Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Leadership Development for A Players

Developing your stars is critical to an organization’s success. Your best employees, or A players, boost company performance, both directly—by working harder at their jobs—and indirectly, by their ability to inspire and motivate others. Therefore it’s critical to invest the time and energy to keep them satisfied and engaged.

Understand what drives A players

Finding out what motivates your top employees on an individual level is critical. The easiest way to figure out what motivates these employees is to simply ask them directly. Set up frank conversations to find out what they would like to be doing, and what drives them to do their best.
Also, be sure to find out if anything about their job situation is frustrating them, such as too much travel, difficult colleagues, or not enough challenge from day to day. Try to address their needs and desires—and eliminate obstacles as best you can. Help them to develop by shaping their careers and responsibilities in the direction they’d like to go. To move them in the right direction, you’ll have to provide them with the right growth opportunities.

Providing the A players on your team appropriate challenges does not necessarily require promoting them. Instead, the opportunity to accelerate a top employee’s development may take the form of redefining or expanding a current role. The key is to have them perform tasks they do not already know how to do—or don’t yet do well. You can keep these individuals engaged and growing by increasing their responsibilities and stretching the boundaries of their current jobs.

Ideally, you will be able to match your star performers with assignments that both interest and challenge them. Keep in mind that job enrichment opportunities often exist outside the boundaries of your unit or group—and as a manager, you are in a better position to seek these opportunities out. Work with your management and within your own organizational network to identify special assignments, teams, or other opportunities within the company.

To keep your top players challenged, consider the following learning experiences:

- Starting a new project from scratch. For example, developing and launching a new product or heading up a new initiative or team.
- Fixing a business or product in trouble. For example, improving the bottom line of a new service or marketing a failed product to a new segment.
- A job rotation in a different work environment. For example, assigning a operations manager to do a sales rotation, or a short-term stint in another region or country.
- A high-profile special project assignment. These projects, which should have very clear objectives and a short duration, offer employees the chance to practice targeted problem solving, work in cross-functional teams, and be exposed to senior executives. Project-based assignments also offer the added benefit of flexibility. Often, participants can work on such projects part-time, so they would not have to give up their current duties.

You should be prepared to provide your A players with adequate support to meet these challenges, whether through active coaching, mentoring, or a review-and-feedback process.

Provide mentors for A players

Some organizations have established mentoring programs for high-potential employees. These programs pair individuals with experts who are willing to guide them in meeting certain work challenges and in defining a career path. If your organization doesn’t have such a program, consider establishing an informal one for your top employees.
Finding appropriate mentors for your best performers doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Mentors do not necessarily have to be a part of your group or business unit. In fact, mentors outside the organization may have broader perspectives.
For the high-potential individual, having a mentor can be critical. Mentors know how to motivate employees by providing recognition for specific achievements. Beyond just offering encouragement, however, mentors can help employees:
- Clarify their career options
- Better understand the organization and navigate its politics
- Build support networks
- Deal with work obstacles

Additional Steps:

It’s smart for leaders to take these additional steps to help manage their talent pool:
- Strive to enhance collaboration among talented people in your organization. Since people often stay in organizations because they enjoy the company of like-minded colleagues, invest in bringing talented people together. This can be done informally through social networking opportunities, or more formally through special task forces or work groups.

- Look for signs of burnout. Highly motivated employees are often prone to overwork. Examine your actions: Is it possible that you are overloading your star performers? Act on this quickly, or you face losing your best employees.

- Watch out for signs of arrogance, especially if you've told the rising star that they are seen as having potential to move into a larger role. Make sure they know that there are no guarantees, and that demonstrating leadership potential means acting in a way that your peers would support a decision to promote you.

Using the Performance and Potential Matrix to Determine the Best Leadership Development Strategy

In a previous post, I wrote about how to use a performance and potential matrix to assess your organization's talent: http://greatleadershipbydan.blogspot.com/2007/11/using-performance-and-potential-matrix.html.

