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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Developing Leaders to Be Effective Decision Makers


In our latest installment in our “Ask the Expert” series I had the opportunity to talk about effective decision making, experiential learning and other topics with Christine Pencak, Director of Global Talent and Organizational Development at BorgWarner. Christine has spent the last 20 years leading talent and organizational development departments. She has worked with the automotive industry since the mid-1990s and came to BorgWarner in January of 2005.



Nash Musselwhite- “In your role as Director of Global Talent and Organizational Development how have you helped to shape development programs at BorgWarner?”

Christine Pencak- “Development programs in BorgWarner are part of the strategic fabric of the company. We have never had an “off the shelf" training curriculum that was put together by the HR department without involvement of line management  I often get feedback from consulting firms regarding the degree of rigor and involvement of the highest level people in whatever we do in the development arena. This level of management engagement in the upfront work is how I strive to shape a learning agenda that drives business objectives.

We really have an incredible level of buy in at senior levels of our organization. Our executives so embrace their experience with the PressTime simulation that this November we are doing a special run of the simulation for Vice Presidents who have come on recently who haven’t gone through that simulation.”

NM- “What are the overall goals and objectives of BorgWarner’s development programs?”

CP- “Our Company has  a growth goal of becoming a $15 Billion dollar company by 2020.  An enterprise strategy in support of that goal is to develop, retain, and attract the talent needed to support that growth.  You can have the best strategy, and a market that wants your products, but you have to have people to run your businesses. That is the overall goal. Having more people willing and able to step up and lead our businesses today and in the future.

Our organizational competency model has been in place since 2003. We don’t use competencies to simply build job descriptions. Rather, the BorgWarner Product Leadership Competency Model applies to every professional at every level in the organization. It defines the human capabilities we need to execute our strategy and achieve our vision.  That organizational model is integrated into all of our human resource processes and tools. There is real power in that approach. While the model has been in place for several years, we do identify certain competencies for targeted focus and development.  Right now, those priorities are Influence, Conflict Management, and Decision Making. 

Our CEO has determined these three to be essential in our operating model which is, in a nutshell, having decision making authority and accountability reside at our plants, closest to the customer. In our operating model, the functions are here to support the operations The people within the functions are expected to have a global perspective; they bring best practices and efficient processes to the operational leaders, helping inform and influence decisions that are made at the local level."

NM- “Let’s explore those three strategic competencies some more.”

CP- “Our value proposition is product leadership in the marketplace. It requires innovation at its core and innovation needs to be centered around markets and customers. We empower leaders to run their businesses, and expect them to grow their businesses.  There are few, if any, top down directives in our company. So a balance between collaboration and speed is critical to our success.    We are investing a lot of effort into developing our talent to work across boundaries to make high quality, timely decisions that are best for the company. So, being able to bring expertise to the table and influence decisions, while managing the constructive conflicts that are inherent in local accountability/global strength operating model is a large focus for us now.

NM- “So with the decision making competency your focus is not so much about closing a gap as it is about continuing to ensure you have high quality decision makers?”

CP- “Right! And a lot of what we do at BorgWarner is learning through others and stories. For example, we our development initiatives incorporate high levels of experiential activities, giving people the chance to learn from others. Our flagship leader development program incorporates Discovery Learnings Press Time simulation and the Decision Style Profile. How people attempt to influence others, manage conflict, ultimately make decisions are key learning from the experience.   Additionally, include exposure to executives where program participants can ask our senior most leaders their “lessons of experience.”  Very often those questions are about making tough decisions and communicating those decisions to employees.  What comes out loud and clear, is that high quality decision making is important, that often you have to make decisions with limited or incomplete information; but in all circumstances, the implications for people need to be considered in a way that reflects BorgWarner’s respect for people.

Our up and coming leaders consistently comment that the Press Time simulation and our executive stories strengthen their understanding of leader expectations here. .   In sum, we have multiple threads running through our development programs that reinforce that competence, even in indirect ways.”

