Leadership Development that Works
Summary: Anecdotal information from prospective clients suggests to us this: that more than half of leadership programs don’t work. What changes to your program design would improve that success rate?
Written by Alistair Gordon 21 Jun 2020

Anecdotal information from prospective clients suggests to us this: that more than half of leadership programs don’t work.

These are programs that:

  • Have a limited immediate effect with the majority of participants;

  • Have little or no lasting effect; and

  • Are barely remembered 12 months later.

What is the definition of “worked”?

HFL’s definition is programs that successfully achieve sustainable pre-determined behaviour change to a more effective leadership culture among most participants within six months, which in turn lead to great organisational effectiveness (and elevated business results). Change within six months falls into the category of accelerated leadership development, and that’s what HFL does.

Critical success factors in achieving the definition of “worked” are, in our view:

  • Programs that have an immediate, and a lasting effect – are remembered years afterwards as the moment participants “got” leadership, and as a by product they also got a life;

  • Programs that change the leadership culture inside organisations for good, at multiple levels;

  • Programs that may be aimed at one leadership level, but their impact extends significantly to levels above and below the target level; high ROI achieved;

  • Programs that are directly linked to business strategy, and clearly elevate business results through productivity and engagement improvements.

At HFL, we are convinced that successful programs like this are custom designed, face-valid, experiential programs that focus on helping participants really understand and master a few really crucial leadership skills. To be successful, accelerated leadership programs need to tap into existing people managers’ most basic needs in order to be immediately and directly relevant to them. We call this “news they can use”.

And the most basic need most existing people managers have is MORE TIME. They don’t have enough time because, in our experience, they are:

  • Still doing half of their previous job;

  • Not delegating work they love doing or are good at, but it is work that should now be done by their team members;

  • Doing half of their team’s job;

  • Operating in a “telling” style rather than a “coaching” style, and this increases rather than decreases team dependency on the leader; and

  • Doing only half of the job they are supposed to be doing as a leader, and have no time to think forward, plan, and prepare for a more effective future.

For most leaders we work with, all this adds up to them being stuck doing three jobs half well. (And typically having no life!)

We have found that if you offer most people managers a way out of this horrible, dark place, they will listen hard, and see the value for themselves, their team, and their organisation in adopting these new “leading” behaviours. They commit to trying to change. This means programs are much more likely to be successful.

HFL’s approach

HFL’s design approach is simple and pragmatic: we “make it real”, get the participants to do the “heavy lifting”, design the program so it is “an experience”, and avoid “model mania” and “death by PowerPoint”.

In detail: How HFL works with clients to design winning programs.

We emphasise that leadership development is a journey, and not an event. And our designs reflect this. Most of our programs lean heavily on a “blended” approach, combining workshops, coaching, mentoring, experiences, action learning and forums and 24x7 support technology.

To see some examples of our design approach, please contact us.

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