As I sat across the table from Brad and Tonia in a quaint little café in Tulsa, I realized what a great partnership this could be. They were looking for a customized leadership program that had their Core Purpose, Values, and Vision at the heart of it. Brad said, “This project is a white canvas, and you can create exactly what we need.” Wow. Being able to create what was truly best for the company was going to be incredibly rewarding work – I could feel it! Over the next 8 months, there were numerous meetings, discussions about the needs of the business, calibrations with the leadership competencies, selecting the right assessments, creating the intellectual property, putting measures in place to be able to prove ROI, and appointing the inaugural class. We knew it was a big lift, that key stakeholders would need to be behind it, and the participants were going to have to be open to change. On that note, we kept in mind the Steople Behavior Change Model that we regularly utilize with our clients:
Fast forward to now…we have been delivering our flagship leadership program for about 8 years now! I’m happy to say that over the years, individuals who have been chosen for this program have developed into incredibly valuable leaders for the companies they serve. So, what makes for a good leadership development program? I thought I would share with you the guidelines we have used through the years…and do a little extra digging in the research just to make sure. If you are considering a leadership program here you go!
Identify Your Business Drivers. One of the biggest barriers to successful leadership development is a missing link between the skills leaders are learning and the business context. This missing link can be resolved by identifying business drivers. Yes, certain leadership skills—communication, delegation, coaching, etc.—are universal. But you, your stakeholders, and your leaders still need to know the “why” behind how these skills move your business forward. We define business drivers as the top three to five most critical leadership challenges that leaders must conquer to drive the strategic and cultural priorities of the organization.
Build Your Leadership Competency Framework. Building a plan for great leadership depends on identifying the behaviors and competencies that leaders need to demonstrate. A leadership competency framework helps you to clearly define your leadership goals and how they will enable your organization to succeed. It also creates a common leadership language that aligns the expectations and actions of leaders at all levels and roles. Leaders know what is expected of them and what they can expect from others. Ultimately, this common leadership language drives consistent behaviors and helps to shape your company culture…and it really should be broken out by levels, if that makes sense. But, as a backdrop, always keep in mind the Steople success profile…these are all the other elements that contribute to success as a leader:
Adopt Leader-First Instructional Design Principles. Utilizing an approach to learning that incorporates both formal, structured learning and personalized, in-the-moment learning is key. We base our work on these 5 principles:
Principle #1 – Relevant. Excellent instructional designs put leaders’ needs front and center, ensuring that what they learn is deeply relevant to their challenges.
Principle #2 –Personalized. Every minute leaders spend on learning, must be meaningful to the individual to make learning “stick.” Research shows that today’s leaders are clamoring for deeper personalization in learning.
Principle #3 –Immersive. Immersive learning is the creation of a complete environment where people can interact and perform tasks as they would in real life. Essentially, learning by doing.
Principle #4 –Human. Every person brings their head and heart to their work, their role, and every interaction. Leaders have to recognize that their work is incredibly human.
Principle $5 –Trusted. In a world driven by search engines, leaders need to know that the development they are getting is credible and effective, not just the most popular. Science is the king as far as we are concerned.
Invest in Great Leadership Facilitators. Have digital learning options made the human element of leadership development obsolete? We’ve seen zero evidence that this is the case, which is why it’s still so important to invest in great leadership facilitators for live learning experiences. In fact, according to Development Dimensions International (2021), leaders consistently say that they want more human interaction in their learning. They want more coaching., more developmental assignments with feedback, and more formal in-person training. The following graphic is taken from their research of 15,000 global leaders:
Expert facilitators should be great teachers, engaging in their communication, providing timely coaching, and establishing a trusting relationship. For us, a deep understanding of the business as well as great relationships with key internal stakeholders is key to our success.
Leverage Assessments, Group/Self-Directed Development, Peer Learning, and Ongoing Feedback/Coaching. There is so much to cover in this one, but these are the parts of our leadership program that we feel passionate about (and that science would agree with): Utilizing not just the in-module learning, but also between module work to be completed and “practiced” outside of the classroom, the use of peer support to embed the learning in the culture, and the use of both internal (supervisors/HR) and external coaches to continue to provide feedback and ongoing learning. Being able to embed leadership development learning into the culture to help support participants is a must for success.
Measure the Success of Leadership Development. At Steople we utilize the Kilpatrick Model in all our leadership programs. This includes how leaders respond to the program (favorable, engaging, and relevant to their jobs), what they learn (knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence, and commitment), how their behavior changed (apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job), and results (the degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training). The biggest challenge to measurement is that it’s often an afterthought. Without key measures and metrics built in along the way, it can be hard to go back and collect the data you need. Partnering with the client upfront and creating the metrics to measure success is the only way to go.
Honestly, it is a lot of work to put together a successful leadership program! But, rest assured that we have done it for some time now and we are here as a guide if you decide to embark on the journey. The payoffs are there, but you have to be incredibly thoughtful, innovative, and intentional in what you are wanting to build. Let us know what you have found to be most helpful in crafting a development program for your company or if we can do anything to help…such important work!
We believe that leadership development is incredibly important to the success of a business. We are constantly adding new ways to communicate and explain the benefits of investing in your people. We are happy to provide you with a brand-new commercial illustrating our leadership development program. Stay tuned…more to come!
LEADERS CAN BE MADE
STEOPLE HIGH-POTENTIAL LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
Written & Produced by: Cristina Filippo | Executive Producer: Isaias Centeno | Directed & Edited by: Hyped Visuals