NM- “What are some of the additional tools that you are using to help develop effective decision making?”

CP- “Where we focus on decision making as a consideration for leadership development is really at the mid to upper level of the organization. Our focus is on two aspects of decision making; timely decision making and high quality decision making
As I mentioned, we use Decision Style Profile, and we couple it with a personality instrument (The Occupational Personality Questionnaire), and a multi-rater assessment (Denison Leadership Development Survey)   In 2015 and beyond, we are taking our existing curriculum to a new level. You will have to talk to me in a year or two to see how we are doing.

NM- “How do you measure the success of your development programs?”

CP- “We keep a close eye on the career progression of talent that attends our programs. Additionally, we have annual self and boss assessments of the Product Leadership Competencies as part of our performance management and development process.  And finally, every 2.5 years our executive level population goes through a 360 feedback process.   In addition to focused, individual development plans being the outcome of that, I look at the group data to understanding the rank ordering of the competencies, from highest to lowest over time.  This informs our development investment decisions.  Perhaps it goes without saying, that we also employ traditional program evaluation methods.

NM- “What advice would you give to other leadership and organizational development professionals based on your experience focusing on decision making, influence and conflict management as strategic competencies?”

CP- “If you are a global company like BorgWarner, be mindful of the cultural differences in how leadership competencies play out in various countries.  Be clear on the outcomes you are striving for, but be open to, and embrace, different behaviors that get to the same end point.

Effective decision making is a critical competency for contemporary leaders. Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing resources, tools and programs to help some of the world's most innovative companies develop their leaders to be more effective decision makers. Find out more about how Discovery Learning, Inc. can improve the effectiveness of your leadership development efforts!

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Monday, March 2, 2015

How the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is Developing Future Leaders

Discovery Learning, Inc. has had the privilege of partnering with many higher education institutions over the years. One of the relationships that we are particularly proud of is Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In this installment of our Ask the Expert series I had the opportunity to speak with Michael McCormack, Deputy Director for the Public Health Leadership and Director of Practice, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  Michael has the unique challenge of designing a program to develop leaders in the public health sector in a rapidly changing public health landscape.



N: Hi Michael thanks for agreeing to talk about the Leadership Concentration at the Harvard T.H. Chang School of Public Health. Perhaps we could start with you providing an overview to our readers about what the Leadership Concentration is and how it came about?

M: “Let me put this in the context of public health and the fact that very few people know what public health is. Most people only think about public health when something significant occurs.  So recent examples are West Nile virus, and swine flu, or now Ebola.  During a time of crisis suddenly everyone thinks about public health.  The Harvard School of Public Health has several different departments that one can get a masters of public health degree. These include epidemiology, bio statistics as well as health policy management and environmental health.  We saw a strong need for graduates of the Harvard School of Public Health to see themselves as collaborative leaders because if you are going to work in public health you really have to be able to interact with the community and community leaders, as well as be an expert in your own field of public health.  So what we wanted to do was design a program that was somewhat flexible to accommodate the unique needs of each of those departments and at the same time give people some insights about their own leadership.  So the leadership concentration tries to help students see themselves as leaders by:

1)      Doing a series of self-assessment instruments including the Discovery Leadership Profile.
2)      The school requires that students have a minimum of ten credit hours of leadership courses.
3)      Students in the concentration need to work internally with a coach which is different than an academic advisor. The purpose of the coach is really to try to be a sounding board for the student about what they are learning about themselves and about leadership during their time in the concentration.
4)       Students are also required to document what they are doing through an electronic portfolio. The portfolio provides the students a way to assess at the beginning of the year what they see as their strengths and what they are trying to accomplish and where they are at the year’s ends.
5)      The last component is that we ask the students to do is something that’s about teaching the leadership community something about health, public health or leadership. The idea behind this is giving something back to the community. People have done some very nice things with that work and so that was the last goal of the leadership concentration.”

N: You mentioned that one of the components of the program is coaching for the students.  Do you tie coaching back to the feedback that they’re getting from the 360 survey?

