Leadership Development is MORE Than an Event

I was speaking to a CEO of a mid-sized service company at a regional trade show.  We were discussing his company leaders, and how proud he was of the leadership training he ensures they get.  “Yup he said, we have a great process, every 18 months we have a leadership meeting in one of the great convention cities, Orlando, Vegas, San Diego, I have a leadership guy that comes in and trains them for a couple of hours on leadership. This Leadership Event is fantastic.    It really helps them.” “Tell me more,” I said.  “That’s all they need, they get leadership training and I know it helps,” was his response.

We talked for some time.  He shared with me the challenges his company faced as his top leadership, with an average age well into its very late 60’s, and he knew ready for retirement.  He had to start thinking about their replacements, “Gonna have to have that conversation soon,” he offered.

I questioned him about what he had done to prepare for that.  “Not as much as I should have,” was his reply.  “So your leadership training isn’t giving you what you really need?” I asked.  He had no response.

Let me be very clear…Leadership Development is not an Event; it is an ongoing process.  This CEO, like others I have met, felt they were meeting their businesses leadership development needs by offering the occasional leadership training event.  While they should be commended for at least allowing SOME training to occur, they are missing the effectiveness of a true leadership development process.

Whether a business has internal resources that can design, develop and implement a Leadership Development process, or if they must seek assistance from an outside party, the process should be the same.  That process would generally follow these steps:

  • Needs Assessment – “I need leadership training” is no more a needs assessment than is “oh look, a 1-day seminar on leadership skills by flyin-flyout leadership, Inc is coming to town.  I want to go.”  You have to look into your culture, the culture of leadership, identify the key competencies and skills, and then assess where you are and where you want to be.
  • Curriculum Design – This builds on your needs assessment.  What are the needs, what are the attributes, the competencies, the knowledge, skills, and abilities that were identified and prioritized as developmental needs?  How will we present them?  When and where will we do this?
  • Measurement Development – If you don’t measure it, you cannot manage it.  You have to measure the IMPACT of the training on specific key deliverables or results for the business.  How has leadership training improved, upgraded, reduced, something?  In most instances, this is also a significant cultural change within your business.  Measurement is not a volume measurement exercise.
  • Process Map –  This is the GPS of your leadership development; step 1, step 2, etc.  How will your current leaders and future leaders see their leadership skills improve and how will they get there.
  • Conduct the Training – As Nike says, just do it.  Then do it again, and again.  This development is NOT a single event.  It is an ongoing process of many parts that ensures your leadership is growing and sustaining that growth AS IT RELATES TO YOUR CULTURE AND STRATEGIC DIRECTION.
  • Follow-up – Leadership training needs more than just classroom attendance.  Those in development need coaches and mentors.  These coaches and mentors must be a part of the Leadership Development process and not simply a coach who does only coaching.  If they were not part of the needs assessment, curriculum, and measurement design, not part of the training delivery, then they shouldn’t be a part of your leadership development efforts.  Your leadership development participants need reinforcement, redirection, and support aligned with this entire strategy.  It is NOT a feel good about themselves effort, it is an effort in developing leadership as a major part of your business culture.  That effort follows all of these steps.
  • Adjust – Nothing is perfect the first time.  As you experience your ongoing leadership development process you will identify things that need to be adjusted.  Goals too low, goals too high, a skill that needs to be moved up in the priority list a previously unknown strategic matter.  All play a part in the ongoing development of your company leadership.

Some will say that is “too much”, “it is more than we want to do”, and “I don’t believe we need that.”

When you consider that “…4% of U.S. employers report having an ample pipeline that will cover most of their leadership and management needs…” [Most Employers Are Challenged to Build Leadership Pipeline Author: Gerald Purgay, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Right Management, May 22, 2013] and that a Gallup survey showed that poorly lead workgroups are 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well lead ones.” You should be able to easily determine why your business needs strong leadership and equally strong leadership development processes.  If you don’t see that, then you need to look again and again until you do.

Making leadership development an ongoing, long-term part of your business culture will take time.  It will take commitment, energy, and resources.  If done right, it will create an ROI for your business, that will become your competitive advantage while ensuring your long-term survival AND profitability.

It is your business; It stands to reason you want strong leadership in it.