By: Daniel Stewart - President & Executive Consultant
When most companies start, leadership development probably isn’t a huge priority. As companies find customers and grow the business, allocating resources to development may not seem necessary.
But in every organization’s development, there may be a time when putting time and money into developing leaders starts to make sense. Perhaps the company is experiencing growing pains or a gap between lower-level managers and senior managers. You may find it’s time to define a strategy for long-term development, but where do you begin?
Here are six steps to take as you design a leadership development strategy:
Launching into a leadership development strategy without a clear sense of purpose is like setting out on a road trip without a destination in mind. It may be fun for a while, but eventually, you will want to know why you’re driving and where you will end up.
Why are you starting a leadership development strategy? Are you looking to improve your talent pool or improve alignment between leadership and company goals? By defining your purpose, you’ll be able to plan your approach.
Somewhat related to purpose, clarifying your goals will help you select the right programs and approaches to fulfilling the purpose of your leadership development strategy. If your goal is to prepare mid-level leaders for senior leadership positions, you will want a different approach than if your goal is to create more cohesion on the senior leadership team. By clarifying goals, you’ll avoid a scattershot approach that may develop leaders individually but may not result in the business outcomes you expect.
As you define your purpose and goals, keep in mind the business outcomes you’re looking for. Your organizational initiatives should always connect back to the business. For example, if your organization is struggling with employee engagement, how can your leadership development strategy tie back to that challenge?
For some development initiatives, the candidates may be obvious, but for others, it will make sense to select candidates for targeted learning and development. These candidates don’t necessarily have to be your “high potential” people; in fact, there is great value in expanding development opportunities to everyone.
Once you have a clear idea of the purpose, desired outcomes, and candidates for your leadership development strategy, then it’s time to find the right program. Programs can vary widely in approach and learning journey, among other factors, and the right program for one goal may be entirely wrong for another.
Think of your leadership development strategy as something like building a house. There is a specific order and process to construction, and doing things out of order creates chaos. You would never erect walls before building a solid foundation, and no one would suggest doing plumbing or electrical work after drywall and paint were complete.
For your development plans, focus on long-term solutions. Create a solid foundation of good leaders, and expand your development plans across the organization. Once you’ve executed an initial program for one group, keep moving. Start looking at your upcoming priorities and select candidates who can meet those needs.
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