There’s just one thing more important than leadership development, and that’s structured leadership development.
It’s easy to say we must develop our leaders. Buy in a bit of coaching here, a psychometric tool there, pop the leadership candidates on a management skills course and believe that hey presto! You have a leader. The truth is, and many will have experienced this, that unless you identify the key areas that require exceptional skills and design a plan that actually addresses business need, you’ll never see a return on your investment.
It’s also worth noting that waiting until your people are actually in leadership positions to invest in their training has its drawbacks. The ideal scenario is to introduce leadership development for anyone who you believe could be an exceptional leader. It’s best to create a healthy oraganisational environment where you can nurture your home-grown produce, if you will.
We’ve identified seven key business areas that provide a structure to your leadership development strategy. These are areas which will help your leaders to grow, not just as business managers, but also as people. And we promise that there won’t be any rafts made of barrels, hoops to pass or a cringeworthy ‘improv night’ performance to deliver.
It’s a mistake to think of leadership communication as standing on a stage, delivering a dynamic talk that outlines the future of your organisation. While that can be important, and speaking dynamically is a terrific skill, most communication is rather quieter, or even silent. Listening is of course a crucial communication skill, especially when it comes to communicating with empathy and authenticity. Presentation skills are also important, but they are quite easily taught in a day and cement with a little practice over a short period of time.
What does take more effort, training and coaching, is the ability to respond appropriately, especially when under pressure. To be assured, approachable and observant. To think before you speak. These skills are based in the emotional intelligence and mature behaving attitude of an individual. Because these are not personality traits, they are skills, they can be learnt and improved so that with structured coaching they become natural, not forced. With a little work (because nothing comes easy in effective leadership development) your potential and current leaders can develop the authenticity in their communications that will create trust and cement the values that are important to your organisation.
Of course, not all communication is verbal/non-verbal. Even in a soundbite era, the written word is still an important communication tool. Writing concisely to get your authentic message across, in a way that your audience will understand, is crucial. No one will read, let alone trust, a missive that fails to hit the mark. Whether your communications go out via Twitter, newsletter or internal memo, how you write is every bit as important as what you write.
Hopefully your teams are working hard, aligned with your values and understand the purpose of what they are doing. But are your leaders really holding up their end of the bargain? Do they understand that the financial stability of the organisation is their responsibility and therefore they must ensure that their financial literacy is in good shape? In a healthy organisation, it’s up to the leaders to deliver financial health.
This is a tricky subject area when it comes to leadership development. It takes a pretty strong leader to be able to say ’sorry, I don’t understand’. This is where it’s so beneficial to have financial wellbeing as part of your structured leadership development plan. It brings everyone to the same level, without loss of face or confidence, especially when it is done through bespoke finance coaching. For groups, modular financial development learning helps to create an organisation-wide standard that will create stability for years to come.
We often focus leadership development at the senior levels. However, there are leaders at every level who deserve attention. It’s here that the team management skill of facilitation is important. It might be as simple as making sure the whole team has the opportunity to be heard in the weekly team meeting, or ensuring that every team session has focus and direction so that it can be productive. Good facilitators are adept at employing basic facilitation strategies to encourage participants to engage and feel valued, rather than bruising egos. If learnt and practiced early in a leaders’ career, these simple facilitation skills can help leaders evolve with greater empathy and authenticity skills as they learn to listen and respond appropriately.
Interviewing candidates is an important task for most leaders, even if it is not a frequent one which explains why most non-HR leads are not specifically trained to perform. This all too often results in hiring mistakes, such as hiring in their own image (especially when recruiting a successor) and damaging legal implications.
Psychometric tools really help leaders to carry out effective and structured interviews that get below the surface of a candidate, beyond how they appear and what they can do, to understand what they will do when in the role. When leaders develop strong interviewing skills and are really able to understand the candidate in front of them, they are more likely to get their hiring right and set a standard across the organisation.
Innovative, creative leadership is inspirational, especially when supported with emotional intelligence, resilience and motivation. Creativity is a skill not a personality trait. It can therefore be taught, developed and improved to a high level. Leaders who embrace workplace creativity encourage a mindset of continuous learning by encouraging their people to seek new knowledge and different ways of tackling challenges and exploring opportunities. Creativity helps organisational agility and adaptability, a crucial requirement in a rapidly changing business environment. Leaders and their team must have the skills to not be afraid of new ways of thinking and to harness their creativity for the good of the organisation.
Enabling Effective Teams
There’s no I in team! It’s old, but still true. The role of the team leader is to get the best out of their team. Not to grind them into the ground, or squeeze every ounce from them, but to get the best of what they have to give. For this, the team leader needs to understand each individual and most importantly understand and work to improve the team dynamic. Where does the friction lie? Who works well together and who prefers a little distance, who needs more support when under pressure, and who is best motivated through recognition?
This isn’t going to be easy for every leader. Particularly those who don’t relish the interpersonal elements of their leadership role. Not every leader is a ‘people person’. In order to excel, leaders need support not only to develop their team management skills, but also to improve their empathy, social awareness and self-regulation.
Teams are often made up of very different personalities and it’s this diversity which can be the catalyst for success. However, developing team cohesiveness, the ‘glue’, is not straightforward. It takes time and intervention to create a truly effective team. It’s not the responsibility of a leader to wave a magic wand to create a perfect team, but it is their role to enable the team to collectively move towards that destination.
Personal excellence in all of the above depends on emotional intelligence, resilience and motivation. Development in these areas can be uncomfortable, especially where a degree of self-reflection is required. This is where external business coaching is hugely valuable. With no axe to grind, and confidentiality is secure, your leaders can push out of their comfort zone into a flow zone where positive engagement with those around becomes natural. When leaders reach for personal excellence they become stronger leaders, resilient, motivated and mature-behaving, who set the expectations for organisational health, productivity and success.
We’re a team who practice what we preach. 2020 was tough, but we made it through with perseverance, motivation and above all by supporting each other. Contact us to find out how we can help you to do the same.
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