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Taking the guesswork out of growing leaders

Friday, December 11, 2015 - 17:18

Guest post by Anneli Blundell

The game of leadership has changed

Growing leaders is too important to outsource; the best leaders know that developing leadership in others, on the job, is a key responsibility. To support the new game, leadership development must change, and leaders must be adaptable, responsive, and continue to develop their skills. Leadership theory is no longer enough: it’s not what you know that matters, it’s what you do with what you know that makes the difference. To develop sustainable leadership, we must move from an overreliance on classroom training alone, toward a committed, agile focus on informal learning.

‘For most leaders, the greatest challenge is not understanding the practice of leadership. It is practising their understanding of leadership.’ —Marshall Goldsmith, author or editor of 35 business books.

The imperative for change

Leadership affects share price

Market analysts value effective leadership by awarding a ‘leadership premium’ of up to 15.7% of company share price for good leadership, and a discount of 19.8% for ineffective leadership . 

Leadership programs aren’t working

86% of HR and business leaders surveyed by Deloitte, cited leadership as one of their most important challenges . Yet 50% of HR executives say their leadership development programs are ineffective or don’t provide significant, lasting benefits .

Money down the drain

The typical organisation invests 85% of its resources in training events, yet these events only contribute 24% of learning effectiveness . Organisations only invest 5% of their time in training follow-up, even though follow up contributes 50% of learning effectiveness.

The knowing-doing gap

Sustainable behaviour change results from focused practice and attention over extended periods. One-off training events don't provide the repetition or feedback required to change mindsets, embed skill sets and integrate new mental maps that forge lasting habits. A focus on application, on the job, supports sustainable behaviour change, and the leader creates the supportive application environment.

Limited bench strength

Developing leadership in others, on the job, allows everyone showing potential the chance to develop— not just the ‘rising stars’ or the ‘executive team’—creating leadership at all levels.

3 steps to develop leaders on the job

Nobel Prize winner and author, Daniel Kahneman said, ‘True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes’.

Leaders are in the best position to provide ‘good feedback on mistakes’, and to provide continued focus, reinforcement and support in real time, on the job—where it counts.

1. Discover: What’s the problem?

Deciding which leadership behaviours to develop requires awareness of the behaviours and their impacts on results and the relationship. Awareness precedes and directs change, and creates motivation.

2. Decode: What’s the cause?

Determining the intention behind the behaviour is critical. Trying to change behaviours without addressing the underlying motivational drivers is like painting a car red and expecting it to go faster—changing the colour does not change the engine.

3. Design: What’s the action?

Once goals are clear, determine a new pathway for improved performance.

Context – the environment for change

The context for change is critical; the environment for development will influence the approach and outcome. A leader can only align the three elements, to the organisational outcomes, once they understand the context in which all parties and the organisation are working.

Once the plan is set, it’s about supporting the new leader to stay the course through ongoing coaching and targeted behaviour-change conversations. This is effective leadership development: it’s real time, relevant, and creates results.

Ongoing action

Development traction comes from ongoing action. Developing the right leadership skills is more than leadership theory. It’s about the practice of leadership with consistent, real-time feedback, on the job. If a leader is well-equipped to develop leadership capabilities within their team, they will create a ripple effect that will lift the organisation’s results.

Anneli Blundell is a professional People Whisperer who supports leaders to develop leadership in others, on the job. She is the co-author of Developing Direct Reports: Taking the guesswork out of leading leaders. Contact her at www.anneliblundell.com or ab@anneliblundell.com.