In this next series of posts, I'm going to describe how to use the results of this assessment process to determine what kind of development strategy is appropriate for every type of leader.

Although there are nine boxes in the matrix, I find it more practical to group talent into four categories, each requiring a different leadership development strategy. I realize that every individual is unique, however, the following categories and strategies will give you a framework to get started. Ultimately, every leader should end up with their own personalized individual development plan (IDP).

Here's the four general categories:

1. A players, or hi-pos. Leaders in boxes 1A, 1B, and 2A, usually about 10-20% of any population.

2. New leaders. Just promoted into a position, with no previous leadership experience, too new to rate.

3. C players, or underperformers. The dreaded 3C box. Not a good place to be.

4. The B players. All the rest, the bell curve majority of any group that can't be neglected.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Turning Mistakes into Development Opportunities

You may have the story about failure during the tenure of Tom Watson, Sr. as CEO of IBM. As the story goes, a promising young executive at IBM was involved in a risky venture that lost $10 million for the company. When Tom Watson Sr., the founder and CEO of IBM, called the executive to his office, the executive tendered his resignation. Watson is reported to have said, "You can't be serious. We've just spent $10 million dollars educating you!" 

Making mistakes and learning from them is important, current GE CEO Jeff Immelt, often recants his famous $20 Million dollar mistake. "If you tried something and it fails but you went about it the right way and you learned from it, that's not a bad thing," Immelt stated in the July 2006 issue of Business Week magazine.

So are all mistakes development opportunities? Not necessarily, according to Kevin Eikenberry, leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Kevin offers some useful ways to determine if a mistake could be used as a development opportunity:

Mistakes are OK if:They lead to learning.
They aren’t repeated.
They are done in pursuit of your goals and objectives.
They don’t violate or conflict with your values.
Let’s look at each of these a bit more closely.

Mistakes are OK if we learn from them. Remember that one of the best opportunities to learn is when we do something wrong – when we make a mistake. If you reduce the opportunities for mistakes you seriously limit your learning opportunities.

Mistakes are OK if they aren’t repeated. So you make a mistake once – learn from it. If it is a repeated mistake, it is less valuable as a learning experience (unless you’re trying to learn the mistake). In fact anything you did learn from the first mistake, likely will be lost with the repeat performance.

Mistakes are OK if they are done in pursuit of your goals and objectives. To achieve any worthy goal or objective different things must be tried. In order to improve anything you must try a new way. New approaches will sometimes cause mistakes. When the mistake is made trying to achieve the agreed upon goals, what could be wrong with it?

Mistakes are OK if they don’t conflict with your values. If your company values safety and the mistake puts you or those around you at a physical risk, then that mistake isn’t advisable. But if no laws are broken and no values are violated, a mistake shouldn’t carry major repercussions.

Applying These Criteria
Think about these criteria collectively not individually. In other words, a mistake could pass three of the criteria but not the fourth. In this case it isn’t OK. But if it meets all four criteria, my advice is to celebrate the person for taking a risk (or congratulate yourself) and keep moving forward.
With these criteria in place people will become more willing to try new things; to take a bit more risk; and to be less tentative. All of these things will lead to some mistakes – but they will also lead to great opportunities for growth and improvement.

So mistakes – the right kind of mistakes - can be powerful leadership development opportunities, as long as we take the opportunity to reflect (or help others reflect) on what we’ve learned and not repeat the same mistake again.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Leader Integration Process

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss", The Who

Using a structured “New Leader Integration Process” can:

- Reduce the time that it takes a new leader and his or her new work team to begin to communicate more openly and freely, and build trust, inclusion, and collaboration

- Offer the new team the opportunity to surface, explore and discuss their perceptions with the new leader, focusing on needs and expectations, concerns and issues, team direction, goals, and current or anticipated projects.

