How to Maximize Your Return on Investment from a Leadership Development Program

Attendance at a leadership development program does not guarantee behavior change or improved results as a leader. An openness and willingness to new ideas and approaches is certainly important, combined with a lot of hard work during the program. But once the program ends, and participants all go their own ways and return to their real world work environments, unfortunately, many of them will soon forget what they learned and soon revert back to old familiar habits.

So what separates those that attend leadership programs and actually become better leaders and those that don’t? Here are three differentiators that will produce a greater return on leadership development investment:

1. At the end of the program, and on the way home, create an individual development plan (IDP). Keep a journal throughout the week of key learnings, insights, and new ideas. Select 3-4 things that you’re going to improve about yourself or new ideas you’re going to try. Write them down – it’s important to actually take pen to hand (or keyboard these days) and write them down. Then get specific – describe how you’re going to achieve your goals. Include what, how, who, and by when. There have been all kinds of research that shows significantly higher levels of achievement of those that have written specific goals vs. those that don’t, or had vaguely written goals.

2. Make a public commitment. Find a learning partner from the program and agree to contact each other in 30 days to review each other’s goals. Write a letter to someone important in your life sharing your goals. Review with you manager what you learned and your goals. Go back and share with your team. The idea is to announce to the world, or at least someone, that you are committed to improving in specific areas. This public declaration and commitment will provide extra motivation as well as a support system to keep at it when the going gets tough.

3. Follow-up. Keep reviewing your goals every month for 12 months. Continuously ask for feedback from others on how you are doing. Marshall Goldsmith did extensive research on the effect of follow-up after leaders completed a 360 degree assessment. He found that simply by asking for feedback on a regular basis, leader scores improved on follow-up assessments.

Follow these steps and you’ve get the biggest bang for your buck from your next leadership development investment.