In the world of music, songwriters and musicians alike use their craft to create songs that cross ethnic, generational and geographic boundaries. The business of music aims to accomplish the same goal, except instead of the song itself, the organization works to develop the leaders who drive the business. It is every CEO’s dream to have an organization with business processes and people who work together like a well-oiled machine. From the front-line associate who interacts with customers every day to the seasoned C-suite executive making key decisions that drive business results, the element that tends to make all things prolific or chaotic is the organization’s culture.
As so eloquently illustrated in the results pyramid, a culture-changing model created by thought leaders Roger Conners and Tom Smith, the culture witnessed in most organizations begins with the experiences set forth by the leaders. Take, for example, the newly hired associate. If the new hires have a pleasant onboarding experience, they most likely believe that the company is a great place to work and that their department leader is genuinely concerned about their success. That belief, in turn, might encourage them to become proactive in accomplishing individual goals and organizational goals; hence, desired results are on the horizon.
Because leaders set the tone and direction for the internal operation of a business, it is imperative that high-performing leaders, who possess skills that align with strategic company objectives, are proportionately positioned throughout the organization to take on the mission, embrace the moment and pass on the mantle affiliated with leading people and guiding organizational change.
An organization’s mission is the most critical element of the business, because it defines why the organization exists and why one might choose to support it. Equally important to the mission of any business is the personal mission of the business leader. In a perfect world, these two efforts supplement each other; however, because we live in an age where diversity in the workplace is undeniable, it takes well thought-out, intentional learning and development to align an organizational mission with individual motives.
An L&D strategy that clearly addresses the core competencies expected from leadership, along with any evident performance gaps, should be the sole mission of organizational development stakeholders. This step is the first – and, at times, the most challenging – step in creating a results-driven culture. While the L&D strategy should include standard programming logistics (i.e., the use of ADDIE, an effective LMS, etc.), it should not assume a one-size-fits-all approach. The business need(s) might require the L&D strategy to:
- Restructure positions within a department
- Redefine leadership and individual contributor roles
- Reallocate business resources to support development opportunities
- Realign career paths to generate a talent pipeline of emerging leaders
The mission to deploy such a strategy must be accompanied by strong backing from senior leaders who lead the functional areas of the business. Without that level of support, stakeholders might question the validity of the program despite the relevance and timeliness of the content.
Often, L&D professionals believe that once a training program is in the post-rollout phase, their work is complete. This is far from the truth. In fact, after rollout is probably when the “real” work begins. Overcoming the initial challenges of obtaining senior leader buy-in to the idea of supporting a learning strategy might seem like a piece of cake compared to the resistance that comes with getting associates to attend mandatory training.
It is vital that stakeholders prepare for these instances by clearly communicating training goals and expectations before, during and after program launch. Those who support the initiative might see training as the ship that has come in to launch their career to the next level. Others may go through the motions for the sake of compliance. Still others might use the classroom setting as an outlet or a cry for help to share unfavorable situations that have defined their cultural experiences and perceptions of leadership.
A moment is a very brief point of time. It passes so quickly that if leaders are not careful, they might overlook the gift of opportunity. An opportunity might disguise itself as the leader or individual contributor who is passionate about the skills he or she is able to demonstrate. It might also appear in the form of a disgruntled associate who finally gained the courage to express his or her concerns or ideas about inappropriate behavior witnessed in the workplace. In any case, L&D stakeholders must seize the moment by proposing, developing and implementing development opportunities.
The mantle refers to the plan for succession. Any smart organization will have a plan in place to address leadership vacancies quickly. While many companies are finally jumping on board the high-potential program development train, it is imperative that these companies focus their attention on the right elements.
High-potential leadership development programming should include a focus on four key areas: personal leadership, people leadership, results leadership and thought leadership.
- Personal leadership is having the capacity to own personal developmental opportunities, exhibit emotional intelligence and demonstrate the most effective leadership style in any given situation.
- People leadership is the ability to lead others and advocate for a team’s position in and significance to the organization’s mission.
- Results leadership is the ability to drive results through problem-solving and strategizing how the business might remain competitive.
- Thought leadership is having the expertise and persuasive ability to take an organization to its next level of success.
Whether you chose to go micro or macro in your leadership development initiatives, the key is to have the right strategy in place. Your strategy might include implementing one training program at a time or several. Experience and research have shown favorable responses to those organizational leaders who think strategically about their program’s implementation and its proposed outcomes.