Leadership Training (but how to choose?)


Baffled by the array of options for leadership training? Jane Kennelly talks with Jane Davis, Director, Activise Ltd about how to choose what’s right for your company.

As the economic sun shines, organisations are unzipping their leadership development wallets and investing in training programmes. This follows the short-sighted reaction that occurs during market downturns where training budget’s are stripped back until once again, the sun starts shining.

jane-d-smal-smalUnfortunately, a by-product of this stop/go approach to training is the emergence of capability gaps inside organisations, so the cry for leadership development programmes can be heard in board rooms, meeting rooms and cafés across town.

According to Davis, the message ‘we have just got to get through’ makes perfectly logical sense at the outset of tough times, but before too long, the feeling of falling behind starts to niggle, comparisons are made and unrest occurs.

As well, another phenomenon that comes with a buoyant market is the increase in the number of people turning their hand to leadership development and coaching. The dilemma: how to choose the right leadership training programme?

Given this can be perplexing and potentially expensive we asked Davis to outline current thinking about leadership training and development to help employers decide what programme be right for their company.

According to Davis, the first decision that needs to be considered in the leadership training equation starts by thinking about the leadership team and assessing if all team members have the same generic training needs or require specific needs.

“It’s best to start with the end in mind,” says Davis. “What are you trying to achieve? Is this a pipeline for future leaders or are you using career development for retention? What will success look like?”

Current thinking suggests a combination of generic and specific training is effective initially. The next step is to delve a little deeper and consider; what’s the gap? How could we fill it?

This leads to the ‘make versus buy’ decision. For example, you may be lured into buying a best practise programme but is this right for your organisation? Leadership development managed externally has benefits such as a broadened view, access to other organisations problem-solving methods and creating a new network.

Another option to consider is the ‘leader as the teacher’ model? Given the no.1 method of developing an individual is on-the-job, don’t forget the teacher has to design, deliver, motivate and above all, have the desire to teach others!

No matter what, Davis believes that a vital component in the success of any programme is making sure the participant’s manager is involved in the development process. “Being briefed at the outset and setting goals will ensure you achieve a maximum return on your training investment.”

And Davis hastens to add: “If this becomes a ‘tick the box’ exercise with little sharing or support for change, watch participants fall back to their old ways and you’ll have wasted your training dollars.”

Biggest Areas of Leadership Development:

  • Dealing with change and ambiguity in a fast paced world
  • How to you lead in a challenging economic climate
  • Developing your people
  • Agile and flexible leadership
  • Teamwork and collaboration

Traps to Avoid:

  • Thinking a one-size-fits-all model will work
  • Lack of manager’s involvement means it won’t be impactful

Final thoughts:

All too often the promotion cycle goes like this. People get promoted for their technical ability and find themselves in a strategic role which is where they come unstuck. The skill set needed in this type of role includes being able to collaborate, participate, negotiate and influence their peers in order to get work done. Here is where the training is needed!


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