M: “Yes, quite often that does happen. What we do with self-assessment is have four to five sessions each year in the fall, and we give students a series of instruments that they can take to get snapshots of their style. Typically we use Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Instrument and sometimes the Myers Briggs type indicator.  We always use the 360 from Discovery Learning and we are very happy with it and the students like it a lot.  Students go through the battery of instruments. We always do this as a group, we have about forty people broken into two groups that meet on different nights.  The group that students work with remains intact and the intent of that is that they should feel free to have conversations about what are they learning about themselves from each of the instruments. The idea is not just to get the data but to feel comfortable talking about the implications of the snapshot with a group of peers.  I think that by making people talk about it, at first it feels a little risky, but in fact what it does is kind of normalize whatever the data is. People no longer feel like they are a good or bad person based on the results of their assessments.  They get to hear other people wrestling with the same questions. That really helps them feel ok about their data. They may not like some of it, but it makes the experience much more about learning and being able to set up a learning community. “

N: Does the Harvard School of Public Health focus on leadership competencies? How do you define the competencies for a great public health leader?

M:” That was something we really struggled with because there’s such a wide array of skills and competencies that we could focus on. But eventually we were able to distill it down into six or seven key principles including: change management, leadership diversity and inclusion, decision making and risk analysis, operations management, developing people. There was probably a couple more, but I think those were the key things that our research found that people tend to focus on and pay the most attention to. “

N: How did you develop a curriculum around those competencies? With any one of the focus areas it seems one could spend a lifetime mastering the leadership skills and traits associated with those different competencies. How do focus in on what’s critical for students in the limited time that you have them?

M: “That was a big dilemma that we struggled with. Not only do we have limited time, but not all students see a need for all of those competencies. What we have asked people to do, is to do a gap analysis of themselves and to think about what are the two maybe three competencies they’re going to focus on. We are trying to get a framework so that people can pick some meaningful things for their own personal development.  Because, as you noted, in a year, you can only do so much.

One of our key challenges is to help these students see themselves as leaders. If you don’t see yourself as a leader, if you don’t have the internal resource for that, then you’re not going to be as effective because you are going to be hesitant to act. You’re not going to know how to look for resources and ask for help. If you really see yourself as a leader, you have fewer qualms about saying I don’t know the answer to this but I know how to find it out and I know people I can talk to. So that’s the reason why we felt like if you pick a couple of competencies and you get the larger framework then you should be effective at what you set out in the world to do. The other thing I’d say about that is Dean Frank, the head of the school, talks a lot about the changing face of public health. He says what you really need in the world, as it’s becoming more global, are people who not only know public health but can convey their ideas effectively so that people are actually willing to change and try new things. “

N: What are some challenges that are relatively constant in public health? What are some things that you see emerging that public health leaders need to be focusing on?

M: “So the kind of common challenges these people face whether you are the head of the public health department or the head of the CDC in Atlanta is constrained resources. You never have enough staff, funding , or time.  If you are in the community as head of the public health department you run a spectrum of things from restaurant inspections and controlling rats to clean air and clean water, emergency preparedness, and infectious diseases that are occurring. So it’s a very wide spectrum of knowledge that you are supposed to have. The challenge is staying current with that, being able to lobby the legislators at whatever level is relevant. So how do you get those resources? Generally people don’t want to spend money on public health, if you don’t understand it; you’ll think I don’t need to do that. When it goes wrong, then you’ll want someone who is really good at it but you haven’t given them money to do anything with.

But I think beyond that, the thing that’s happening now is really the globalization of the issues around health. It used to be that communicable diseases were really the problem of smaller, developing nations. But now they’re being seen all over the globe. That has a lot to do with how quickly someone who is sick can go from “wherever” to the United States or to Canada or to anyplace else and bring a disease with them on a plane. While they were on that 8 or 24 hour flight the disease was incubating and it doesn't show up until they’re actually in the public in whatever country they were going to. So that’s a big challenge.  