- Increase and enhance the assimilation of the new leader and their new team, improving the new leaders’s learning curve and overall management effectiveness.

The Process
This is a facilitated meeting with team members and new leader that should take approximately 4 hours. The flow and process would potentially look like this:

1. Set Key Groundrules for session with leader and team members.

2. The leader leaves the room and a facilitator leads the next part with team members only. Write the following questions and team responses on a flipchart:

- What do we (think we) know about (name of new leader)? What have we heard?
- What would we like to know about (name)?
- What concerns do we have about (name) being here?
- What do we need most from (name)?
- What does (name) need to know about us?
- What problems/issues will (name) need to face/resolve in the first 60-90 days?

3. Break. Facilitator summarizes with new manager key points from the data gathered.

4. Team reconvenes with leader. Facilitator presents and leader responds to team’s responses.

5. Leader and team mutually decide on next steps needed to address any issue/concern.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

10 Ways to Screw up a Performance Appraisal

1. First of all, make sure your employees have no real direction, expectations, goals, or standards. After all, a good employee should be able to handle ambiguity, deal with paradox, and eat change for breakfast. No need to spoon feed them or spell things out for them – just give them the ‘old mission pep talk and turn ‘em loose!

2. Keep track of each and every time your employees mess up. Big mistakes, little indiscretions, and everything in between. Make a note to yourself and file it away in the employee’s folder. By the end of the year, you’ll a thick folder full of valuable performance appraisal feedback that your employee will surely appreciate.

3. Avoid frequent contact with your employees throughout the year. Keep your door closed, your calendar full, and try to look busy every time one of your employees stops by with yet another problem to discuss. Your employees might try to get you to have regular 1on1 meetings with them – avoid these at all costs! Nothing good can come out of these meetings. Employees are bound to try to bring you silly proposals, bad news, or problems to solve. You might even have to make a decision!

4. OK, now we get to the ANNUAL PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL. If you’re not careful here, this could end up meaning a LOT of hard work for you, so pay close attention. First, you need to prepare for the dreaded discussion. Ask your employee to make a list of 10 clients, co-workers, former bosses, and anyone else they’ve come in contact with over the last year. Then send an email to each one of them and ask for a detailed evaluation of your employee’s performance. This way, instead of just one person (you) doing all the hard work, you’ve now got 10 people doing it for you! And it’s a great way to pass along criticism and blame it on someone else.

5. Of course, the employee needs to prepare for the discussion too. Ask them to bring a list of measurable goals and performance expectations (that you never gave them) and their self-ratings. Hell, better yet, just have them fill out their own performance appraisal. But make sure you give them a day’s notice.

6. Don’t schedule too much time for the discussion – about 10 minutes ought to do it. If you talk fast, you can usually knock these off in about 5 minutes.

7. Now for your own preparation. Pull out that old “mistake folder” and get organized. The form will most likely have lots of categories such as “teamwork”, “accountability”, “judgment”, and the like. Plenty of categories to fill in a few mistakes for each. Give extra weight to things that have happened in the last couple weeks – these are the most important and should heavily influence your ratings.

8. OK, now you’re ready for your 5 minutes of leadership brilliance. Invite your employee in, and make a little casual small talk. Then open up the appraisal with a compliment, some insincere meaningless praise, just to loosen the employee up and prepare them for the good stuff. Then let 'em have it. Go ahead, unload, both barrels, this is your moment! As you’re running through your list of mistakes, as well as any unsubstantiated criticism for others who have bothered responding to your survey, remind the employee that “feedback is a gift”, and this is your special gift to them.

9. Sometimes HR adds a page at the end of the form for “employee development”. Forget it, waste of time, just more HR rubbish. But if it needs to be filled out, have the employee do it themselves. This is called “having the employee take charge of their own development”.

10. End the appraisal with another insincere compliment. This is called a “feedback sandwich”. Doing this will ease the sting from all the criticism and leave the employee with a nice warm fuzzy feeling.

