A leadership culture with strong strategic acumen and the discipline to execute strategy well is not something that happens by itself. Rather it can be shaped through a variety of factors with an important one being the development of leadership behaviour. Developing leadership behaviour in a strategic and systematic manner that supports the execution of a company’s business strategy is therefore of critical importance. One Brandon Hall Survey indicates that this is not such an easy task.
Today, most leadership development efforts consist of loosely connected elements such as classroom-based seminars, executive coaching and personality profiling tools. Because of a lack of a clear development plan, these efforts rarely deliver a marked improvement in leadership culture, let alone a more strategic leadership culture.
The approach that Strategic Leadership has developed strategically aligns and strongly integrates into the daily business of our clients.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CONTEXT
In every project, regardless of its size, we try to understand what our clients really want to achieve in terms of goals and WHY this is of importance. Ultimately we want to understand what their highest goals are and how we can help achieve that.
Questions we ask include:
• What is your vision for this organisation in 3-5 years time?
• What purpose does this vision serve?
• Why is it important for your organisation to reach that vision and purpose?
• What is your strategy to achieve that?
• What type of leadership culture do you need to successfully execute the strategy and deliver on your purpose?
• What are the core values of this organisation that should guide everyone's behaviour?
• How clear is the vision to all employees? Are they motivated by it?
• How well do your employees understand their role in implementing the strategy?
• How aligned are your managers in creating a powerful leadership culture?
WIRING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT INTO YOUR ORGANISATION
Before jumping into the development of a programme, we start by taking a holistic look at the project we are facing. Here are some more questions to be considered;
1. How do we sell the value of this leadership development programme so that people turn up motivated?
2. How do we prepare people for this programme?
3. How do we make sure that this programme provides the knowledge and trains the behaviours that the organisation truly needs?
4. How do we ensure that people attending the programme actually try things out and apply new methods in the workplace?
5. How do we remind everyone of this outside the “classroom” after they have finished the designed development programme?
6. How do we create opportunities for people to “learn on the job”?
7. How do we make our development efforts a learning experience that actually manages to shape organisational culture?
8. Which measuring criteria do we selected to show if we are making progress with the leadership development efforts?
9. How will we keep the whole initiative on track?
10. How will we measure our ROI on this leadership development programme?
Once these have been considered, we support HR and senior management to agree on a selection of measures that will ENCOURAGE, SUPPORT and hold people ACCOUNTABLE for becoming more strategic leaders. These are then set up in a project plan with clear responsibilities and appropriate resource allocation.
CASCADING THE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT EFFORT, THROUGH THE ORGANISATION
Once we have secured the alignment of strategy through senior management involvement AND designed the development programme with measures that encourage and support leaders in their development (while also holding them accountable), we start the real work.
Step 1 ensures that the senior team goes through the customised leadership development programme first. It’s as simple as that. The reason is is that they need to have a first hand experience of the programme BEFORE encouraging and supporting their direct reports as they go through it. By starting in this way, we support the senior team to become even stronger. We also ensure that everyone knows what role they are expected to play in the development programme. One role could be that of a mentor or a coach for lower level managers.
The biggest advantage of starting at the top is the following:
In all leadership development efforts, managers look for guidance from the people above them. If the senior team changes nothing in its management and leadership behaviours, the people below them are unlikely to beat the odds.
The cascade can be based on management levels, where all managers of a certain level learn together. The advantage here is that we manage to break down any barriers between departments (the silos).
The cascade can also be department specific, where management teams learn together and managers then repeat the process with their own teams. If breaking down silos is not a priority, this is our preferred approach.
In order to track the progress of the development effort, several accountability factors can be built into the programme. Here are a few examples:
• A customised online survey to monitor relevant leadership behaviours is conducted before, during and after the entire leadership development effort.
• Senior managers attend the kick-off session of each group, where some of them say a few words about how important this initiative is.
• Participants are required to use an e-learning support tool to track the completion of projects related to the programme.
• A senior manager attends the final presentation session of each group to assess the successful implementation of methods as well as the relevant business impact of each leadership project.
• 360° assessments (or comparable tools) are adjusted to reflect key themes from the leadership development programme.
• Recruitment methods/standards are adjusted to reflect key themes from the leadership development programme.
• Official recognition (diplomas and prizes) are awarded to the successful graduates of the programme.
CREATING A RETURN ON YOUR INVESTMENT
When an organisation takes such a structured approach to developing Strategic Leadership, there needs to be a clear return on investment. While it is hard to attribute business results to single development activities, it is definitely possible to create a clear chain of evidence that demonstrates business impact.
By working together with managers and HR on:
a) Establishing the overall target
b) Systematically mapping out the path towards the target by identifying leading indicators
c) Understanding how key behaviours drive the whole process
We can create a system that will give a strong ROI indication.
• We consult senior management on how to develop a more strategic leadership culture, using the company strategy as a vehicle to unite around as delegates develop the needed knowledge and skills.
• We design a customised programme consisting of a combination of development methods and tools (Such as: strategy workshops, 360° reviews, practical projects, training, coaching, mentoring, surveys, change agent workshops, focus groups etc) that all together create a reality based integrated process. The key focus here is to synchronise all elements to deliver a consistent message.
• Our impactful yet economic method accompanies clients from the start to finish of any project. We aim to make ourselves redundant by developing the management team to run these processes on their own in the future.