Continuous leadership programmes: How to build one that works

How do you build an effective continuous leadership programme? Nina Mehta-Vania tells the TJ community.

Business leaders face an increasing number of challenges when it comes to motivating employees and driving business success. These range from a lack of skills to lead from a place of influence rather than authority, through to low levels of emotional intelligence or an inability to communicate effectively.

One in two candidates applying for a management position lacks leadership skills, according to a survey of 200 HR directors by Robert Half UK.

The study also found that nearly one in five people (18%) fell short when it came to planning skills, while 15% lacked vocational competencies and 14% would have benefited from improved communication skills.

Business leaders know they can do better. In a survey Bersin by Deloitte conducted with MIT, 70% of respondents believed that they do not have the right leadership, skills or operating models to adapt to threats posed by new digital competitors. There is a pressing need to build a continuous leadership programme that will overcome these issues.

The days of top-down command and control leadership are all but gone. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s HR predictions for 2017 report there will be greater focus on human performance, and wellbeing will become a critical part of HR, talent and leadership.

But what does that actually mean for businesses? Here are five starting points for L&D professionals looking to improve the leadership skills within its organisation:

  1. Develop a pipeline of future leaders. Create a talent pool of people who show potential for leadership. These individuals are not simply employees who have hit big sales numbers or excelled in their area of expertise. Rather, employees who have the potential for leadership more often demonstrate other qualities such as the ability to motivate others, act as a coach and mentor, and the ability to build trusting relationships.
    Assessment for leadership potential should be part of the recruitment process and day-to-day performance management. There’s nothing wrong with high performers – it’s just that they might not make (or want) to lead others.
  2. Provide development opportunities for leaders. Leaders continue to fall into the typical traps of management – macro-management that is too hands off or micro-management that is too hands-on. The key is to help leaders reflect and understand their own strengths and weaknesses. Then, leaders must understand how to adapt their approach based on the needs of each employee.
    Leaders are expected to deliver specific coaching and feedback, so they need to learn how to adjust their communication style and approach to be able to support their staff. They need to know how to provide authentic feedback that will actually help individuals to work better. Forget the ‘praise sandwich’ – honest and human conversations are most effective.
  3. Consider what new skills people need to lead globally dispersed virtual teams. Define the competencies you expect of leaders and check for any skills gaps. Don’t forget the vital soft skills – listening, emotional intelligence, and communication skills are important as teams becoming more dispersed.
    The good news is you can teach these skills. The goal is to transform communication with individual employees into two-way conversations where employees feel heard.
  4. Help leaders make work meaningful for individual employees, wherever they are. It’s worth every bit of time for leaders to get to know the individuals on their team in and out of work. How leaders communicate and share rewards and recognition will be different for each person.
    At a basic level, leaders may need training to develop their awareness of cultural differences and how they handle work-related items for employees in different areas of the world.
  5. Make it easy for leaders to link individual employee goals with business goals. Define your company strategy and communicate it in a way that everyone can understand. This way, leaders can help make work relevant and meaningful for employees. It also establishes accountability if people understand what is expected of them.
    The key is to set up a mechanism for leaders to give frequent, quick feedback, positive and negative, about an individual’s work. This is where technology can help with sharing and documenting these types of interactions. Giving – and receiving – relevant feedback at the right time is far more effective than the traditional hurdle given during the annual appraisal.

Organisations with a growth mindset need the best leaders if they are to compete. Great leaders help individuals grow at work and in their life outside of it. They also help bring out the best in others.

Taking a person who shows potential for leadership and giving them the support they need to develop into a great leader is one of the most impactful things an employer can do for its people. L&D professionals who are successful in designing a leadership development programme will make a huge contribution to helping people realise their full potential.


About the author
Nina Mehta-Vania is a Talent Management Consultant for Halogen Software

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