That’s it! You’re done. Congratulations. Learn and follow these 10 steps and your guaranteed to have dissatisfied, unmotivated, unproductive employees, increase your turnover, and ultimately, lead yourself out of a job.
Please comment if you have any more to add to the list.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The 10 Most Serious Hiring Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Guest post from Brad Smart, Author of Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching, and Keeping the Best People:

I don’t know about you, but early in my career I was very disappointed with my hiring track record. Assessing selection candidates was my job, too! Thirty years ago I began studying why almost EVERYONE’S hiring record was so bad.

“Almost everyone?” Yes, so if you’re not satisfied with your hiring success, join the club! I met with the top HR managers of the largest 100 companies in the world, and even they said that 75% of their hires turn out to be disappointments…
… except for the Topgraders in the room. Topgraders use the same hiring methods everyone else does, but add one more critical, crucial, all-important step, in order to improve to 75%, 80%, and even 90% high performers hired: it’s quite simply a thorough chronological interview.

In my early quest to identify hiring mistakes and fixes, I found the chronological interview to be unbeatable. It doesn’t matter if you are a manager with one employee, an entrepreneur with 30 employees, or General Electric with hundreds of thousands! You can avoid the 10 most serious mistakes in hiring and you can at least double your hiring success, by using a thorough chronological interview.

“Prove it,” you say. OK, in Topgrading books there are case studies of companies that are named, so you can call someone to verify the improvement in hiring. Let me assure you, those results are for real! The CEOs and heads of HR at General Electric, Honeywell, Lincoln Financial, American Heart Association, and dozens of entrepreneurs have personally vouched for improvements to 80% and even 90% hiring success.

If you make some of the 10 common mistakes, you can read this article and immediately start hiring better. To achieve 90% high performers hired, however, you’ll need to learn more. Hey, first things first! I’ve identified the 10 mistakes from having studied hundreds of companies’ hiring methods and asked thousands of managers about their hiring mistakes and successes. The mistakes (and fixes) are presented in order, from the beginning of a job search to the end. It’s like a hiring chain, and there are 100 links. The “10 mistakes” (and fixes) are only the most rusty or non-existent links in that hiring chain.


Not Acknowledging When to Replace a Low Performer
Having asked 6,500 executives 15 questions (plus follow ups) about all of 10 jobs each, I’ve done 65,000 mini “case studies.” One of the questions is about talent – what talent the manager inherited in that job, talent at the end of the job, what people were replaced, what methods were used, etc. More than half of those managers said, “I should have replaced more low performers.” Hey, stop “carrying” low performers!

Practical Fix: Replace low performers. How? Start with an annual talent review.
At least once per year rank order your most valuable to least valuable team members. Then really scrutinize the bottom of the list. Replace chronic underperformers after they’ve been given a fair chance to meet performance goals.


Incomplete Job DescriptionJob Descriptions tend to be “boiler plate,” with generalities about responsibilities and competencies. I’m sure of this because my job is interviewing candidates for executive jobs, and I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates. (Whew!) Typically I read a long job description and notice there are unclear accountabilities. When those are clarified, it flushes out significantly different views of what the job really is. If the five managers who have the most at stake in this job all think the person should be measured on different things, any hiree is doomed!

Practical Fix: Write a Job Scorecard, Approved by Key Stakeholders.Instead of job description we call it a job “scorecard” because first-year performance goals are spelled out. Be sure all the people with a real stake in the hiree agree on these accountabilities. And of course be sure the candidate is confident of achieving them!


Underestimating the Costs of Mis-HiresIn workshops we ask managers to complete a Cost of Mis-Hire form (it’s a free download when you sign up for the free newsletter, Topgrading Tips, at SmartTopgrading.com). It only takes a few minutes to calculate the costs of a mis-hire, but you’ll slap your forehead, shocked at the high costs. Do this exercise with underperformers identified in your annual talent review. Our research in over 50 companies shows the average cost of a mis-hire of a manager earning $100,000 is $1.5 million, and its $560,000 for a mis-hired sales rep earning $100,000. Estimate the costs you’ve incurred and you’ll be more motivated to hire a replacement!

