CEO Alan sat deep in thought, reflecting on how he might influence improvement. “What is the greatest internal lever of performance available to CUBE Enterprises?”, he wondered. At the top of his list was enhanced leadership capability, throughout the organisation. On further reflection, Alan started to become increasingly anxious. The business had Programs, which seemed expensive, and it was never clear to him, or the senior team, how exactly the leadership training contributed to performance.
As head of Learning and Development at CUBE, Sue was rather relieved that the recent strategy crisis no longer occupied centre stage. She pulled a copy of the last ten-month long leadership development program from the drawer, where it had been resting for over a year. She still felt sure that it gave thorough coverage to the complex topic. CUBE's Program seemed every bit as good as the leadership module she had completed in her postgraduate studies. She looked forward to commencing the nominations process.
Helen was one of the younger and more talented middle managers in CUBE. She was thinking about her future, including opportunities for advancing her career. Personal development had always been an important consideration in her selection of employers. Disappointed by the absence of promised opportunities at CUBE, she had already completed a self-funded course. Helen seriously doubted that CUBE's off-the-shelf program of a few days over ten months would fully equip her to deal with on-the-job challenges. Colleagues who’d done the course agreed. Frankly, the immediate return on her investment of time just didn't stack up. Helen opened Google in her internet browser, typing in ‘job search’'.
The three vignettes above capture sentiments that UGM encounters often. Senior management has no doubt that leadership capability is critical to organisational success. Research, such as Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (GHCT) 2015, shows that senior leaders continue to consider leadership capability as mission-critical. Unfortunately, all too often, they report grave doubts about the effectiveness of programs that run in their enterprises. In fact, the GHCT study reports an increase in the leadership capability gap!
Research also points to a lack of clear alignment between personal development and critical business imperatives. However, the typical reaction of simply cutting Programs is not a savvy long-term solution.
Many in charge of developing leadership capability want the best for their people. They often believe that university-style programs will deliver best value. However, such comprehensive but broad and generic programs are not effectively tailored to the needs of the business. Management scholar Henry Mintzberg concurs. Consequently, it can be the right content, but the wrong time. It's likely also to lack sufficient focus for direct application and immediate benefit. Increasingly, context is being recognised as vital.
Finally, talented individuals engage in leadership development, expecting to progress their careers. Those who don't get personal development opportunities within organisations start looking around. Those who are involved in programs become justifiably concerned about their investment of time and effort when overlooked for positions on the grounds that they don’t have specific capabilities required. Research shows that this valuable category of people is at high-risk of adding to the voluntary turn-over statistics of organisations.
We continuously work and speak with many people in each of the three roles we've mentioned. A key insight we've gained is that there is often a (very big and concerning) disconnect in perspectives. Each is unaware of the others' views, and we believe this lack of congruence is extremely unhelpful. In the long run, it erodes confidence and trust and everyone and the organisation suffers.
A primary purpose of this briefing is to stimulate and encourage dialogue, as needed, between the various parties. If you aren't aware, for sure, how each role holder views leadership in your organisation then you're well advised to proactively remedy that by initiating discussions.
In good faith, many organisations model their leadership development programs on university curricula. It seems the right thing to do. But, a really good university program is intentionally high-level, broad and often conceptual.
What's good for one organisation, however, probably won't be what another needs at the same time. We take specialist medicine for a headache, for a stomach complaint and for a blood condition. Why would we hope that one generic, magic 'leadership' tablet will fix all organisational ailments? Off-the-shelf may be cheaper, but what if it doesn't address our problem?
Although traditional leadership programs are an easier stream of revenue, we're advocating a modular, just-in-time, built-for-me approach. It's the way many other organisational challenges are successfully addressed. A series of short, focused modules have an immediate and powerful effect, and good returns. We also know this approach addresses the needs of all roles we've examined. How do your organisation's leadership development initiatives stack up for you? Questions in the side-bar will help you decide.
Some questions you might ask about leadership development.
For the CEO
For the HR/OD/LD team
For the individual
Call us now on +61 2 9964 9861 for information about running our popular Goal Setting workshops in-house.