Steps to Build an Effective Leadership Development Program

Steps to Build an Effective Leadership Development Program
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Leadership Development Matters
McKinsey and the Corporate Executive Board surveyed more than 500 executives to learn their top human capital priorities. Leadership development ranked among the top three and almost half of all business leaders listed developing effective leaders as their top concern. Knowing how to build an effective leadership development program is critical.

This is not surprising.  US companies report spending $14 billion per year on leadership development. 

Unfortunately, data from our leadership simulation assessments and recent research found that 60% of new managers underperform during their first two years and nearly 70% of senior executives are only “somewhat” or “not at all satisfied” with the performance of their companies’ frontline leaders.

Where’s the disconnect?

Back to the Leadership Development Drawing Board
Clearly something is not working. There seems to be a major disconnect between the intent to design leadership development training that works and the actual results on the ground.  It is time to take a close look at the best practices of leadership development programs that succeed.

6 Steps to Build an Effective Leadership Development Program
From our over three decades of award-winning leadership development experience in the field of designing and implementing leadership development programs that work, here are the six steps we recommend:

  1. Align Program Goals with the Strategic Priorities
    Make sure that all leadership programs ruthlessly focus on moving forward key strategic priorities of the business while simultaneously building your leadership succession pipeline.

    High performing leadership development programs take an action learning leadership approach to development that assesses current leadership capabilities, close critical skills gaps, and get real strategic work done.

    You will know you are headed in the right direction when the program’s “greater reason why”  resonates with the entire executive team.
  2. Define the Value with Those Who Matter Most
    Before launching the program, find an executive sponsor and agree upon the high level parameters of the business case, design, communication, rollout, and measurement plan.

    Then work with key stakeholders to collectively agree upon the business case, success metrics, target audience, and high level plan. Make sure that you communicate clearly and concisely how the program will benefit the target audience, their bosses, and the company as a whole. All three levels matter.
  3. Prepare Learners’ Bosses
    Make sure your learners’ managers (often the Board, Executive Team, or Senior VPs) understand the rationale for leadership development, commit to its success, and are prepared to model, reinforce, coach to, reward, and measure the desired new skills to ensure long-term behavior change.

    Executives must be willing, ready, and able to remove any strategy, culture, and learning barriers. This can be as simple as a kickoff meeting with participants and their boss and as complex as having all leaders go through the program and learning how to coach to and reinforce the desired outcomes.
  4. Plan the Roll-Out
    Design a training rollout plan that makes sense for all key stakeholders that have interest in or influence over the leadership program results. Think through where you will begin the program in terms of scope, location, and function in a way that aligns with how work gets done.

    Often, a pilot is helpful to create momentum, build trust, work out the kinks, and fine-tune next steps.
  5. Craft the Communication Plan
    Design a communication plan from initial announcement to final wrap-up. The style, frequency, tone, and clarity of your communication make a huge difference. You want to clearly set and manage expectations while creating excitement and articulating the value to the people AND to the business.
  6. Measure Effectiveness
    How will you know the program is succeeding, and demonstrate its value and its impact? Only by using training measurement to track adoption and measure desired business results, drive accountability for execution, and provide feedback for coaching that is simple, relevant, and actionable.

The Bottom Line
To set up a leadership development program for success, use these six steps as guidelines to put your program in that champion league that delivers on the promise.

To learn more about to build an effective leadership development program, download The Top Skills for High Performing Leaders

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