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.