Another big challenge is as people emulate the west more and more, the diets are changing around the world. So now you are seeing much more of the chronic ailments that people have around obesity and heart disease that you wouldn't have seen two or three decades ago. It’s interesting to note that in the 1900’s the average lifespan of a human was about 49 years of age. Today it’s 66.7. In 2000, for the first time ever, older people outnumbered younger people on the face of the planet. So who gets sick and what illnesses they’re facing and what systems you have in place for good health are changing dramatically. It is critical today to have people who are very good at leading and challenging the status quo, but in a way that it gets heard and actually acted upon.  I think it’s’ becoming much more critical for people to be successful in the role of public health.”

We would love to talk to you about how Discovery 360 Leadership Profile can empower the development of your organizations leaders. 

Click Here to Learn More About DLI's Discovery Leadership Profile




Michael McCormack is the Deputy Director for the Public Health Leadership and Director of Practice, at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  He is also the Director of the Massachusetts Institute for Community Health Leadership, which he created for the Blue Cross Foundation in 2005.

Michael received his M.S. in Organization Development from American University. He has been at HSPH since the fall of 2008.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Change Leader, Beware These Pitfalls


Reacting Is Not Resisting

To improve your effectiveness at leading change remember one mantra, “reaction does not equal resistance.”  When you are satisfied or at least comfortable in a situation and you have to change it’s natural to react.  Our reactions can range from surprise, to shock, to disbelief.  But expressing our surprise and asking questions for better understanding is not the same as resisting the change.  Failure to turn cartwheels in celebration is not the same as resisting.  Resisting is purposefully impeding the change, either passively or actively. 

So what drives someone from their natural reaction to a change to subversive resistance?  At the heart of the answer is the feeling that the expression of their surprise, shock or disbelief cannot be voiced and honored.  We cannot change the way people feel about a change, but we can intensify those feelings by ignoring, discounting or demeaning them.

Some leaders seem to believe that listening to angsts and concerns conveys agreement with the feelings.  It doesn't.  You cannot change the way another person feels about something, they have to change it.  You can assist their change by acknowledging and honoring their feelings.  This requires purposeful listening.  What you can do is help to drive them into resistance.  The moment you tell me I shouldn't or don’t feel the way I am feeling, the path to resistance is paved.

The Emotions That Lead to Resistance

Let’s be honest and state the obvious.  Change is messy and it’s likely to stay that way.  Even with our best efforts to “manage change”, it’s still messy.  People react emotionally to change and the emotions are usually more negative than positive.  So why not accept this as a predictable part of any change and focus on how to best work with these emotions rather than ignoring them or sweeping them under the proverbial carpet. 

The first step in this effort is to understand that reacting to change is not the same as resisting change.  The emotions typically associated with reacting to change include anxiety, confusion and vulnerability.  When these emotions are not acknowledged they tend to morph into frustration, distrust and fatigue which are the emotions that lead to resistance.  Resistance is the by-product of poorly managing the emotions that naturally accompany change.  When you tell me I shouldn't be confused, I become frustrated.  When you tell me I should be anxious, I become distrustful. 

Leaders can learn to work with these emotions and help others with the resolution of negative emotions into purpose, trust, honesty and compassion.  But the first step is acknowledging and accepting our own negative emotions.  Once we've put our own oxygen mask on then we can try to help the person next to us.    

The Emotions That Lead to Resiliency

We know the emotions that lead to resistance include anxiety, confusion, frustration and fatigue.  We also know which emotions increase our resiliency – purpose, enthusiasm, optimism and confidence.  If we expect people to give up something that is familiar but arguably ineffective then they want to see how the change improves their world for the better.  What’s the purpose?  The purpose needs to generate enthusiasm.  Leaders should be optimistic about the changes, even if they are negatively impacted by the change.  And finally, they need to express confidence that this change is possible. 
So if a leader cannot articulate a purpose for change that extends benefit beyond his/her own interest, doesn't show enthusiasm for the change, isn't optimistic and cannot communicate confidence that the change can be successful, then why should anyone follow.

