• best practices in leadership development

    A Survey of Best Practices in Leadership Development

    Here is a summary of 14 articles related to best practices in leadership development (LD). I’m using these summaries to see what’s out there, benchmark my work, and learn a few new things.

    There are many good ideas here for LD, coaching, and training. How do your LD practices compare? Where are your opportunities for improvement? Which will work best for you and your organization?

    I have listed the titles and authors so you can read them for yourself in full if you so choose. I hope you find these summaries thought-provoking, and that they help you move toward some of these best practices in leadership development!

    Article Summaries – Best Practices in Leadership Development

    Leadership Development Should Focus on Experiments
    Ashkenas & Hausmann (HBR 2016)
    [read it here]

    • OLD: Give leaders new skills and hope they will change their behaviour
    • NEW / BETTER: Give leaders real business challenges to solve and coach them through it
    • RESULTS: This generates both learning and real business results—on real business issues
    • “Leadership lessons become more real when you test them on an actual challenge”


    Why Leadership Development Has to Happen on the Job
    Melissa Daimler (HBR 2016)
    [read it here]

    • Pay attention to the evolving context your business is operating in
    • Shift from workshops to continuous learning on the job, learning from your environment and from one another
    • Helps employees be part of something bigger


    Leadership Trends in 2016 
    Predictions: Executive Forum 
    [read it here]

    • Boomers retire & millennials take over
    • LD needs explode
    • Flexibility becomes key: Millennials believe in personalization & results over structure
    • Shift in office design: mix of collaborative space, personalized work stations, and telecommuting—affects leadership communication styles
    • Employee engagement and retention
    • Shift in benefits, e.g., paid maternity leave


    3 Trends in Leadership Training & Development for 2016
    Darleen Derosa, Business2Community
    [read it here]

    • Blended learning: combining training, coaching, and e-learning
    • Gamification: using games and simulations for learning and engagement
    • Mobile learning for learning anytime, anywhere: short spurts (micro-content) between other tasks; can involve social elements


    Why Leadership Development Programs Fail
    Gurdjian, Halbeisen & Lane (McKinsey Quarterly, 2014)
    [read it here]

    • Tie LD to real on-the-job projects that have a business impact and improve learning
    • Make major business projects an LD opportunity as well; integrate LD components into the projects
    • Overlooking context: Success in one situation doesn’t guarantee success in another. One size doesn’t fit all. Be clear on what your program is for—and focus on a few key/strategic/targeted competencies.
    • Decoupling reflection from real work: Tie LD to real on-the-job projects that have a business impact and improve learning.
    • Underestimating mind-sets (why leaders act the way they do): Identifying “below the surface” thoughts, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs is usually a precondition of behavioral change.
    • Failing to measure results: Metrics enable you to track progress, make improvements, and validate your LD programs. You can monitor behavior (360 feedback), career development after training, ROI on action learning projects, departmental or regional results, business impact, productivity, etc.


    Nine Best Practices of Leadership Development 
    Patricia Dammann (instituteod.com, 2014)
    [read it here]

    • Regular dialogue between participants & their managers
    • Link individual development plans to core competencies [better: to strategic objectives]
    • Design blended development solutions
    • Determine leaders’ skills gaps
    • Define leadership competencies needed for business growth: derive these from your business goals
    • Define your leader audiences: segment to offer more targeted support
    • Place leaders in intense “let me experience it” type assignments—w/ specific development challenges
    • Re-evaluate development opportunities regularly
    • Define metrics for success upfront


    A New Era is Needed for Leadership Development
    Howard Prager (www.td.org, 2016)
    [read it here]

    • LD needs to be accountable for identifying & developing successors; track, validate, improve
    • LD needs to be a long-term business imperative and a consistent investment (vs periodic or episodic)
    • Clarify the 5 W’s of LD: rigorous, integrated plan
    • Consistent / high expectations for leaders
    • Align LD with strategy and organizational needs
    • If you work in teams, learn in teams
    • Leaders: care for your workers and for results
    • Use your leaders as teachers: coach, mentor…
    • Just in time learning—where & when it’s needed
    • Action learning—tied to real business issues
    • Job aids, wikis, and performance support 
    • Manager support: pre- & post-learning discussions 
    • Multi-feedback assessment & coaching 
    • Choose people who want to lead & develop others.
    • Reward leaders who grow & development talent


