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Goldilocks & Leadership Development

goldilocks1-400x265How do you design a leadership development programme right for you?

Many of our clients are wanting to have a development programme for managers and leaders that is tailored to them – or completely bespoke for each person.  The days of off-the-shelf learning approaches seem to be numbered as recognition grows that traditional classroom learning is simply not effective.

So what can businesses do to make their development programmes for managers and leaders – more appropriately tailored or bespoke?

Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned over the years about how this approach can work best – whether you work with an external provider or not.

Make the vision for development crystal clear.

Let’s start with the intent.  Why on earth are you doing this?  If you want to engage and demonstrate to your organisation the value-add of developing managers and leaders, you’ll need to answer the questions below.

What’s the purpose?   What do you want people to learn through this development?  What might people be doing differently as a result of this?  How does that add value to the business?  How could you measure that behavioural change to monitor the effectiveness of the programme?

Totem Lollipops

What’s the Development Path?  Where might learners want to take their careers and how does this development support that?  What features might your approach need in order to best support personal, career and business-critical development?  Do you need to add in mentoring from the Exec, buddy systems, external experiences and support?  How does your approach enable people to grow their self-awareness, a critical door-opener to all other development?

We’ll admit that list of questions can be tough to answer, and working through those questions with your stakeholders can often take months.  But in our experience, considering and responding to each of those questions will mean you’ll be able to create a solid and compelling business case for developing your people; and a better programme as result.

So now to the doing.  What activities or interventions could you use?

Below is a little list of things you can use on top of facilitated skills workshops, but we’d always recommend starting with the learning objectives.  What do people need to learn?  Is it knowledge, skill – or about embedding behavioural habits?  Plan interventions or learning activities that best suit that sort of learning.

  • Engage the senior team. When we talk about the 70: 20: 10 model, the difficulty is always working out what to do with the 70%.  The fact is that the 70% of our learning comes from the underlying culture and unconscious observation of how things are done around here.  That can be heavily driven by our managers – so getting them on board with the learning objectives and role modelling the right sort of behaviours is critical.  It doesn’t of course always work that way – but it’s a great starting point to at least get leaders on board.
  • Problem-solving workshops. Reflecting the best practice accelerated learning principles of having learners create their own learning, this approach starts with them.  What is the problem they’re facing linked to your development outcomes?  A common example is both the business and the delegates want to get better at having difficult conversations.  So instead of jumping into traditional classroom training showing people how they should have difficult conversations, ask people to look at it like a problem to solve.  The fact is that in this example, and many others, we all know what we should do, but actually doing it is a different story.  Powerful facilitation of “why is it we don’t do what we know we should, and how might we address that?” can be far more beneficial than yet another training course.  You can read more about this in the article High Performance Conversations.
  • Webinars and self-directed learning. If some of the learning you want to deliver is knowledge-building, then you may as well make use of all the resources available in your documents and systems – and the good old internet.  Giving people knowledge in a workshop can be energy-draining and unhelpful, so use online learning, webinars and workbooks to encourage learners to work at their own pace, reflect and build their knowledge.  The idea with self-directed learning is to encourage the same kind of behaviour as you see when someone is curious about a topic.  We start with a google search and find ourselves going in all sorts of directions from there, clicking on more links and expanding our understanding of something.  You can encourage this by suggesting particular Google searches, giving suggested web links and TED talks and recommending people explore from there.
  • 1:1 coaching and Action Learning Sets. When it comes to embedding behavioural habits, the best option is always to have a manager who supports and challenges us to try out new things, reflect on learning from experience and keep trying things out.  This of course is very rare – and whilst engaging your leaders at the start is wise, it’s always useful if you can give a helping hand to the embedding of habits.  Coaching and action learning give you the chance to challenge people on how they have applied their learning, what they’ve tried and what they could do differently next time.

Own it!

The real jazz hands moment in our work is when individuals take personal accountability for their learning.  This is singularly the most important thing you can encourage when developing people.  If you get this right, and get it in early, learners will be better engaged, more responsive and eager to improve their capabilities.  Starting any learning with it all being focused on people coming up with their own solutions is a great message – and enables you to build from there, the theme of personal accountability.

You could argue that there is nothing in here that stands out as particularly bespoke or different from an off-the-shelf programme – but the key difference is, it all starts with what your business needs to achieve and what your learners offer as solutions.  That’s what makes it work.