When a change is ill-conceived and poorly executed, not only is the current change initiative damaged but the success of all future changes are jeopardized.  When leaders approach change with clear purpose, enthusiasm, optimism and confidence, the outcomes are more likely to be successful and the organization is a step closer to a culture of resiliency.

For 25 years Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing programs to help organizations develop better change leaders. Check out our latest research on Change Leaders!


Free Copy: Trends in Change Leadership




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Preparing Leaders to be Change Navigators





Tammie Plouffe is an early adopter and co-creator of Change Navigator, DlI’s latest professional resource for change leaders. I had the opportunity to speak with Tammie about her experience using the new resource and get some early feedback on best applications, target audiences, key takeaways and participant impact.

What types of client situations have you found the Change Navigator most helpful for? – NM

Change Navigator provides a solid framework for understanding the stages that are common to people undergoing significant change. It offers a new way of approaching transitions, by focusing on the emotions of people, whose buy in and support are critical to success.  I have found this tool to be very helpful for complex change situations involving leaders who are in the process or getting ready to lead a large transformation i.e. restructuring, merger, acquisition.  

Leadership development programs where content is focused on leading change is a good way to use the Change Navigator. Also, another great application is in team meetings or planned team development sessions where dealing with change is a relevant topic.

Executive coaching is another way to use this tool to assist leaders experiencing a significant change either personally or organizationally to get clarity on what they can do to effectively navigate the emotional terrain and lead a more successful change initiative.

What is the talk track you are hearing from leaders about their challenges in leading others through change?

Some of the biggest challenges I am hearing from leaders include:

Managing in an environment that is defined by uncertainty, ambiguity and change fatigue. This includes managing teams in a context of fear due to the lack of information and uncertainty. Leaders are finding themselves with the challenge of managing through an environment of rumors and speculation which can be a major distractor to the progress of change initiatives and can exacerbate existing challenges. Leaders are asking questions like “What can I do to keep the team motivated and focused through all of this ambiguity?”

Maintaining the focus of both the team and the leader. A common question I hear from leaders, “What support can I provide the team to stay team focused on being productive during this period of change? “ Leaders are challenged to keep their teams priorities and attention on factors that they can control. Too often leaders watch the productivity and moral of their teams erode as people spend emotional capital and resource distracted by the things that are out of their control.  

People will respond differently to change depending on where they are emotionally in the change process.  Change Navigator is really useful for grounding teams and leaders on where they are personally in the change process. For leaders especially it helps to clarify and identify strategies they can use to move their teams forward effectively and successfully.  

Lack of Control. Leaders are expressing frustration that it is challenging to plan or position for the unknown. Often, they are required to lead teams and implement a change that they themselves did not choose and may have their own feelings about.

Building Optimism and Hope for the Future. Leaders are working with the complexity of implementing change initiatives while doing day to day work and dealing with people’s emotions about change. They are tasked with the challenge of rallying people around a compelling vision and helping their teams understand and buy into the benefits of the change.

What is inspiring leaders about leading change in today’s environment?

Some common themes I am hearing from leaders that I work with are:
The opportunity to innovate their organizations to perform better

The opportunity to be part of building something new and exciting in the organizations they serve

Making a positive difference for the people and teams they lead.

Building new skills and capabilities towards future results.

Winning - embracing challenges and the energy (and adrenalin rush!) that can bring when successful.

Why is change leadership important?

It balances change management activities of planning etc. and is a key ingredient to making change stick. Change leadership is the work leaders do to enlist people’s hearts and minds in a change effort and engage them to work in new ways in order to get better, and more meaningful results.

What kinds of impacts does working with the Change Navigator have on people? What value do leaders acknowledge they get from working with the Change Navigator?

