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. The Brandon Hall Survey (2013) 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 is strategically aligned and strongly integrated into the daily business of your leaders.
WIRING LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT INTO YOUR ORGANISATION
Rather than just jumping into the development of a programme, we start by taking a more holistic look at the project we are facing. Here are a 10 key 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 leadership 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
Now that we have secured the alignment of strategy and leadership through senior management involvement AND designed a development programme with measures that encourage and support leaders in their development while also holding them accountable, we can start the real work.
Step 1 ensures that the senior team needs to go 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 in becoming an even stronger TEAM. 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 barriers between departments (silos), but the disadvantage is that we are more limited in terms of working on challenges or projects that are function and or team specific.
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 method.
In order to track the progress of the strategic leadership development effort, several accountability factors can be built into the programme. Here are a few examples (Note that rarely are all of them applied in one and the same project):
• 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 tracks the completion of assignments and projects related to the programme.
• A senior manager attends the final presentation session of each group (of 1-2 management levels below them) to assess the successful implementation of methods as well as the strategy relevant business impact of each leadership project.
• Standard 360° assessments (or comparable tools) are adjusted to reflect key themes from the leadership development programme.
• Recruitment methods and standards are adjusted to reflect key themes from the leadership development programme.
• Official recognition (Diplomas and or prizes) are awarded to 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 and 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 execution of 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, tools and materials (Such as: strategy workshops, 360° reviews, practical projects, training, coaching, mentoring, online surveys, change agent workshops, focus groups etc) that all together create a reality based integrated process for those involved. The key focus here is to synchronise all elements to deliver a consistent message.
• We have developed an impactful yet economic method to accompany clients from the start to finish of any project, where we clearly aims to make ourselves redundant by developing the management team to run these processes on their own in the future.