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Strong Development Plans Start With Solid Business Plans

by Cyndi Gave in Management and Leadership


So you've decided to invest in Leadership Development...

For many years, we've heard social scientists and financial analysts alike predict the future of successful business is in their talent pool. Based on the number of inquires we've been receiving about Leadership Development, I believe the message is getting through loud and clear.

Ironically, most executive teams will agree that leadership in the organization must be improved, but most leaders believe the greatest need is with someone other than themselves. It's the old issue of looking through the window rather than at a mirror. That may be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in any leadership development.

Many leaders confuse the length of time in which they have been in leadership roles with their competency as a leader. If this is true, wouldn't all those people who spend years practicing golf play like the pros?

Then, how do you convince all leaders to take a look at their own skills related to leadership?

1. Determine what leadership skills your organization needs to survive and thrive during the next five years. Start by identifying your goals and objectives, as well as the challenges you anticipate for your organization. Then determine your top priorities.

2. Based on those priorities, determine the types of leadership skills which will be most critical to successfully addressing those priorities. (Create or define the business need to develop critical leadership practices.)

3. Measure the skills which currently exist. It is important to look at the skills and abilities possessed by each leader, as well as how they are perceived by others.

4. Once you have the required leadership practices identified and measure the existing leadership skills observed by others in the organization, the gap analysis should allow you to determine where leadership development can be targeted for each leader.

When leaders see the output of the steps above, and understand expectations to accentuate their strengths and minimize their weakness as liabilities, the degree to which development activities are embraced and pursued increases significantly.

Once leaders understand the difference between the skills they possess and how they are being perceived, they can also more confidently go about changing undesirable perceptions. We recommend using assessments which evaluate multiple facets of an individual's personal talents as well as a strong 360 degree feedback tool to evaluate how they are perceived.

WARNING: Be wary of 360 degree feedback tools which use a lickert scale ("On a scale of 1-5 or 1-10, how cooperative is Susie?"). The tendency for rater bias and other issues are numerous.

A forced comparison approach in a strong 360 degree feedback tool is statistically far more reliable and can be reliably normalized across industries, regions, etc. Additionally, the forced comparison approach provides much more buy-in from the leader being evaluated because his/her observers really can't "game" the 360 degree survey.

Once you have identified the business need for certain leadership practices, and measured the degree to which those practices are demonstrated within your organization, you can begin targeted leadership development. When an individual leader understands there are three or four practices they'd like to develop, their personal pursuit and commitment to development is far greater than asking all leaders to sit through a generic classroom training session.

Classroom training may work when a particular leadership issue is pervasive throughout the organization, and some individuals learn best in a classroom, while others learn best in self-study or e-learning.

The bottom line: time spent identifying leadership training/development options is much better after some analysis of business need and current practices are assessed. Without the first step, your approach is simply: Ready...Fire...Aim



Cyndi Gave, President of The Metiss Group, works with clients to align talent to business objectives using strategic selection processes and practical, results-oriented approaches to performance acceleration. She has been a frequent speaker at Forum meetings in North Carolina and was the featured speaker for Executive Forums' webinar series in 2011.



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