3 Key Ideas for Consistency and Creativity in Leadership Development

In our recent survey “How satisfied are you with your organization’s learning & development”, the majority of first responders are only “somewhat dissatisfied.” They express concern over a lack of consistency in learning & development approaches at their organizations and emphasize the need for greater focus on mid-manager development.

What most managers/future leaders react negatively to is the program du’jour—the periodic introduction of the next best idea for leadership and talent development. You can hear the groans and see the eyes rolling. One—More—Model that no one will apply or remember the day after tomorrow. 

Let’s cut to the chase. This is not rocket science, but consistency does take some creativity. Here are some methods for creating both in your organization:

1.  Be picky: Select one or two leadership themes for a period of time (one quarter, 6 months, one year) and consistently support their development. For example—if great leaders are open minded, everyone works on listening skills for this period of time and it becomes not only a shared vocabulary, but a shared practice acknowledged in meetings, in performance reviews, with peers and customers. 

2. Offer multiple formats for engaging: We each have different learning styles—auditory, visual, experiential—but the most productive formats for learning combines elements and provide the opportunity for real world application in safe spaces beyond the classroom.

If you kick off the process in person, keep lecturing to a minimum (15 minute increments or less, interspersed with activities) and lay the path for discovery clearly—that there will be other opportunities for the participants to engage with the material and with each other including: 

a. Video Lecturing: If the instructor is engaging, the visuals are supportive and the content useful, video shorts can be a terrific way to revisit key concepts or take a deeper dive into material presented earlier. Keep it short (5 to 15 minute videos). 

b. Individual reflection or assessment: Anything that helps us understand ourselves better can be a useful tool and will keep us engaged (because it’s all about us!) On paper or online. 

In a recent MOOC sponsored by MIT, we had daily access to an online questionnaire about our listening styles. It was extremely effective on two levels. One, keeping me aware each day of which style I was using (or over using!) and two, helping me track change over time in a super simple, creative manner. I still have the visual posted on the wall next to my desk at work as a gentle reminder. Am I habitually downloading information (reconfirming old opinions and judgements), am I listening for new facts (that could confirm or disconfirm what I think I already know), am I empathetically connecting with the speaker and topic, or am I listening for what is possible?

c. Group interactions: In the classroom, whole group or sub groups interaction can offer very creative and effective ways to explore the topic, discuss their current challenges or solutions, to share and engage with each other not only helps anchor in the learnings, but builds bridges across silos within organizations. 

d. Peer coaching circles outside the classroom: Give them the responsibility and creative opportunity to support each other; key to success her is to provide a set of questions and process that is easy to follow 

e.  Case studies on video: Offer 5 to 10 minute videos or 3 to 5 minute audio recordings that highlight individuals or coaching circles sharing insights, practice ideas, how they have applied the material and succeeded in some challenge specifically related to the theme you are focusing upon that quarter

f. Highlights: For text attentive participants, short emails with tips and ideas for implementation related to the leadership topic are effective, with links to articles or white papers or blogs that continue to build insight

3. Mind the Mid Managers: If mid-managers have been ignored yet that is the pool for your future leaders, consider a Mentor Program that builds alliances between senior and mid-management in a very unique and personal way. It’s a double win. Senior leaders become more engaged in the ultimate goal of creating future leaders while making an immediate contribution to their development. And mid managers get exposure to senior leaders they otherwise would not and have a chance to show how effectively they can stretch into leadership opportunities. Pilot a program with a kick off session that sets expectations, defines roles and starts to introduce leadership training elements (topics you can later expand upon in a full blown learning and development program). While this is not traditional L&D, it is a creative way to start the conversation, the practice and the interaction.

Leadership starts with self-awareness and grows through action. What can you do today in your organization to forward consistent and creative leadership development? Who can be your allies? What small and immediate step can you take? It’s not too late to have your voice heard. Take our short survey and tell us how satisfied you are with leadership development at your organization.