Standalone training is expensive, and either effective or frustrating. Most of us have discovered that training doesn’t work unless participants are prepared for the content, have a learning experience that is meaningful to them in their current jobs, and have follow up reinforcement and accountability. To prevent wasted time and dollars, many organizations have begun to develop a leadership development strategy as part of an effort to support the achievement of strategic goals.

You might need a leadership development strategy if…

    1. Productivity has leveled off, there are still unmet goals from 2015, and customer complaints are flat. No improvement = no growth.

    2. You’ve implemented values and competencies (“How we do things around here”), but nothing has changed.

    3. Your leadership team is “over trained and under implemented.” Some organizations have spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on manager and leader training, only to have the participants return to their jobs and keep doing what they have always done.

    4. You’re losing Millennials and Gen Xers whose exit interviews reveal they are leaving for training and development opportunities.

    5. You’re losing emerging leaders because they see external candidates chosen over them because they are not yet trained.

If you said yes to any of these statements, you need a leadership development strategy. It should address the development needs of different levels of leadership from emerging leaders (who do not yet supervise staff) through the president. If you have a current strategic plan, make sure training efforts are linked to achieving specific goals. Of course, whenever the strategic plan covers 2-3 years, so should the development strategy. 

Once an organization has a strategic plan, each division and department should develop a plan to achieve their portion of the goals. While some goal achievement simply requires consistent actions, very often new skills must be acquired. To prevent “one off” or disconnected training efforts, each department should develop a plan that supports divisional and organizational goals. Discussion and plan development can be the basis of a departmental or divisional retreat. Be sure to get staff input so that implementation details are not left out.

Once the plan is developed and the training has been sourced, prepare your staff for training success. Don’t just send an email that states, “You have been selected to attend training XYZ on February 28th. Don’t forget to sign up.” No one cares (yet) because they don’t know WHY they should attend, and they are too busy to sign up.

Instead, invite the participants to a brief in-person or two-way teleconference “kick-off’ meeting where the president or division head shares his or her endorsement of the training—and why this training is being offered now. Tell participants how this training will help them on their jobs. Share who is attending, what the training will cover, where, and when it is being offered. Encourage participants to read any needed materials or to gather needed information prior to Day 1 of training. If there are assessments to be taken prior to training, tell them what to expect. Let them know in advance how training will be reinforced (webinars, renewal discussions, action learning projects, mentoring the next cohort of attendees, etc.) and how its impact is expected to affect performance and performance management measurements.

Creating a multi-year leadership development strategy has a “multiplier effect.” The first effect happens before the first training event is held: it grabs the attention of participants who might otherwise leave for continuous development elsewhere. Second, and perhaps even more valuable, leader development positively impacts the participants’ performance, and that improvement cascades down to their direct reports who also improve their performance. A leadership development strategy is key to building the bottom line!

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