    Developing the Next Generation of Leaders: Trends & Truths about the Future of Leadership Development
    Ian Ziskin (hrps.org, 2015)
    [read it here]

    • It’s our job to ensure leaders are prepared and have great opportunities for development
    • All leaders are talent managers and work to connect talent across the organization
    • It’s not enough to know the business anymore; have to understand the external environment
    • Hero leadership gives way to collective leadership: leadership is a team sport; it’s all about collective leadership capacity
    • LD must focus on cross-functional collaboration; integrated, multi-disciplinary, cross-functional perspectives and solutions
    • Cross-company LD; moving leaders from one company to another for development
    • Use coaching to prepare leaders for new situations in advance, rather than only learning from experiences and fixing mistakes after they occur
    • Mass Customization: segmentation of pivotal roles, people, and learning opportunities: selectively differentiate LD experiences based on each leader’s unique capabilities and role
    • Focus on “whole person”: where performance, purpose, community, and meaningful values align; develop healthy, balanced, well-rounded, purpose-driven leaders
    • LD in smaller more digestible bites: developmental assignments and LD programs that support more agile, quick-turnaround, quick-hit, on-demand, and technology-enabled design & delivery models
    • “Past track record is only a valid predictor of future success if the past looks anything like the future.” Develop leaders who are “ready able”: flexible, adaptive, savvy, and situationally aware


    5 Trends for the Future of Learning & Development
    Wentworth & Lombardi (Brandon Hall Group, 2014)
    [read it here]

    • Mobile learning is a small but growing method of LD: mobile learning apps, performance apps, Web-based sites…
    • Growing importance of social media and social collaboration tools to foster a learning culture
    • Adaptive learning (learning at your own pace) with just-in-time teaching & coaching
    • The learning of the future must be closely aligned to overall corporate strategies (strategic focus)
    • Focus on both business needs and individual development needs
    • Metrics: include both business metrics and learning/HR metrics.


    6 Leadership Development Trends for 2015
    Isabel Williams (switchandshift.com)
    [read it here]

    • Need to learn how to mitigate generational differences. Millennials are team-players, high achievers, independent but not against authority, and grew up fully immersed in technology
    • Globalization: leading across countries & cultures and in new environments & situations
    • Building the leadership pipeline at every level
    • Moving from the heroic leader (Lone Rangers) to collective leadership [teams of leaders & leaders of team; collaborative practice; emergent solutions]
    • Moving from competency based development to “vertical” development, i.e., the stages that people go through as they grow mentally [and career progression up through the levels of leadership]


    Leading in the 21st Century
    Barton, Grant, and Horn (McKinsey Quarterly, 2012)
    [read it here]

    Six global leaders (CEO’s) confront the personal and professional challenges of a new era of uncertainty. 

    • Leaders are operating in a bewildering new environment in which little is certain, the tempo is quicker, and the dynamics are more complex — a volatile, globalized, hyper-connected age.
    • View the world through two lenses: a telescope, to consider opportunities far into the future, and a microscope, to scrutinize challenges of the moment at intense magnification—and shift back and forth with speed & ease
    • Like “tri-sector athletes,” leaders must able to engage & collaborate across the private, public, and social sectors
    • Stay grounded during a crisis: coping with stress, chaos, crises, pressure, change…


    7 Rising Trends in Employee Training & Development in 2016 
    ERC, Highland Heights, OH (2016)
    [read it here]

    • The 2016 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report states that executives and HR leaders are “focused on understanding and creating a shared culture, designing a work environment that engages people, and constructing a new model of leadership and career development”
    • The biggest portion of T&D is on LD
    • More than half of all issued training and learning hours are instructor-led classroom training. Self-paced online is 19% and instructor-led online is 9%
    • An ATD study noted that humans crave interaction, and tend to learn better in live environments. Behaviour & body language enrich the learning process with information and memorable experiences


