How best to make leadership training truly work? Never stop!
Here are some quick thoughts that capture what needs to happen to find the hidden leaders within your organization. The short answer: Set the pace. Be a great leader and demonstrate it every day in everything you do! And work to imbue your entire organization with the same zealous mindset.
The longer answer: Training leaders must be embedded in the corporate culture, inclusive rather than exclusive, and never-ending.
Train more consistently, and focus on day-to-day interactive leadership skills. Time management, communications skills, presentation skills are all training modules that should be subsets of more strategic initiative to change the whole corporate mindset to focus on action, collaboration and forward thinking. Individual training elements should build on each other rather than exist in isolation.
Broaden your participation. Too many leadership development programs involve too few people who are anointed ahead of time (based on old criteria in many cases.) This is backwards. Assume leadership lies under every rock, and make your development program responsible for looking under every one. You have to refine a lot of iron ore to produce great iron. Then you must process it further to create durable steel. Make sure you don’t miss some great foundational ore: People who may initially require a bit more polishing, but who will shine just as brightly. These “found” leaders may also prove to be your best, most committed leaders because you led the creation process.
Of course, you start at the top because inclusive leadership development cannot last without top executives walking the talk, clearly communicating their belief, pursuing the truth in all actions and situations. But don’t stop there. Push the development program down aggressively through the layers of management down to the leaders on the shop floor, on the street knocking on doors or serving customers across the counter.
The greatest ROI we ever see is leadership development at middle managerial levels and below. Here you reap the benefits of ramping up individual contribution and commitment and innovation. Hands-on managers find new solutions to costly issues because they work with them every day. Senior executives don’t. Engage those front level managers in crafting those solutions by creating the environment that encourages such energetic behavior.
Sustain the Gains! – Take the training results back to the office:
• Set up monthly check-ins with participants to report on their commitment to the change in mindset started at training sessions.
• Pair up participants as co-mentors to keep each other committed and engaged.
• Model the new mindset in your own actions (forward-thinking, action-oriented communications/conversations/meetings).
None of this advice is new, or rocket science. But research consistently confirms that it works, and all it takes is a true, energetic commitment to making it happen. And that is the magic that most training programs lack, as your own experience with these initiatives already tells you. You absolutely cannot let people get back to their desks and “get back to work.” Transformational change requires more than that, and as a leader of people, you must provide the spark each day that keeps the energy flowing. Otherwise it is business as usual, and you are back to square one every year , once again trying to build an engaged workforce.
One of our family’s favorite movies a few years ago was Ratatouille. It was a film that spoke to all ages with its mantra that “anyone can cook.” We at Bovo-Tighe adapt that to “anyone can lead,” especially if given the latitude, the understanding and the tools to do it.