A recent client who had his leadership team do the Change Navigator workshop while they were in the midst of splitting up their company into two separate businesses said that the CN helped them understand the emotional part of making transitions and this insight helped build their personal resilience as well as have increased empathy for the people they were leading who were finding the change very challenging.

What do you most admire about leaders who are effective at leading and navigating change? What are you noticing about leaders who are very effective at leading change?  

The thing I admire most is their ability to stay positive and optimistic while acknowledging that change is tough work. I also believe that the most effective change leaders are those that are optimistic and empathic, they create hope and inspire confidence. They stay involved in the change effort and bring people along. So often leaders get through their own response to change and forget that the rest of the organization may be going through it at a different pace than they are or experiencing a different impact.


What advice do you have for other consultants/ trainers working with the Change Navigator?

I have found that as I work with the CN, I continue to learn more about navigating transitions both personally and through others. It has individual, team and organizational application. I would encourage other consultants to continue stay in the learning process and resist the temptation to be the expert. I have also found sharing stories about transitions to be helpful to bring the model to life and resonate.   

What insights and learnings have you had from working with this product?

How to navigate change better and with greater insight. I am able to get clearer faster about what stage of transition I am navigating and what I can do to help myself or be of service to another.  


Learn more about the New Change Navigator


Tammie Plouffe is a professional Organizational Development consultant. She is managing partner of Innovative Pathways and has assisted many large and mid-sized corporations in developing their leadership and organizations to embrace challenges. Plouffe holds a Master of Science, Organizational Development from Pepperdine University, California and a B.A. in Psychology from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two sons.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Avoiding Leadership Development Snake Oil




When designing a leadership development program today’s training and development professionals have more content options than at any other time in history. This can be a tremendous benefit because there are a diverse number of solutions many of which are focused on specific training objectives or competencies. The lack of any consistent governing body to monitor the quality of psychometric assessments means that training and development professionals must use their own insight and experience and conduct thorough research to find an assessment that is safe to deploy to their organization or clients.  There are a lot of fly-by-night assessments and tools out there. At best these types of resources can be ineffectual and at worst can cripple any serious attempts at development.

Any training and development content provider that is worth their salt should be able and happy to provide the research and development information to support their assessment. The best content providers will also support their assessments with frequently updated normative data. As your organization explores content and tools for your next development efforts here are some questions you should be asking to help ensure you are using safe and proven resources:

Is the Assessment Valid?
Is the assessment really measuring what it claims to measure?  Assessments that are not research based will never be able to definitely prove that they are valid. The goal of any development program is to improve competency in certain skills. If you choose an assessment that is invalid at measuring those skills your development efforts can be thwarted.

Is the Assessment Reliable?
Is the assessment dependable? Are you sure that it’s working the same way every time? You would never buy a new car that started on some days but not on others. In the same way, you want to make sure that the assessment you choose for your leadership development program works reliably, every time. If you need an instrument that measures a stable factor in an individual’s personality over time, you don’t want to work with an assessment that gives participants radically different results each time they take it. The only way to ensure an instrument’s reliability is by using a research-based assessment.

Does the Assessment’s Support Materials Provide Context?
Does the assessment you’re working with collect and analyze normative data from previous respondents? Normative data provides a crucial element that helps participants understand their results. Knowing that 1% of the population shares your personality style, or that 23% of people working in the financial industry have a similar response to change, for example, helps participants contextualize and better understand their results. Using a research-based assessment backed by normative data guarantees deeper insights for your participants.

Selecting the right psychometric or leadership assessment can be challenging. That is why finding a partner that is transparent with their R&D is such a benefit for training and development professionals. There are a few high impact assessments in the marketplace that are backed by strong research and normative data but there is also a lot of snake oil. Hopefully these tips and your own good judgment will help you to pick the best assessment for your organization.

Learn More About DLI's Innovative Suite of Research Backed Leadership  Assessments!





Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Ethics of Leadership Assessment

Anyone involved with leadership assessment and development has war stories about ineffective use of leadership assessment tools. Dr. Chris Musselwhite offers a few  guidelines for effective and ethical use of leadership assessments.

