This article is brought to you by Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

The seven key factors that can make or break your leadership development effort, as analysed by Chris Dewar, faculty director of design and delivery for APAC at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL).

When I ask clients what kind of return they’re looking for on a leadership development initiative, it’s usually in terms of how the initiative can have a visible and measurable impact on the organisation. Many factors drive the impact of a leadership development initiative, but I am focusing on seven key ones that can make or break a leadership development effort.

1. Involve your business unit managers. It’s all about alignment.

As heads of the business units (BUs), and the direct managers of the programme participants, the BU leaders directly impact the mindset the participants will have in the programme, as well as the environment which they will return to when the programme is done.

2. Clarify why participants are in the programme.

If participants don’t have a purpose in coming to the programme, they will likely spend those days with their body in the classroom and their minds back at the office. We encourage participants to have a conversation with their direct manager prior to attending our programmes to agree on what the participant should focus on during the programme, what outcomes the manager expects, and the support that the manager will give to the participant following the programme.

3. Partner with your leadership development provider.

As a client, you should have confidence that your leadership development provider is an expert in their field. An effective partnership is one in which your provider knows what is happening in your organisation, and they are able to take that information and tailor the programme according to your leaders’ needs.

4. Prioritise your leadership development efforts.

Resources are often tight and most leadership development functions cannot do everything on their wish list. It will be important to partner with business unit leaders to determine what is most critical and which initiatives they can support.

5. Don’t focus only on senior level leaders.

While resources may require you to prioritise your plans, that doesn’t mean you can afford to neglect the development needs of leaders at other levels. This may take some creativity and innovation on your part. Can senior leaders take on the role of trainer in programmes? How can you use e-learning and technology to stretch and enhance your development efforts? Can you license instructional materials and deliver programmes with internal trainers?

6. Think beyond the classroom learning.

Leadership development initiatives need to go far beyond the several days of the programme itself. Initiatives are now often a six to 12-month journey rather than a one-off event. Be sure to plan for the preparation, engagement and application stages of the initiative. Remember that what happens after the programme is just as important as what happens during the programme.

7. Share the impact of your leadership development efforts in terms your business leaders understand.

You need to speak to your stakeholders in terms that are important to them. If they speak the language of numbers, be sure to talk about the financial investment, and gather and share evaluation data. If your leaders tend to lead more from the heart, be sure to capture real stories of how participants have impacted employees based on what they learned in the programme. Some senior leader stakeholders are best influenced by being actively involved in things, and finding a way to involve them can greatly improve their commitment.

In the world of leadership development, if you can demonstrate an impact from what you are doing, you can influence the organisation in very important ways. Begin with the end in mind and be clear about what it is that you’re trying to accomplish with your leadership development efforts.

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