What is critical to leadership team development? Making it relevant to the everchanging business! Developing people is good and worthy. When people are eager to develop themselves and gain new skills and knowledge, they are better engaged and more productive.
However, the primary reason for any organization to invest in Leadership development is to enhance organizational capability and be more effective – at all levels – individual, team and organization. This aspect may be difficult to measure and even more difficult to achieve.
Leadership team development faces many challenges. Short term event-based training programs seldom result in any noticeable change in the behaviour or capability of the participants. Long term programs, on the other hand, are difficult to sustain and lose steam mid-way!
Also, when participants learn new skills and gain new knowledge but do not get an opportunity to apply them at work immediately, they lose the new perspectives and revert to old ways of doing things.
Research shows that leadership team can be effective when the senior leadership team is involved in the process of training and learning. They need to create a psychologically safe environment where participants are willing to take interpersonal risk and explore new ways of solving old problems.
By creating an environment where participants can immediately apply their new learning, leaders contribute immensely to the leadership development initiatives. Making leadership development initiatives requires system level changes and not just “more training”.
System level changes requires one to view an organization works on the principles Gaia hypothesis (as developed by James Lovelock for the planet) as a single self-regulating system. An organization comprises of people, systems and processes. People means their skills, talents, expertise, cultural background, behavioural and personality styles and even their roles, responsibilities and relationships at workplace.
Behavioural change requires that the organization addresses these aspects in totality. The system needs to support the change expected of the individual participants. If the system fails to support the training initiative, the development tapers off.
Here are some common areas to address when embarking on a leadership team development program:
- Bring clarity about the path forward and help every individual set the right priorities
- Address the buy-in of senior managers into the new direction and change programs. Often, senior managers may not acknowledge the need to change their own behaviour and this could derail leadership team development programs.
- Develop a more egalitarian method of addressing problems where it is easy for people to speak up about problems without the fear of unfavorable consequences.
- Work to break down silos among various functions. Often, new projects work across functions and having a collaborative culture helps new initiatives.
- Create a structured process for senior leaders to interact with the participants. Their time and attention are helpful in getting a continuous buy-in.
The focus, while developing the leadership team, needs to shift form just delivering training programs to creating systemic changes that support the learning. By clarifying roles and responsibilities, driving clarity of the expected outcomes from the learners and by contributing their own time and attention on the change project, senor leadership can enable effective leadership team development programs.