Often, Leadership Development is treated much like my family treats looking for a restaurant when traveling: the first place that looks good we will stop and eat. When traveling with the family, this is not always a bad approach, but if you buy the first leadership program that looks good, then you may wind up with an ineffective program that does not advance your team, organization, or strategic goal. Unfortunately, many well-meaning leaders undermine a leadership program even before they begin to launch by selecting the first intriguing program they find instead of the best program to meet their needs.
You have probably seen it several times. A person goes to a conference, gets introduced to a concept, and wants to bring it to their company. No one looks at what the company needs, and no one looks at their 5-10 year strategy to attempt to meet any long-term goals. Often, programs are implemented but fail to meet actual needs, the return on investment is small or non-existent, and management becomes skeptical of future programs.
Studies have proven that leadership training does have a positive impact on your company. Employees feel better, usually rank them highly, and often are appreciative of the training provided. However, when a corporation approaches leadership development with just wanting to do the next good thing, they often undermine their longer term leadership development. This is why some preliminary questions and work is needed before bringing in a new program.
Here are a few questions you should answer before choosing a leadership development program.
- Where are you now? – By looking at your workforce and seeing their knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) and comparing them to your current needs, a quality HR Department can determine current gaps in leadership, skills, knowledge, or even abilities. These discovered deficiencies become the beginning of your analysis for future programs.
- Where are you going? – While looking at the current state is helpful, organizations should not ignore the 3-5 year strategies of the company, and they should work to determine future human resource needs within the enterprise. As well, certain KSA’s may not be easily developed which would allow time for recruiting to focus on those specific KSA’s when hiring future employees. In this phase, it may be determined that certain skills the company lacks or have in abundance today are not needed in the future. In such cases, it would be unwise to implement a program for skills the company will no longer need.
- What are your unique challenges? – Your organization may be experiencing unique challenges that warrant specific training. Usually, these are rooted in KSA’s of a position, but sometimes they are specific to changing market forces. One company I know faced a challenge of shrinking demand for their products and required each supervisor and manager to learn concepts to help the company run more efficiently until the economy improved. In the meantime, giving supervisors and managers the proper tools and change management skills for this particular type of problem became a priority.
- What 3-5 objectives would you want your program to meet? Sitting down and writing out the 3-5 most important objectives that will best meet your identified needs will help you to narrow down leadership programs, evaluate them more objectively, and better measure the effectiveness of the program.
When you match your current needs, future strategy, and unique challenges to leadership and development and help your team to see the current gaps in the company, then you will be on your way to developing a Leadership Program that will have the greatest potential benefits. Instead of selecting a program like I do a restaurant when traveling, you will become more strategic and helpful to the overall goals of your company.