Leadership is about more than just having an executive job title. Developing leadership that works requires continuous effort and ongoing training to improve skills and expand the knowledge base of leaders at every level. The goals of introducing leadership training programs in your company should be aligned with organizational objectives. For example, if you strive to create a culture of accountability, it is critical for leaders to both demonstrate that behavior and have the necessary skills for developing it among their teams. The competencies that leadership training addresses—communication, delegation, coaching, building relationships, and beyond—will help ensure that your company has a full leadership pipeline both now and in the future.
Strategies for Achieving Leadership Training Goals
Once you have defined the goals for your leadership training program, you need a strategy to help you achieve them. Think of leadership training like any other internal initiative and apply the same process: Create a strategy with interim objectives, milestones, and methods for measuring success.
1. Offer Appropriate, Relevant Training
In order to build strong leadership skills throughout your organization, you must first decide which kind of training is appropriate for various levels of leadership. This way, you’re spending your training budget in the areas where you’ll see the most impact. For example, it doesn’t make sense to have a junior executive go through a high-level leadership course to learn how to be a mentor if he or she doesn’t even have any direct reports yet. Although mentorship training might be interesting to that individual, he or she won’t have the opportunity to apply that knowledge for many years to come. A better fit would be an introductory course for building effective relationships.
Exercise: Perform a leadership assessment exercise to determine the types of training that will make the most sense for your organization:
- Step 1 – Create a chart that outlines the skills needed for each leadership position in the company (supervisor skills, delegation, organizational communication, mentoring, etc.).
- Step 2 – Create a matrix of all of the existing and potential leaders in the left vertical column and all of the necessary competencies you have identified in the top row.
- Step 3 – Rate each individual for each competency to see where the strengths and weaknesses lie.
- Step 4 – Compare this matrix to your leadership skills chart to identify and fill the training gaps.
For example, you might determine that the mid-level role of Marketing Team Leader needs skills in effective communication, increasing productivity, and coaching others. However, during the assessment, you have determined that Manager Mike, who is currently in that role, is not a strong communicator. Once you have identified the gap, you now know where to invest your training budget for that individual.
2. Commitment to Ongoing Leadership Training
The more you invest in leadership development at all levels, the more likely your pipeline will be filled with future leaders who are equipped to tackle new challenges. The best way to ensure that this happens is by creating a long-term strategy that includes regular training sessions that build on each other as individuals progress in their careers. Develop a strategy to meet your short- and long-term goals just as you would for any project or company initiative. This should include putting training dates on the calendar and making sure the timeline doesn’t get pushed back.
Exercise: Solidify your training strategy and demonstrate your long-term commitment by implementing a training calendar:
- Step 1 – Create a rolling 12-month training calendar that you update once each quarter.
- Step 2 – Prioritize the training gaps you identified in the previous exercise.
- Step 3 – Set training dates at intervals that make the most sense for your organization.
- Step 4 – Share this calendar with everybody in the company to help you stay accountable.
3. Develop a System to Evaluate Training Results
As you would with any new initiative, you need to determine whether the leadership development program is generating the improvements you have outlined in your goals. An evaluation might include a pre- and post- training 360-degree assessment, an employee engagement survey, a series of short tests to assess retention, or observations of changed behavior by a manager who works closely with the individual. Don’t forget: A successful organization needs excellent, not average, leaders.
Exercise: Remember that calendar you just created? Now it’s time to add evaluation activities after the training events that you have scheduled:
- Step 1 – Identify the metrics you want to track.
- Step 2 – Create the systems for gathering and evaluating data.
- Step 3 – Add measurement and evaluation activities to the training calendar.
For example, if you want to develop a coaching program, perhaps you use weekly coaching sessions and short surveys as metrics so that you can track how many sessions have occurred and each participant’s rating to determine how well the program is working.
If you are committed to developing leadership that works in your organization, select programs that are relevant to each group or individual, commit to an ongoing training program that builds on itself, and evaluate results to ensure that your goals are being met. The concepts are simple, but the implementation can be more challenging. Approach leadership training like you would any other important initiative in the organization and make it a top priority.