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Figuring Things Out: Leadership development – Maximising the yield … continued

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Business outcomes:
Clearly defining the anticipated business outcomes of the leadership development initiative is fundamental. Too many leadership programmes are implemented with, at best, only a sketchy definition of the expected benefits to the individual and more importantly the organisation. Defining the anticipated outcomes of the initiative in business terms provides connection between the learning and the action that is expected as a consequence of the learning.

The learning experience as a whole:
Learning is continuous, starting before the development programme and continuing afterwards. Although formal training can be an important catalyst in leadership development, studies have shown that managers learn up to 84% of what they need to be effective on the job.

Whether or not a leadership programme delivers its promised outcomes, therefore, is largely dependent on what happens at work. While a great deal of development is necessary, it is insufficient to produce the desired results by itself.

Factors such as the participant’s manager greatly influence whether learning transfer takes place. The most successful leadership development interventions are those that have detailed plans for both the learning event and the post-programme implementation. Maximising the yield depends on planning and managing the entire system – from design and delivery to follow through and on-the-job support.

Starting with the end in mind:
For leadership development to impact on results, learners must be enabled to make connection between classroom learning and job application. To improve the practical yield, the development intervention needs to be delivered in a way that facilitates transfer and application right from the start.

Each element of the development content must be anchored by relevant business needs. Well designed simulations and action-learning programmes are far more effective in enabling participants to pull out personal meaning about what they need to improve or change in order to be more effective. Participants also need to be thinking about what they will do after the leadership programme has finished early on in the programme and understand how these actions will impact on business challenges.

Follow up support:
Unless leadership development is practiced, continued and reinforced on the job, performance rapidly falls back towards its starting point, and most of the potential value lost. Leaders who gain most from development are those that treat the follow up period as an integral part of the programme they attended.

They see their personal learning and action objectives as business objectives. Learners and their managers need to be held accountable for follow-up in order to deliver the expected business outcomes and the estimated return on investment.

Companies that implement structured post development follow-up management see dramatic results. Participants become more focused, have more business focused discussions with their managers and make greater progress. Studies have shown that there is a high correlation between follow-up learning application and business improvement.

Active support:
Leadership development participants are more likely to apply the newly learnt skills and behaviours when they feel they can succeed and they see there is support available when they need it.

Supporting the application of learning objectives is critical, as nothing undermines the impact of leadership development initiatives more than senior management indifference to the post development performance.

Senior management sets the tone by setting out expectations and by continually monitoring and recognising progress in performance. Without this active support, the investment in leadership development is squandered. What gets measured, gets achieved; what gets monitored, gets respected.

Measuring results:
Effective leaders measure and evaluate results to ensure that the anticipated and expected results are achieved. Without measurement, continuous improvement cannot be driven forward. The true business impact of leadership development can only be measured by comparing the actual results to the expected results and assessing the variables and most of the influenced outcomes. Organisations that evaluate the yield of their leadership development initiatives are better able to make decisions about their human capital, invest in those areas or critical business need, and build the capability and performance of the company as a whole.

Joe España is MD of Performance Equations

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Annie Hayes

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