After being involved in leadership development programs for decades, we see one clear pattern for success: involve the leaders in co-creating the programs. So often, it’s the leadership development professionals who develop new programs and roll them out. And the larger the company, the more likely this is to happen. After all, don’t deep, sophisticated leadership development professionals know what’s best? No, they don’t! They no doubt have recognized subject matter knowledge, but this is not enough. This conclusion was brought home to me recently in a meeting with the top leadership development professional of a major New York City company. A former line executive, she had recently been appointed in response to the CEO’s and CHRO’s frustrations with her predecessors who had designed elegant programs in which line leaders had no real interest. Now, it’s her job to engage the line in program design, drawing on the vast institutional experience of the business and leveraging what;s working today.
As she explained to us, “It’s all about giving business leaders what they need. To do this, we need to engage them to understand in a very granular way what is working today and what could use improvement.” She continued: “Then you have to pause and ask yourself a question: are we better off expanding what’s working or trying to improve what isn’t?” Often, there’s more bang for the buck in leveraging success than in creating new models. It’s just so powerful to be able to point to successful activities and behaviors and those who exhibit them. And it is so much harder to try to change too much. But, she concluded: “If the business really wants change, it’s our job to deliver it, just so long as we include business people on our design team.”
There are different ways to measure existing successes. These include: job profiles and assessments, leadership focus groups, 360 interviews and peer surveys. The same approaches can also be used to surface the need for change and help define it. However you elect to proceed, keep socializing your thoughts with the affected leaders, co-creating the future together.