Building a high impact leadership development framework

Building a high impact leadership development framework

Globally, companies spend millions on formal Leadership Development initiatives to try and fast track and invest in their leadership pipeline. A typical Harvard Business School Executive Leadership Development Program can easily cost in excess of $40 000, with local programs being a bit more affordable, ranging from R60 000 for short courses to an excess of R300 000 for executive focused programmes.

Irrespective of the type of programme, they all have a common goal in mind: to develop the next set of leaders inside our organisations. However, we sometimes miss the mark by not delivering a good balance between targeted outcomes compared to the amount of time, effort and money put in.

In other words we are not getting the needed bang for our buck. But there are some common mistakes we make when starting these initiatives:

1) Failing to properly define expected ROI metrics and later benchmarking against them.

2) Failing to select the correct programme, course or service provider that fits the current needs, goals and culture of the organisation.

3) Not selecting the right attendees.

As we all know, there are no shortcuts to developing our staff, be it technical development or leadership development. What we need is a well thought through approach that will help us navigate the dynamic world of business.

Time, effort, commitment and follow through:

Form a managerial level, we need to spend time and effort to take stock of what our organisational needs are. For example, do we prioritise technical skills over leadership skills? Do we get an external service provider to present new content or, do we develop our own?

We need to commit to our training and development initiatives as part of a continual learning process. We do this by actively managing expectations and actual outcomes.

Finally, we need follow through. We need to measure, assess and be able to illustrate the true impact the program has had, not only on the organisation as a whole, but specifically on the individual. That is ultimately our goal, improving the individual.

A framework:

To help you structure your skills, and leadership development programmes it is worth thinking of it in terms of a hierarchy of needs. Different groups of employees have different needs, at different times of their careers, where each layer supports and builds up to the next layer.

A typical hierarchy of needs triangle can illustrate how you could structure some of your initiatives to achieve maximum impact. Each level targets a specific need or group in the business, and will be tailored accordingly.

1. Culture and Values: As a starting point the cultural elements as well as the core values of the organisation needs to be defined, communicated and regularly reinforced. One of the many functions of this layer is to set and communicate your commitment to caring for and growing your staff. Initiatives in this layer can be broader in focus and can be targeted to larger groups within the organisation.

2. The Core Technical Competencies layer focusses on equipping your staff with the needed skills and knowledge to be able to effectively perform their duties. In other words, your staff needs to have the ability to perform per the expected standard of excellence. Training programs that fall into this layer, should have a direct impact on the daily operations of the business.

3.The Technical Specialities layer focusses on the specialist skillsets that will help drive your business forward, ensuring that:

It remains relevant in the market place in terms of technical capability (such as technology changes, competition, client demands).

It can take on new opportunities that arise over time as result of a changing market conditions (such as emerging technologies, new markets).

It can differentiate itself from its competitors (via niche or specialist skills)

4. New Leadership Development focusses on developing new leaders and helping them transition from technical experts into leaders in your organisation. This is especially difficult to achieve, especially in strong technical environments where a lot of value and status is assigned to your technical and specialist ability as an individual. What is important to note, and incorporate, into initiatives for this layer is the differentiation between technical ability and leadership ability as distinct disciplines.

Initiatives in this layer are less broad, and some specialisation needs to be done by identifying sub groups, such as inexperienced leaders vs experienced leaders.

5. Targeted Leadership Development needs to ensure that you nurture and grow your key leaders in the organisation. What needs to be recognised is that just as you would mentor your staff on technical competencies, leaders need specific leadership focused mentorship in order to develop their leadership ability further.

Research has shown that people who have been mentored by multiple mentors, have shown greater levels success than those who have only been mentored by a single mentor.

Initiatives in this layer needs to be focused on the individual and tailored to their specific needs and situation. If they are group based, the groups must be smaller and individuals needs to be grouped according to their leadership development needs.

Ultimately, the outcomes and impact of training and development initiatives needs to be measurable and illustratable to be able to assess the value of the amount of time, effort and money put in. But similarly, the appropriate selection and ‘fit’ of employees to each training course is important. You need to ensure that the initiative will cater to the needs of the specific group or person, and that the expected outcomes will match your goals for the organisation.

By applying our minds and defining a structured approach to how we implement our training leadership development initiatives we can start the journey of not only caring for, and growing our staff more effectively, but also delivering true value to the organisation without blowing the budget.

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