Practical Fix: Use the Cost of Mis-Hires form to accurately gauge the huge economic burden of not using Topgrading hiring methods.


Running AdsEvery study I’ve read on the best recruitment methods concludes the best approach is getting internal referrals.

Practical Fix: Develop Your Virtual Bench
Specifically, seek out and keep track of at least 20 likely high performers you might hire and 20 “connectors” who can refer high performers to you. Keep your PDA, Rolodex, and Address Book updated, noting who is highly talented. Pay “bounties” to incent your high performers to refer high performers they know.
Hiring from your Virtual Bench is quicker, cheaper, and better than running ads on Monster.com – quicker because you already know Jennifer, who worked for you in a previous job, cheaper because there are no recruiter fees, and better because you know she can be a high performer.


Wasting Time on Unnecessary Phone ScreensSuppose your Virtual Bench didn’t produce anyone to hire, so you resort to running ads. 150 resumes are emailed to you. Ugh. It takes all Sunday afternoon to cut the 150 down to 20… 20 people to screen on the phone. But phone screens take 10-20 hours and two weeks of telephone tag. Double ugh!

Practical Fix: Use a Career History Form to Get Crucial Information Before the Phone Screen
Ask your AA to email the 20 people with the best resumes, thanking them for applying, and asking them to complete a form that requests:
-full compensation history,
-months (not just years) in each job (so short-term jobs can’t be omitted),
-likes and dislikes in each job,
-name of every boss (and permission to contact at mutually agreed upon time),
- and, a legally binding signature that says that falsehoods in the career history form are grounds for termination.
Now we’re talking! In one hour you can look through completed career history forms and identify the three or four candidates you’ll phone screen. You just saved 15-20 hours by avoiding more than a dozen phone screen interviews.


Relying Too Much on Round-Robin Competency (Behavioral) InterviewsMost Fortune 1000 companies do a job analysis that produces a job description, including several competencies. Candidates are phone screened and come in for a series of 50-minute interviews in which the interviewer asks 10 questions about just one competency. Trouble is, any candidate can easily fake answers to those questions:
“What’s an example in which you were a very good team player?”
“What was a time when you were not such a good team player?”
Worse yet, these methods result in only 25% high performers hired.
Surprise! After zapping the round-robin interviews I suggest keeping them. Candidates want to interview with several people and competency interviews are better than “tell me about yourself.” But you need to include a far more revealing, powerful hiring tool, so…

Practical Fix: Add a Chronological Interview100% of managers and companies achieving 90% hiring success ask a lot of questions about every full time job, starting with the first one and coming forward chronologically. The chronological interview is by far the most important best practice, for it’s the only practice that has achieved 90% hiring success for thousands of managers. The Topgrading Interview Guide is 30 pages long, a “road map” with the questions and spaces for answers. A highly abbreviated guide would be:
- What were your successes (and how did you achieve them)?
-What were your mistakes and failures?
-What talent did you inherit and end up with, and what happened (replacing, coaching, etc…) in between?
-What would your boss say were your strengths, weak points, and overall performance?


Solo InterviewsIf the chronological interview was hiring breakthrough #1 and the Topgrading Interview Guide was breakthrough #2 (enabling managers to improve hiring success to 50%), breakthrough #3 is the tandem method, the use of two interviewers.
Years ago Jack Welch, then CEO of GE, said he was happy the interview guide was helping GE pick people better, but he wanted 90% success and asked me for a suggestion. I said, “Use the tandem interview,” and he approved it in one second. Every manager achieving 90% success we know of uses the tandem chronological interview… for mid to upper management jobs.

