Leadership Development in 2016

Two Women Working At Computer In Contemporary OfficeMerriam-Webster declared “culture” the word of the year in 2014. We anxiously await the announcement of the 2015 word of the year. I’m hoping it’s “servant leadership.” (OK, that’s two words!)

With that in mind, here are my recommendations for leadership development in 2016.

For large companies, budgets have long since been formalized for the coming year. Many organizations invest in leadership training. If they haven’t already, HR team members are mapping out their company’s training curriculum right now.

For small businesses, they may have limited funds available to train leaders. There are a variety of solid leadership training programs available for individual leaders – at colleges, by chambers of commerce, in public workshops by training companies, and more.

Leadership training is a good thing, right? The number of hours leaders spend in development programs and the number of dollars spent on those programs are both easy to measure. Solid leadership development programs definitely build knowledge and awareness of effective leadership practices.

The problem is that participating in a training program doesn’t guarantee effective leadership behaviors are applied in daily interactions.

Though training expenditures and training hours are easily tracked, these aren’t the best metrics to use to gauge leader effectiveness.

For example, I’ve studied organizations that met development targets of 40-120 hours per leader annually. However, their leaders were not effective. They didn’t solve problems proactively. They didn’t delegate authority to talented, engaged team members. They mis-treated employees and customers. They didn’t consistently generate budgeted nets.

Yet those leaders kept their jobs. They were seen as “well-trained.”

In 2016, there are better metrics to monitor to ensure that your leadership development efforts result in effective leadership across your organization, whether it is a large multi-national company, a local neighborhood business, or anything in between.

This year, pay close attention to my “big three”: employee engagement, customer service, and results. Each of these is equally important! Most organizations measure, monitor, and reward only results. If leaders get those results in ways that erode engagement or service, so be it. The organization is getting exactly what they deserve – by focusing exclusively on results.

By measuring engagement and service as well, companies have a much clearer picture of the actual impact that their leaders are having on employees, customers, and the business.

By measuring engagement, service, and results, companies can celebrate those leaders that positively impact all three. They can easily identify leaders that fall short of positively impacting all three.

By all means, provide leadership development programs for your leaders. That’s 10 percent of the investment needed to have consistently effective leaders in your company. The other 90 percent is time and energy spent:

  • Regularly measuring every leader’s impact on engagement, service, and results,
  • Celebrating aligned behavior (positive impact on any of those big three), and
  • Re-directing mis-aligned behavior (eroding impact on any of those big three).

Don’t get hooked by the temptation to focus exclusively on the time or money spent on leadership development. It’s much more beneficial to invest time, energy, and mentoring in developing effective leaders and in crafting a safe, inspiring workplace culture, every day.

What is your organization’s philosophy on leadership development? To what extent does your company measure engagement, service, AND results to gauge leader effectiveness? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © Monkey Business – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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