In One Step: How to Ensure #Leadership Development Works – #Cardiffbiz #Welshbiz
In short, companies can assess the investment in leadership development most readily through measurable improvements afterwards in the way leaders lead. That improvement should be apparent to subordinates, peers and boss, and ideally it is quantifiable by some objective yardstick. The great news is that an increasing number of companies are doing just that, and are documenting solid success.
For example, software leader Symantec conducted measurements immediately before and 18 months after a leadership development process. They found statistically significant improvement in every one of the 16 leadership competencies they measured. These included managers’ capabilities in 16 researched leadership competencies including developing strategic perspective, collaboration and teamwork, technical/professional expertise, motivating and inspiring others, driving for results, and taking initiative. A new CEO attributed the organization’s ability to successfully undergo a significant organizational transformation to their participation in the leadership development program.
Others, firms, however, report less positive outcomes. For example, one leadership development executive asked our help in explaining why the aggregate pre-test results a group had received on their 360-degree feedback was virtually identical to the results gathered 12-18 months later. When we looked inside the results, however, it became clear that while some leaders had made significant improvement, others had remained stuck where they were. A few received lower scores than the first time around. The participants in both firms had received a nearly identical development experience, and yet had widely differing outcomes. Why would this be? What can we learn from this?
Because we analyze group data, that dynamic introduces the possibility for multiple explanations for scores going down. People who are promoted to higher-level positions often achieve lower 360-degree scores, particularly during the early period of their new position. Others participants may have entered a new mix of subordinates or peers, and these new colleagues may be more prone to giving low scores. Some of the participants may have found themselves in positions of having to put subordinates on a performance plan, which frequently results in lower scores from those who are being more tightly managed. However, while all of the above forces may be at work our research shows there is one big difference between the companies showing the greatest success and those with poorer results.
The Follow Up
All things being equal, we think that the major explanation for widely differing results boils down to one issue. What process was put in place to help participants digest the assessment data and then use it to create a meaningful development plan? What was the follow-up?
We know of many companies that implement a 360-degree feedback process that consists of having everyone completing the feedback form, compiling the data and then mailing out the result. That is it. They are done. Participants get their 360-degree feedback, read through it, and then put it into a drawer. The manager never discusses it with them. There are no follow-up coaching sessions, or group sessions, to monitor and advance their progress. There is no deliberate effort to integrate the messages from their 360-degree feedback with their on-the-job roles.
Those who succeed, however, follow a different pattern. An ideal follow up program could involve such things as:
- Acquiring new bodies of information, such as technical expertise of information about the competitors and industry.
- Spending part of every day in planning and reviewing the progress of projects.
- Deliberately reaching out to build new relationships in the firm or with key individuals outside of the organization.
- Seeking others from within the firm to provide coaching on technical matters or leadership issues.
- Engaging in specific activities designed to strengthen a competency that is essential to your current position, such as a strategic planning exercise.
The point is that in the aftermath of the same development program, one group of leaders makes significant progress while another stays the same or gets slightly lower scores on the next 360-degree review. Given that everyone had the same development experience, this suggests the critical difference lies in what happened next.
You reap what you sow—that is the law of the harvest. A seed may be blown by the wind into a field, but it is a fluke. Similarly, if someone becomes a better leader when there has been no follow up, statistics suggest it is occurring largely by chance. To ensure the investment in leadership development is successful, consistent follow up will be the name of the game.