The Case for Leadership Development

Guest post by Ken Kuzia:

How do you get managers to buy into the fact that they need
development?  I posed this question to a
group of professionals who mentor managers. Here’s what they said.

Mentors agree that you can rely on a certain level of
resistance when it comes to identifying development opportunities.  It’s difficult to get managers to accept that
they need development, let alone continuous development. When managers feel
that development is unnecessary, they’re reluctant to participate in any form
of assessment, or they participate in the assessment and then immediately
ignore the results.  They probably read
but don’t follow the recommendations resulting from their assessments.  Resistance is prevalent when the recommended
areas of development are linked to “soft skills”.  Resistance to development is often lower when
the recommended areas of development involve the more “technical” or the
“hard-skill” aspects of a manager’s job.

If told that development is a requirement for keeping the
job, managers usually comply.  However,
compliance without a development mandate can translate into minimal
improvement.  Optimally, employing a
mentor, or coach, is the approach to better development and stronger

Most resistors become ardent fans of development when
engaged in the process and shown the “WIIFM” (what’s in it for me).

Once managers understand the assessment, feedback,
development, and reinforcements processes, AND the value of developing (the
payoff for the work), development can proceed. With “buy-in” in place,
development has to start with an assessment that measures skills aligned with
the company goals, processes, and cultural expectations.

Mentors recommended using 360° assessment tools to identify areas for development.  My experience shows that 360° assessment instruments are used
within larger companies whose management has experienced the benefits of
assessment from multiple perspectives and continuous development.

The use of 360s by executive management prompts lower level
management to “do what the big boys do” and, therefore, require little, if any,
inducement to follow suit.

There are organizations where executives find it necessary
to mandate the use of 360s at lower levels in the organization driven by
dissatisfaction with performance at lower levels.  More often, 360s are mandated because the
executives believe that the use of 360s is good for leaders at all levels and
provides a global benefit within the organization itself (if the expected
follow-through is done after the assessment).

Most organizations don’t use 360 assessments.  So how do you get their managers to

Organizations that don’t use 360 assessments are often
smaller and don’t have the resources to conduct formal assessments and
development.  It’s difficult to focus on
personal development when the bosses are “up to their asses in
alligators.”  They don’t have anyone at a
higher level of management to induce them to develop unless they are members of
a franchise that requires development beyond “technical” development.

So, how do you get these small businesses to investigate and
buy into self-development when it’s prohibitive for a consultant to approach
small business owners one potential client at time?  Also, mass mailings and ads aimed towards
small businesses are ignored.

Many small business owners belong to business or trade
associations.  Efforts directed at these
associations provides an opportunity to get in front of groups of small
businesses where owners may be more receptive to assessment and development if
some peers are finding benefits in development. The question may not be how to
open the door, but rather how to find the correct door to knock on.

Discussing the subject of development with small business
owners can be successful when they’re engaged in a dialogue with questions
focused on the needs of the organization before drawing connections to the
manager’s ability to meet those needs.  While asking questions, opportunities usually arise to suggest that the
manager may be able to benefit from development in terms of the bottom line and
the quality of their personal lives.

Creating an emphasis around service and the
values they want to establish within their company helps establish the
credibility for the development discussion, because it’s relevant to their
business and fits their personal goals.  Describing
how much development is possible through small, incremental efforts and not
huge time or cash-consuming efforts is critical to having the owner commit to
working to create change.

You might also be able to suggest conducting a
simple employee feedback survey about the leader’s capabilities.  However, be forewarned that such a survey
typically only provides useful information about the leader’s communications and
leadership style as opposed to strategic and tactical needs of the business –
still worthwhile feedback and worthy of pursuit.

Without some form of support or mandate, leaders will not
seek development until:

§  An
organizational culture exists that supports leadership development.
§  Performance
feedback of some form is supplied and accepted as valid.

§  Personal
drive to develop exists.

§  There
is a significant cost or other consequence (like business failure) if they do
not develop themselves beyond their current capabilities.

Once again Pareto’s rule applies — 20% of your leaders are
going to be excellent leaders whether or not they are provided with
development. 20% of the leaders are probably wrong for the company, don’t fit
the culture, don’t produce, and really should not be developed – they should be
reassigned to non-leader roles or dismissed.
Your biggest opportunity is with the middle 60% who, with some coaching,
can be turned on to the value and benefits of personal development.  With a little coaching from the right mentor,
they can be almost as strong as the upper 20%!
Want some incentive for developing
leaders?  Send me your contact
information and I’ll send you a copy of a white paper that shows the developed
leaders enhance the bottom line by up to 200%.
Ken Kuzia is the owner and consultant for Dupere Development
Services, a Rochester, NY consulting service specializing in Organizational
Development issues and a Senior Partner with Up Your Leadership. You are
welcome to visit his website at