    Leadership Development: The Six Best Practices
    Josh Bersin (joshbersin.com, 2008)
    [read it here]

    • Develop strong executive engagement in and commitment to LD [make senior leaders part of the solution]
    • Define tailored leadership competencies: foundational (new leaders), advanced (mid-managers), mastery (executives)
    • Align LD with strategy: design LD to support strategy and when reviewing LD discuss it in terms of its impact on the business/on business issues
    • Target all levels of leadership
    • Use a comprehensive, integrated learning approach, e.g., 360 feedback + workshops + coaching, etc.
    • Integrate LD with talent management: LD has to be aligned with and supported by succession planning, performance management, recruitment, and selection


    A Few Key Stats on Leadership and LD

    These stats came from the articles cited above:

    • Research has shown that when companies spend more time and money on training they have lower turnover rates, more top-performing employees, higher promotion rates and overall higher engagement and satisfaction. (Darleen Derosa, Business2Community, 2015)
    • DDI research found that companies with high leadership qualities were six times more likely to be among the top 20 financial performers of all organizations, and those boasting high levels of leader engagement and retention, and strong leadership qualities,  were nine times more likely to outperform their peers financially. (Isabel Williams, switchandshift.com, 2015)
    • Companies spent more than $24 billion on leadership and management training worldwide in 2013, an increase of 15% from 2012. What’s the ROI on that investment? (Ashkenas & Hausmann, HBR, 2016).
    • According to the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends 2015 Report, only 18% of programs are held accountable for identifying & developing successors. (Howard Prager, www.td.org, 2016)
    • Technology-based training is up to 90% less expensive than traditional classroom based training. It cuts down on the time employees spend traveling as well as travel expenses (airfare, gas, mileage, hotel rooms, food). (Darleen Derosa, Business2Community, 2015)
    • US companies alone spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development. Colleges and universities offer hundreds of degree courses on leadership, and the cost of customized leadership development offerings from a top business school can reach $150,000 a person… Only 7% of senior managers polled by a UK business school think that their companies develop global leaders effectively, and around 30% of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit their international business opportunities fully because they lack enough leaders with the right capabilities. (McKinsey 2014)
    • A 2012 poll by the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University showed that as many as 70% of Americans blame leadership crisis as a factor in the national economic decline. (Isabel Williams, switchandshift.com, 2015)
    • The 2016 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report noted that 89% of executives “rated the need to strengthen, re-engineer, and improve organizational leadership” as important or very important. (ERC)
    • ATD’s State of the Industry Report stated that the average direct expenditure on T&D per employee per year is $1,229 (32.4 learning hours per year), and high-performing companies spend more. (ERC)
    • Post-training practice (practicing and using what you have learned) can improve learning effectiveness by 917%. (Mark Forman, Decisive Performance)

    A Few Key Quotes on Leadership and LD

    These quotes came from the articles cited above:

    • “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is not training them and keeping them” (Zig Ziglar)
    • “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” (Seneca) – LD is all about living at the intersection of preparation and opportunity. It’s our job to ensure leaders are prepared and have great opportunities for development. (Ian Ziskin, hrps.org, 2015)
    • Resilient leaders are those who have ambition for a cause greater than themselves. (Shimon Peres)
    • “Learning is part of economic survival for most of us”, and if businesses don’t make an effort to continuously re-skill employees, they will fall behind. (Josh Bersin, Forbes)

    I am not claiming any of this material for my own. I encourage you to read these and other articles on the best practices in leadership development for yourself. I also did some editing to make it easier to read in this format.

    Harvested by Joel Shapiro, Ph.D.

    Joel Shapiro is a leadership educator and culture guru with Incrementa Consulting in Calgary, Canada. Joel is passionate about developing leadership capacity, making employees part of the solution, and finding the perfect blend of humanity and business performance. You can read more of Joel’s thoughts on the Incrementa website and on Twitter.

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