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How to create an effective leadership development plan

by | Aug 19, 2021

Preparing your business for the future takes on many forms. For some, refining your strategic alignment plays a crucial role in cementing your business’s longevity. For others, it means finding reliable vendors and partners.

One thing that no business can survive long without is effective leadership. Consider the number of businesses that sustain solid growth until the company founder retires. Then, without that leadership in place, the company flounders.

In fact, good leadership is critical to long-term success. That’s why your business needs a leadership development plan.

Not clear on how to create an effective plan?

Keep reading for some key tips.

Then, think about the goals you could create to shape and guide your Leadership development program.

Roadmap your plan with Waymaker

Create clarity

There is an unfortunate tendency to treat leadership and management as the same thing. Good management matters a lot for success in any venture, but it’s not the same as leadership.

Management is ultimately about the execution of process and systems.

Leadership is about shifting people from point A to point Z. Getting people from ‘here to here’.

Leadership is about leading people and management is about managing systems and things.

Leadership and management exist at every level of the organisation.

A good leadership development program helps employees understand what leadership looks like in their company.

It creates clarity about how a leadership role differs from management and offers tools that facilitate it.

That means you must start by establishing what leadership means in your company and making that the foundation of training.

Set reasonable expectations

Developing leaders is not a process you can achieve overnight.

While not a perfect parallel, consider how the military develops its leadership. For both enlisted personnel and the officer corps, there is a long timeline between when a person initially joins and when they take on senior leadership roles.

In fact, the military sets minimums for promotion based both on time in the service and time in grade/rank. A key part of the reasoning for those minimums is that it gives people time to develop their leadership skills before giving them more responsibility.

While your business shouldn’t impose anything that rigid, there is a lesson in that approach. Mastery comes with experience.

That means a good leadership development program provides training in stages.

After each training stage, your future leader needs some time to practice the new skills they learn.

Baking in those intervals for practice also means you don’t rush employees into positions for which they lack preparation.

By setting reasonable expectations, you let employees internalize leadership skills.

The Waymaker mantra

All leadership starts and ends with people.

At Waymaker, we love this mantra which is at the heart of our software and playbooks.

”Show the way, build the system, train the leader, hold them accountable, help the win.”

Leaders show the way – that means they know where they are going.

Leaders build systems – that means they create processes and tools for those behind them to use, making their life easier to get there.

Leaders train – that means they teach and train those around them on those systems to help get them them there.

Leaders hold people accountable – that means leaders set clear outcomes for people to achieve and they hold them accountable to reaching them.

Leaders help their team win – that means while you’re holding someone accountable, it doesn’t mean you’re not helping. You’re there to make sure they can win.

Decide on a training approach

Leadership training is one of those areas where it can take a lot of forms.

Some companies adopt formal programs, while some companies adopt informal programs. Some companies lean on external training, while others depend on internal training.

Different approaches offer different strengths and weaknesses. A few of the more common approaches include:

  • Mentorship programs
  • Courses
  • Seminars
  • Workgroups
  • Volunteering

Some of the final decision will depend on your available resources. For example, if you only have a few people with leadership experience, formal or even informal mentoring becomes a serious challenge.

People probably can’t spare the time for serious mentorship, so you might turn to external training options or rely on workgroups to help instill leadership qualities.

If you have a solid leadership team, a mentoring program becomes more reasonable because you can spread out the responsibility.

Check out pre-built training in Waymaker Academy to help you.

Leadership development in Waymaker Academy

Set selection guidelines

You need some method for selecting people for leadership roles. Many companies immediately focus on high performers, but that can prove disastrous.

High-performing employees often thrive in a role because of a unique set of skills, talent, and personality characteristics. Those qualities don’t always translate into good leadership.

Let’s say you run a software company. You might think it’s a good idea to tap your best programmer for a team leader position. What if the reason that person excels as a programmer is that they love programming more than anything else. 

Tapping them for a leadership role or leadership development program will likely make them miserable since you’ll take them away from the thing they actually love. Instead, consider the qualities that make a good leader in your opinion.

Put it down on paper and then look for employees with some or all of those qualities.

Set evaluation parameters

A leadership development program minimally means investing money or time. In all likelihood, though, it means investing a fair amount of both. If you’ll invest in a program like that, you need some means of measuring success.

You can set your own internal parameters, such as development timelines, goals, and third-party assessments. For example, you can use a 360 leadership assessment to measure progress for participants.

Check out our organisation 360 here.

You can also solicit feedback from employees and mentors.

This can give you critical insight into any weak spots in the program. For example, you might discover that there are key competencies leaders in your organization need that the program doesn’t develop well.

Use this information as a guideline for updating or adjusting your leadership development plan. In many cases, you can fill a gap or shortfall with third-party training options if it’s a specific competency. In other cases, you may just need to ask mentors to focus more on a given area of leadership skills.

Leadership development and your business

Every business needs solid leadership.

Unfortunately, you can’t rely on recruitment to provide you with leaders. That means you need a leadership development plan in place that helps you build future leaders.

Fortunately, you can often rely on your current leadership team to offer mentorship options.

The upshot is that leadership development often improves employee engagement, which reduces turnover. If you can tie your program to concrete advancement options, there is a good chance you can hang on to potential leaders for longer.

Looking for more ways you can help secure your business’s future? Check out our strategic alignment software.

By <a href="https://waymaker.io/author/stuart-leo/" target="_self">Stuart Leo</a>

By Stuart Leo

Published on August 19, 2021

Stuart is the CEO & Founder of Waymaker. Stuart is a passionate believer in helping people find their organisation's true north and giving them the tools to get them there. When not exploring new ideas in leadership and management, Stuart is with his family exploring the beautiful regions, islands and coast of Australia.

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