At Audere Partners, we have worked with many businesses across multiple industries over the years. We’ve seen every type of leader along the leadership spectrum. Leadership matters, making it the difference in achieving long-term organizational goals. Different circumstances require different types of leadership capabilities and skills.
Leadership Development is a crucial part of organizational success, and it’s more than preparing for succession. It builds critical and strategic thinking, which in turn fosters better decision making. It promotes innovation, increases accountability and morale, drives efficiency and effectiveness.
Frequently, one can limit leadership development to a classroom. Learning through formal instruction with the implied expectation that knowledge will be acquired and then applied when an opportunity arises is a laudable but incomplete process. In reality, growth is grounded in the experiential. It often comes through unique options such as project experiences and other developmental assignments. These things allow an individual or group to gain knowledge through trial, error, and practical application.
The opportunities for helping individuals develop leadership capabilities occur every day. It is paramount that those opportunities are identified and set up properly to promote growth. While flagging these developmental opportunities is a significant challenge, there are ways to identify and set up these formative experiences. Following is a framework that has proven successful in identifying and executing growth opportunities:
This framework was designed to provide a roadmap for hands-on application and build upon leadership theory and principles taught in more formal venues. Following is a more in-depth review of each element that provides tips and tactics that may benefit from utilizing the framework.
- Align Leadership Development Activities to Goal: Gather information and analyze the current situation. Once completed, communicate vision, goals and activities aligned to the objective.
- Setting Goals & Driving Accountability: Once specific activities are established, assign due dates. Develop tracking mechanisms and communicate broadly.
- Leading by Example: Explicitly communicate wins and learning opportunities. Model desired behaviors and values. Foster open and transparent communication
- Leadership Coaching & Mentoring: Establish a cadence of exchanges with the individuals to openly debate challenges and opportunities
- Problem Solving & Issue Resolution: Focus on finding root causes and implementing
- Feedback and Real-time Coaching: Provide opportunities for individuals to have
conversations, share points of view or questions
Aligning Development Activities to Business Goals
Develop a clear understanding of the individuals’ current leadership maturity to identify gaps in capabilities. Start with one-on-one discussions with the individual(s) and expand to conversations with peers and colleagues. Look for opportunities to observe and conduct a performance data analysis. Apply options to current business goals. Most importantly, be sure to consider their own developmental goals.
Setting Goals & Driving Accountability
Once developmental needs have been established, it’s essential to articulate the growth goals and develop activities that will support the individual or team. Make the activities SMART by establish completion criteria and assigning due dates. Establish a routine cadence to track progress, drive accountability in meeting commitments, and complete assigned actions on time and in full. Finally, implement support mechanisms such as executive or outside resources, formal or informal meetings or coaching sessions.
Leading by Example
Demonstrate expected behaviors. People will respond more favorably when they see others “walking the talk.” Actively engage with individuals or teams to review progress and highlight learnings. When the opportunity presents, work with the individuals to identify root causes and develop solutions. Facilitate brainstorming sessions and provide insight to support learning. Be sure to focus on the problems rather than the people to avoid creating a “blame” environment instead of issue resolution. Always be transparent and drive open and respectful communication.
Leadership Coaching and Mentoring
Hold formal and informal one-on-one and group sessions to help remove obstacles preventing activity completion and goal attainment. Use these forums to be a sounding board and for reinforcing concepts.
Follow-up on annotations from previous meetings and provide resources to support learning and growth. Most importantly, be flexible and allow for “give and takes.”
Problem Solving & Issue Resolution
Problem-solving is one of the most critical skills a leader can possess. If appropriate, deliver formal training on problem-solving techniques. Establish triggers to prompt root cause analysis and focus on identifying the cause and developing action plans to resolve the problem. “Ground rules” and behavioral guidelines to ensure are essential to issue resolution for people going through this growth process.
Feedback and Real-Time Coaching Support
Engage where the work occurs. Visit the work area and observe the activity. Provide constructive feedback and coaching support at the moment with the opportunity to ask questions. Finally, make a point of periodically auditing recurring meetings. Most of all, be available and conduct frequent touchpoints.
Leadership Development is a process, not an event. That process is about the individual. This is the most fundamental principle to keep in mind. The journey will be eventful, and unexpected barriers will arise. These events and barriers provide further opportunities to deepen leadership capabilities.