Practical Fix: Use the tandem Topgrading Interview for all mid to upper level management jobs.
What, you say? It’s too time consuming for two interviewers to take three hours for a chronological interview? Let’s run some numbers. Suppose a mis-hire costs $400,000 and you mis-hire three sales reps, and fire all three, before hiring a good one. After all, your hiring success is average – one success in four. You waste $1.2 million plus hundreds of non productive hours with three mis-hires. Six hours for a tandem interview with 90% success is not only a money saver; it’s a super time saver!


Arranging Reference Calls with Non BossesMost companies prohibit managers from taking reference calls, fearing a law suit if a former employee claims unfairness in negative statements. So interviewers hype positives and they provide references who are their buddies, not fearing being caught.

Practical Fix: Ask Candidates to Arrange Reference Calls with Bosses in the Last 10 Years

It works 90% of the time! I wish I’d thought of it, but 20 years ago an A player told me he did this, so I started recommending this approach to clients. High performers easily get former bosses to talk, because those bosses will be saying positive things, and they (correctly) figure there is no risk of a law suit.
Better yet, tell all candidates this is a requirement, and they will be more truthful in answering interview questions.
And even better yet, when this process is widely known, low performers will not apply.


Violating the LawYou read about it every week – a law suit claiming discrimination because interviewers asked forbidden questions. I hope they enjoy their vacation in a minimum security prison (just kidding).

Practical Fix: Stick with the Interview Guide
The Topgrading Interview Guide has the wording for all basic questions. And when you compose follow up questions, do not ask about race, religion, pregnancy, or the many other forbidden areas.


Not Measuring Hiring Success
It’s amazing – hiring success is one of the very few stats not often kept. A survey of Global 100 companies showed only 10% measure hiring success. But Topgraders all do it. (Perhaps the measurement does not take place in most companies because hiring results are so awful!)

Practical Fix: Measure Hiring Succeess
Recently the head of HR of a mega company told me, “We measure, and get 97.5% success.” I probed, and learned that measurement was lame – the hiring manager is asked after 30 days, “Does the new hire have the skills to do the job?” Then I asked what percent hires turn out to be high performers after one year and he said, “Oh, only 20%!”

Practical Fix: Measure Costs of Mis-HiresComplete a Cost of Mis-Hire form for all your mis-hires (It’s a free download at SmartTopgrading.com). And, when a person has been on the job one year, assemble a team to judge whether the person has turned out to be a high performer or not. The team should consist of the hiring manager, HR, and two managers who work closely with the new hire.
Also measure percent high performers hired. As the chronological interview is used, percent high performers hired shoots up, and costs of mis-hires plummet. This will create positive peer pressure, with the Topgraders telling the laggards, “Hey, you have to use Topgrading hiring methods because your mis-hires are hurting your performance and the whole team’s!”

Avoid these 10 common hiring mistakes and you are certain to hire better, your higher performing team(s) will make your career soar, and your shareholders will be very pleased.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

18 Tips for Receiving Feedback


1. Seek feedback on a regular basis, especially after you have identified development goals. Exchanging information and perceptions is a process, not a single event.

2. Receive feedback as a gift that provides you with honest information about your perceived behavior/performance. Be open to what you will hear.

3. Let the person finish what he or she is saying.

4. Try to paraphrase what you are being told, either back to the person or in your own mind.

5. Ask clarifying questions.

6. Ask for specifics, if not provided.

7. Ask the person to give you alternatives to your behavior.

8. Monitor your nonverbal and emotional responses.

9. Thank the person for being helpful to you.

10. Take the time after the feedback interaction to evaluate the information and consider specific actions for improvements.

11. Teach yourself to recognize situations in which a certain behavior needs to be altered. Feedback can help you self-monitor your behavior at times when you are less than optimally effective.

12. Use feedback to clarify goals, track progress toward those goals, and to improve the effectiveness of your behaviors over a period of time.


