There’s a leadership vacuum in United States corporations. Baby boomers are reaching retirement age and exiting executive leadership. As a result, Gen Xers are taking on leadership roles in executive management, leaving millennials to fill the mid-management positions they recently evacuated.

While this is good news for the Gen Xers and millennials who want the chance to make their mark on a company, it’s bad news for companies overall. With those retiring baby boomers go their leadership knowledge and skills. Companies need to provide leadership training to fill in the knowledge gaps.

U.S.-based companies do already provide leadership training to their employees to a tune of $14 billion annually. That’s a small piece of the corporate training pie that also includes job-specific training. The bad news is that this leadership training might be for naught. All too often, employees who receive any kind of training quickly forget the lesson they learned and revert to their old ways. Here are some tips to improve leadership training at your organization.

Incorporate Mindfulness.

Most of us have heard about the benefits that practicing mindfulness or meditation can have on your mental well-being. Mindfulness means focusing on something, usually your breathing or your body, with purpose and in a non-judgmental way. Studies reveal that disciplining your mind in this way has several benefits, including improving your productivity, self-awareness, decision-making abilities and listening skills. It also helps reduce stress. These are all desirable skills to have in any employee, especially corporate leaders.

The process goes like this: If a leader practices mindfulness daily, she increases her self-awareness. That self-awareness allows her to notice small changes in her emotions and behavior. It also makes her more empathic toward others. Together, self-awareness and empathy improve her emotional intelligence, making it easier for her to relate to others and read their emotions and reactions.

Companies like Google and General Mills have implemented mindfulness programs across all employee levels and have reaped the benefits. Their leaders are better at managing their direct reports and gauging how new strategic initiatives are received by the rest of the company.

When altering a leadership program for your company, add daily mindfulness lessons and practice into the curriculum. There are plenty of activities your leaders can add to their repertoire, including meditation, breathing exercises, yoga and mindful walking. Check in with your leaders regularly to see how they’re progressing on practicing mindfulness and where they feel they could use assistance.

Align Leadership Training and Corporate Strategy.

Aligning your leadership training with your corporate strategy ensures your leaders will have a higher impact on business objectives. High-performing companies accomplish this alignment by default, and it’s what helps them succeed. The first step to take is to thoroughly understand your company’s strategy. Go beyond reading strategy statements, and be able to concisely paraphrase what your company’s strategic objectives are and list decisions your company made to define that strategy.

Once you thoroughly understand your company’s strategy, you can start to improve the alignment between your leadership training and business objectives. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Incorporate discussions about your business’ strategy into the leadership training.
  • Ask senior leaders to clearly define the type of skills they need emerging and current leaders to possess.
  • Provide a way for new managers to practice and learn these skills through coaching or mentoring circles.
  • Incorporate elements of corporate strategy into leaders’ goals.

When you can better align your leadership development with your corporate strategy, you’ll notice that leaders are better able to execute on those strategies by leading their teams through changes and decisions.

Provide Consistent Training Support.

Most leadership training programs fall short by not following up on training. Many training programs act as if that training – however long it lasts – will be sufficient for the remainder of the leader’s tenure at the company. And many companies find it adequate to send a new leader to a conference or seminar and let that experience be it. Really, that training should be the beginning of an individual’s leadership experience.

Consider it this way: When you learned about a new topic in school, you didn’t hear it once in class and fully comprehend the intricacies. You heard it in a class, read about it in a book, studied it and took a test on it. That same cycle of learning should be applied to leadership training.

Apart from initial leadership workshops and training sessions, how can you ensure leaders are constantly practicing those new skills? One way to provide consistent training support at key milestones is through executive coaching and/or mentoring circles. These groups can help leaders evaluate the progress they’ve made toward their goals, especially if the mentoring circle includes peers, direct reports and managers. Leaders can take their constructive feedback, discuss it one-on-one with a coach and determine how to incorporate it into their training.

During the initial leadership training, set goals with your leaders. Those goals should be related to skills they can improve that will help their teams’ productivity and move the company toward its strategic goals. Establish key milestones, tied to a certain date, that the leader can work toward.

Final Thoughts

To achieve the best ROI for your company and your leaders, take the time to re-evaluate your leadership training. Ask yourself key questions like, “Does the training incorporate mindfulness to develop EQ?”, “Does the training align with company goals and strategy?” and, “Is there a follow-up loop where leaders can check in on their progress toward their goals?” When you can reasonably answer these questions, you’ll know where you can make improvements.

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