Successful Leadership Development Program

Best Practices: 10 Steps to a Successful Leadership Development Program

The question is not whether your organisation's leadership capabilities are evolving, but whether they are evolving at the right time, and in the right direction?

With this in mind it’s imperative that your organisation has complete clarity around the leadership competencies you have now, need now and will need in the future. When an organisation is able to answer these three questions, only then is it in a position to go about developing leaders in a strategic manner.

In this article we will share with you 10 best practices for a successful leadership development program.


1. Think long term

Learning is a continuous process, and happens outside the classroom more than it does inside the classroom. Before you invest in any leadership development initiative, it’s important that you have clarity on what needs to be learned, when it needs to be learned, and the different ways in which it can be learned.


2. Begin with the end in mind

There should be complete clarity on Terminal Learning Objectives and Enabling Learning Objectives for every single leadership development initiative. Ideally these TLOs and ELOs would be aligned to a leadership development framework.

If you do not have a leadership development framework, please feel free to use our framework as the basis for creating one. Click here to download.


3. Gain commitment from stakeholders

Sorry, I am unable to attend today's workshop as my boss asked me to attend to an important customer.

I'm sure we've all experienced situations like this before... Commitment from stakeholders is key to the success of any leadership development initiative, as without it, learning may be viewed and treated as 'secondary' or ‘not important’.

As archaic as it might sound, getting stockholders to sign a contract is an important element of securing that commitment.

Here’s an example of a learning contract we get learners, direct managers and facilitators to sign. Please feel free to use it as you see fit. Click here to download.


4. Involve Stakeholders

Getting a commitment from stakeholders is one thing. Getting them involved is another thing all together. How important and the learners and what is being learned? Nothing highlights the importance of these two questions more than having stakeholders involved from start to finish. Here are some examples:

  • Getting a senior leader to participate as a learner sends a signal about the importance of learning and that it never stops.
  • Getting a senior leader to do a sharing session helps to reinforce the learning.
  • Getting managers to provide regular feedback to learners on tasks that learners have been assigned.
  • Getting peers to provide feedback helps to build self awareness among learners.
  • Getting senior leaders to play the role of assessors during and assessment or development centre.


5. Make it Real!

We know from experience that learning must be realistic and aligned to business processes. Don’t waste time and resources on topics that cannot be applied. With this in mind, leadership development initiatives should be 100% bespoke from start to finish. Business processes, model, case studies and role play scenarios should be specific to the organisation and its learners.

Making it real can sometimes be a bit sensitive, so my advice would be to create a fictional company that is based on your organisation and use it as the basis for all role plays scenarios and case studies. Create fictional characters but use the same job titles. Make sure that processes are aligned to current practices.


6. Measure Everything!

If you are not measuring how a learner behaved before and after, and the impact the learning had on the learner and the organisation, then you are not measuring the effectiveness of the learning.

  1. Identify what you need to measure
  2. Measure it
  3. Analyse effectiveness

There should always be a before and after measurement to demonstrate improvement and impact on the organisation. 180-360 degree surveys and/or actual KPIs should be used as the basis.

There should also be a post 90 day survey to demonstrate that the learner hasn’t reverted to their old ways.


7. Make it an Experience

What can learners expect to experience as they embark on this journey? This is the all important question curriculum designers need to answer. Here’s an example of how you might make it an experience:

  • Pre-Workshop Tasks can be used to enhance classroom-based learning and to increase self awareness. They should involve some form of self-assessment and feedback from direct managers and peers.
  • Classroom-based Workshops should incorporate a variety of different learning strategies, including: Collaborative Learning (Group Discussions & Presentations), Experiential Learning (Games & Role Plays) and Problem-Based Learning (Case Studies & Puzzles).
  • Post-Workshop Tasks can be used to put what has been learned into action. They should involve some form of action plan or conversation.
  • Individual Coaching can be used to help learners reflect on what they have learned and explore how they could be more effective in putting it into action.
  • Reflective Journaling can be used to reinforce learning. It should explore reflection in action as well as reflection on action. This reflection can then be brought back into the classroom for discussion.
  • Assessment & Development Centres can be used to assess leadership behaviour and determine whether learning transfer has occurred. They also act as a fantastic final learning element, as they force learners to review what they learner.
  • Gamify the entire program by awarding points to each learning activity. Not unlike Candy Crush, the complexity of learning activities should increase as the learner progresses through the program.
  • Hidden curriculum (unwritten lessons, perspectives and values) should be incorporated into the learning experience. An example of this might be getting the learners to regularly seek feedback on tasks from managers and peers. The hidden curriculum would be removing the awkwardness and feel surrounding seeking feedback.


10. Hold your provider accountable 

Your provider needs to be held accountable for deliverables. Now this doesn't mean take advantage or screw your learning partner. It means both parties having a clear expectation of one another.

This can only be achieved if you allow them to partner with you in the design, development and delivery of learning solutions.


In Conclusion

Leadership development programs are not a silver bullet. If you want to be viewed as a strategic contributor to the business, it’s imperative that you follow these steps.