13. Take it personally.

14. Become defensive or explain your behavior. (You can either spend your time mobilizing your defenses or you can spend your time listening. Defending your actions is counterproductive, where listening is extremely useful.)

15. Interrupt the other person.

16. Be afraid to allow pauses and periods of silence when you receive feedback. This gives you time to understand what is being said and it gives the other person time to think about what they say.

17. Ask the person to defend his or her opinion (there is a difference between “defending” and “explaining”). Feedback is purely subjective perceptions of information. You can place your own value on it later.

18. Don’t make excuses or try to explain your behavior.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

10 Tips for Creative Thinking

1. Challenge current approaches to your work. Think about whether you and your direct reports can work together in new, previously unimaginable possibilities.

2. Challenge existing beliefs and assumptions. Ask yourself, your colleagues and your direct reports whether your current views about how things are done in your company are correct.

3. Get educated. Take a course on a subject like creative thinking, creative writing or improvisational acting to help you flex your creative thinking muscles.

4. Use Mind-Maps. On blank sheet of paper, draw pictures, your ideas and the way in which they can be connected. You can have more connections than if you simply listed ideas on a piece of paper.

5. Be positive. See problems as challenges and opportunities. Open your mind to new ideas, even if they at first they seem absurd.

6. Call on creative types. Identify the creative people in your company. Call on them to get involved in brainstorming sessions and other such activities if you need help stimulating participants’ creative juices.

7. Change your routine. Make small changes in your daily routines and physical environment to help you see that things can be done in different ways.

8. Listen for change resistance. When you hear someone say, "We have always done it like this," be ready to challenge their assumptions. Use the phrase: “Up until now...” (We’ve done it this way; we haven’t been able to do this, etc…).

9. Book time to be creative. Block out time in your daily routine that is not booked with a meeting, task, or other work. Use this time to let your thoughts wander: You may also find yourself thinking of new ideas to solve old problems.

10. Model creativity. By offering playful and seemingly absurd ideas to others, you model creative thinking. Others may emulate you-further spreading the creative energy in your group.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

10 Ways to Involve Leaders in Leadership Development Programs

Most of us have heard of the concept of "leader's teaching leaders" - Noel Tichy commercialized the concept in his 2002 book, The Leadership Engine. Jack Welch was known for the amount of time he spent in Crotinville sparing with high-potential managers in "the pit".

Here's 10 practical ways to get leaders involved in leadership development programs:

1. Make sure you have executive sponsorship for any and all leadership programs. You should be either responding to a stated need or selling a concept that you believe will help address a business need.

2. Involve leaders at all levels in a needs assessment. Get input from executive sponsors, your target audience, and managers of your target audience. Ask about their business challenges, learning needs, and what they would like to see in a program.

3. Review your needs assessment findings and high-level program design with your sponsors and get approval to move forward.

4. Work with sponsors to identify tenured leaders that will co-train or present portions of the program. Make sure the role is positioned as a special honor. Being asked to be a "guest trainer" should be seen as a positive career signal, and being left off the "guest list" should be a reason for concern.

5. Work with sponsors and/or senior leaders to develop criteria for program participant nomination and selection.

6. Involve the participant's direct managers prior before and after the program. Provide them an overview, get them involved in setting development goals, and encourage them to meet with participants after the program to review and apply learnings. Reminder emails, guidelines, and even sample word tracks can help managers who may not know what to do.

7. Invite sponsors and/or senior leaders to introduce the program.

8. Co-train with an experienced peer manager, or a manager one level above the participants. This manager does not need to be a polished trainer - their value is bringing real world experience into the classroom.

9. Provide participants an opportunity to interact with sponsors and/or senior managers. Build in an informal Q&A, an evening dinner, or have them present ideas or proposals to them at the end of the program.

10. Conduct a post-program debrief with the manager co-trainer and sponsors. Conduct follow-up evaluations and communicate results to sponsors.