Article: 5 essential factors that make a leadership program scalable

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5 essential factors that make a leadership program scalable

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The concept of “hero leader” has given way to “hero team”. Poor leadership practices cost companies an amount equal to 8 percent of annual revenues.
5 essential factors that make a leadership program scalable

Leaders operate in an environment of increasing complexity, accelerating change, competition and rapid-fire innovation. At a time when the very nature of leadership is changing; it has become more democratized, innovation-based, agile, collaborative, and behavioural-led. 

The reasons for the failure of leadership development programs stretch across hierarchies. Executives often have no formal training process, and are subject to a lack of focus from top management, leading to a lack of commitment to learn. Leaders are often hired into the role or promoted merely for experience, with little or no formal development to prepare them for the challenge. 

The key concerns in leadership development include: financial constraints, the inability to measure the impact, lack of executive support, and the unpreparedness of the organization itself. Another derailer is the program design, they often lack modern competencies, discredit specific contextual factors, and show a gap between teaching, reflection and application. 

To overcome these challenges, organizations must relook at leadership development in new light, because it presents tangible benefits. 32 percent of turnover can be avoided through better leadership, and it can generate a 3-4 percent improvement in customer satisfaction. This means L&D teams and business leaders must focus on building a great program with proven method. 

Scalable + Resource Efficient + Effective = Great Leadership Development Program

Building a Great Program: The Five Essentials

  1. Context: L&D must evaluate the idea of the program initiative from a-360 degree angle, to build a relevant context:

    • Relevancy to the organization: Think about the organizational context. One known barrier is the unreadiness of the organization, so L&D must assess where the organization lies in terms of readiness to leadership initiatives.
    • Personal context: The “WIIFM” is important for people undergoing the programs i.e. the learner needs to know what it is that he or she will achieve by going through the program. Outlining the “Why” of the program is important for the leader to have intrinsic or extrinsic motivation
    • Content relevancy: L&D professionals often talk about different models and theories of learning. When designing content for a leadership program, one must always ask whether the content is needed because of one’s own need to share the model, or is it the real need of the people who are attending? Similarly, check for the scope and ensure that content is relevant to the real-life leadership issues.
    • Use-case relevancy: L&D professionals must check whether the program design would be able to demonstrate the application of real-life situations encountered by the leaders day in and day out. Are there enough application scenarios for the content? Basis this, relook at the scope of the content.
    • Goal-based outlook: Any good leadership program must have goals which are not restricted to the program goals. Allowing program goals to trickle down to the participants helps . For example, create a list of personal goals, for the learners as well, so that they are able to relate well. 

  2. Content design and modality: L&D professionals often spend maximum time and effort on the content design. Here’s how to make it effective:

    • Instructional relevancy: Often, in leadership, a lot of behaviours and competencies are common across. For example, coaching and feedback are essential competencies across first-rung, middle-level and senior executives. Are you looking for ways to build in novelties to these competencies? 
      Effective instructional design is all about the strategies used to deliver, which actually addresses the real complexity. As leaders go up the hierarchy, the instructional mode must change so as to increase the complexity basis the uses cases. This will ensure better application orientation.
    • Appropriate modality: The concept of “scalable” has been relegated to using self-paced, virtual, blended learning methodologies. In reality, it is important to design a combination of synchronous and asynchronous modalities. For example, same-time interaction through different technologies and delivery modes such as WebEx, classroom, live-cast etc. Such an approach broadens the horizon for scalable options.
    • Practice-versus-theory: Designers often assign weightages to every topic, but then their actual treatment varies. For leadership programs L&D professionals are often excited about sharing a new concept which may not be relevant to real-life. Such elements must be outsourced to self-paced or other means. The design of leadership development should allow participants to spend maximum time on practicing. This will bring in more relevance than mere intellectualization of the concept. 

  3. Continuity and consistency: We often put continuity on paper through program design, but not in spirit. Provide numerous opportunities for learners to relearn the concept through information snacks and learning means outside of the formal learning engagement. Consistent quality comes from building consistent connect i.e. ensuring frequency, routine and rhythm in the program. The idea is to condition participants to anticipate learning through continuous content, connect, and engagement. 
  4. Championship: Executive support is key to leadership development success. Any program has to have a business context. L&D professionals often reach out to a business leader and invite them to be the program champion by opening the program. Championship is really about continuous stewardship of the program, not only through business leaders but influencers, from any part of the organization. L&D professionals must tap into their networks of business leaders, colleagues, enterprise social influencers, communicators, storytellers, SMEs etc. Communicators and storytellers: L&D must maintain a consistent connect engagement with such people, and leverage them to ensure increased ownership of leadership development. 
  5. Experience: The ultimate verdict of leadership development programs’ success is when leaders want to come back to the program ‘you’ run again and again. It is when leaders want to be connected to initiatives you run in some way or the other, either by volunteering to mentor future participants or even talk about the program and experience in future forums. Experience really is a culmination of all of the above four elements and a little more. That ‘little more’ is the accountability and attention to detail we demonstrate through branding, reporting, continuous connects and feeding back the results to and of the investments all people associated with the program have made in it. 

A great leadership development program is one which is a great brand in itself, something that people want to come back to again and again. 

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Topics: Leadership, #GetSetLearn

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