills they need to start their leadership on the right foot. For mid-level leaders or leaders with high leadership potential, aim to give them business challenges that stretch their strategic thinking and long-term planning skills. The most senior leaders may benefit from individual executive coaching.
Leadership development is too critical to the long-term success of your organization to overlook it in the short term. By evaluating your efforts to make development as seamless as possible, you will improve your chances of producing lasting results for your organization and your leaders.
Stewart Leadership has a wide range of options designed to help leaders at every level meet the challenges of your business now and into the future. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you grow your people and your business.
- What is one self-directed learning option we could introduce to our leadership development programs?
- Can we encourage more senior leader support for learning and development?
- Do we have a current real-world business challenge that we could use to develop high-potential leaders? How?