- Even a good assessment can be misused. We’ll assume you are using assessments that are valid and reliable. But, even good assessments can be misused. Don’t be guilty of over-simplifying a multi-dimensional person into an over-simplified cookie-cutter prototype of a leader. Assessments are designed to provide insights and glimpses into the behavioral preferences of an individual, not to provide a blueprint.

- Preferences are only preferences. Personality preferences help us to understand our tendencies. Some of our tendencies may be quite pronounced and may color the lenses through which we view our surroundings. My experience is that rather than introduce constraints, understanding this creates options. Better understanding how I interpret and respond to my environment offers me options for growth and development. Understanding how others interpret their environment gives me the opportunity for adaptability and flexibility.

- Preferences do not equal behaviors. Preference is about my most natural inclinations for reacting and responding. It also colors how I interpret the behaviors of others. My behavior is only dictated by my preferences when I am blind to those preferences. Knowledge is power.

- The focus of assessment should be developmental. Leadership assessment should be about improving leadership effectiveness so when assessment is used for hiring or promotion, don’t try dressing it up as leadership assessment. Assessments that are validated for developmental purposes may not be validated for hiring and promoting. In addition to ethical concerns, this can also have serious legal implications.

- Don’t be lazy. People are complex so don’t use personality assessment as a substitute for listening and asking good questions. People are not labels so don’t use them.

- Confidentiality is supreme. Leadership assessment should be confidential. If I choose to share an insight that I have learned about my natural preferences or someone else’s perceptions about my effectiveness then it is my choice.
Contact Discovery Learning, Inc. to learn more about incorporating Leadership Assessment into your Leadership Development Program. 


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

4 More Ways You Can Improve Your Leadership Development Program

Earlier this year, we suggested five steps to help you assess and improve your leadership development program. You can read the original post here. We’re back with four additional recommendations to implement in the planning stages of your program to improve your organization’s leadership development.



1. Get sponsorship from senior leaders. When it is clear that your leadership development program is important to the organization, participants will be more engaged in learning. During an executive training program at a large Canadian retailer, a very senior executive drove over four hours to kick off the program with a fifteen-minute speech to the participants. The senior executive’s visible sponsorship of the program sent a clear message that the program was important. Gaining tangible buy-in from senior leaders is a crucial way to get participants to invested in their own development from the start.

2. Avoid cramming too much content into one program. Although it is tempting to cover as much ground as possible, it is a mistake to overdo it with content. People need time to reflect, process, and talk about the information you are presenting. Rather than try to do everything in one program, identify the most important learning areas you want to cover and plan enough time for people to develop meaningful takeaways.  Try to focus on one or two behavioral competencies and demonstrate how they may be connected.

3. Frame it in terms of exploring real business issues. Get people to bring real business challenges to the program to engage in problem-solving.  Then give people break-away activities to encourage exploring those specific issues. People want to solve problems. When you incorporate experiential learning into your leadership development program, participant engagement will increase. Coupling experiential learning with exploration and discussion of relevant business challenges helps participants to make deeper connections between their development experience and their behavior patterns at work. By doing so participants will feel like they have some tools to take back with them which greatly helps increase engagement with leadership development beyond the class-room.

4. Keep it safe. When people feel threatened and exposed, their ability to transfer short term to long term memory decreases dramatically. Create a non-judgmental learning environment by avoiding framing development challenges in terms of “right” and “wrong” answers or solutions. Instead shift the focus to understanding different styles of leadership and participants will be more willing to engage. For most leadership traits individuals have preferred style that they defer to.  It is important to help leaders understand what other styles and techniques exist. Then empower those leaders to adapt their go-to style to maximize effect for the situation and target audience.

Discovery Learning, Inc. has been designing custom leadership development programs for global organizations for over 20 years. We are happy to serve as a resource to the leadership and organizational development community. Contact us to set-up a consultation to start maximizing the impact of your leadership development budget.



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