Jan 28, 2019 | Leadership

It’s easy to understand the logic of investing in enterprise-wide technologies. Senior leaders recognize that it is better for multiple users to have access to data do things like track sales, manage projects, and share files. Yet, when it comes to leadership development, most executives ignore the enterprise-wide model. They implicitly view their organization as an aggregation of individuals.

Successful companies of the 21st century create a robust, repeatable process for talent development. They do more than offer leadership training as a loose series of stand-alone programs. Instead, they develop a holistic model that couples training with practice and coaching in an environment that includes three critical features: context, practice and reinforcement.

Context is king

In the earliest stages of planning a leadership development initiative, senior leaders should ask themselves a simple question: What, precisely, is this program for and how will we measure results? If the answer is to support a scaled organic growth strategy, for example, the company will need leaders brimming with ideas and capable of devising winning strategies for new customer acquisition while reinforcing relationships with key customers to reduce attrition.

Putting principles into practice

When it comes to planning a leadership development program, companies face a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, there is value in classroom-style programs that offer participants time to step back and learn new skills as a cohort. On the other hand, even after very basic training session, adults typically retain just 5% of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly 75% when they practice classroom training with real world experience.

Reinforcement by course correction

Adult learners, no matter how talented, often struggle to transfer even their most powerful classroom experiences into changed behavior. Not only do they not have enough opportunities to put theory into practice, but they also lack critical insight about how their behavior impacts results. Becoming a more effective leader means adjusting one’s underlying mindset to address the root causes of behavior. A diagnostic tool to assess competencies, assumptions, and personality style, coupled with coaching, accelerates the participant’s ability to identify what is going on, why it is happening, and how to change.

Reinforcement by air cover

Research published in the Harvard Business Review shows that leadership training gains the most traction within highly visible development efforts championed by senior leaders. That’s because recognition by senior leaders motivate people to learn and change, create the conditions for them to apply what they’ve studied, and foster immediate improvements in individual and organizational effectiveness.

If you’re not including context, practice, and reinforcement in your leadership development initiatives, you’re probably overspending and getting underwhelming results.


Question: Is your leadership development program actually developing leaders?


Driven by the premise that excellence is the result of aligning people, purpose and performance, Center for Executive Excellence facilitates training in leading self, leading teams and leading organizations. To learn more, subscribe to receive CEE News

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