January 2019
Competing Through People Redux

Howdy! After a long hiatus, this edition marks the return of my monthly newsletter.  Other priorities seemed to get in the way last year but I missed the opportunity to jot down a few ideas and to hear your reactions.

I am in the process of completing a soon-to-be-published book with Richard Citrin.  The book captures all of the recent and dramatic changes that are occurring in how we are developing leaders to meet the demands of a rapidly changing business environment.  We describe how we've  retooled our approach to developing current and future leaders following our  Strategy Driven Leadership Development model and a results-focused approach to building mission-critical competencies called  Intentional Leadership Development.  The working title for the book is  Retooling Leadership Development: An Executives Guides to Driving Results through Strategy-Driven Leadership Development. I'll keep you up to date as we near press time.

Since the book is top of mind and since there is such a clear and present need to retool leadership development, that's going to be the focus of the next few Competing Through People newsletters.  I'll be interested in your thoughts and reactions as we go along.

If you'd like to learn more about Retooling and Intentional Leadership Development, please plan to attend the PHRA 4th Annual HR Academy on March 15 where I'll be presenting on the topic.  See below for more details and a link to register.  The presentation has been approved for Business SPHR Credits.

Retooling Leadership Development

Given the abundance of research indicating that current leadership development practices are miserably ineffective, it's tempting to jump on a gloom and doom bandwagon and reach for a whole new approach. That perspective, however, just leads to shiny new programs based on the newest fad that quickly fade and fizzle. As each fad fades, leaders become more jaded about leadership development. The practice becomes an inordinately expensive waste of time, pulling employees away from the urgent demands of business.

Yet, with the increasing complexity of business today, senior executives are aware of the pressing need to support their current and emerging leaders. Leaders must learn to be agile and resilient as the demands of the new economy are rapidly changing traditional business practices. In addition, businesses are facing a silver tsunami of retirees from the senior ranks who are taking their leadership skills and institutional knowledge with them.  Finally, the war for talent demands that businesses provide the most innovative and up to-date approaches for engaging current and future leaders.

Members of the C-Suite and organizational development specialists are hungry - and then some - for an approach that addresses these urgent concerns. Looking back over the last 10 years of research in the field of human performance, adult learning and neuroscience, we find an abundance of insight and value to help executives face these challenges. This evidence has led us to retool rather than completely replace leadership development.  At the core of the evidence is the insight that organizations need to develop an intentional approach towards developing current and future leaders. For us, intentional means:
  • Using a planned and targeted approach to help organizations identify the requisite competencies needed to drive the organization's strategy and,
  • Building the strategy-critical competencies learning from the challenges that leaders face on a regular, everyday basis in the workplace - building development into what leaders do every day and not adding it on to their work as something extra.
W e've developed a simple, four-step process that retools leadership development that we call
Intentional Leadership Development. The key is for organizations to understand the research behind these steps and to put these practices into play on a regular basis. The four steps are as follows:

  1. Frame It: The development of talent must be tied to the business strategy. All too often, leadership development programs are one-offs that teach leaders single competencies, but they do so in a business vacuum. Tying development to the business strategy or a targeted business outcome not only focuses activities on real-life situations but also helps to assure a return on the investment in development.
  2. Name It: We're all about behaviors and you should be too. While, as psychologists, we might be interested in what makes people tick or why they behave in a certain manner, our greater focus is on ensuring that people are able to understand and demonstrate the behaviors that will to build success for themselves and their organizations. Qualities or traits such as charisma, executive presence, dominance or extroversion are not competencies and show little relationship to strategy or the performance of leaders.  Focusing on clearly defined, validated and specific behavior-based competencies is an evidence-based, best practice step to building strategic leadership capabilities.
  3. Claim It: Years of global research has confirmed that leadership competencies are developed by navigating a variety of challenging experiences which are supported by regular, behavior-based feedback. Claim It focuses on either helping leaders identify roles or assignments that would be the best development opportunity or helping them garner the right lessons from the challenges they are already facing. In additional, we work to build timely and objective feedback along the way - feedback that is requested, not imposed. The focus is on making learning intentional and not by chance.
  4. Aim It: The Aim It element ensures that the targeted competencies are directed towards specific business outcomes. In addition, Aim It concentrates on assuring that key developmental experiences are positive (additive) to a career and that the stage is set for further development. Aim It also helps learners and talent management professionals to view development from a broader career perspective and not just as a one-and-done.

Every company needs to be paying attention to the capability of its current and up-and-coming leaders. However, many are missing the opportunity due to perceived resource constraints or because they are viewing development from a traditional perspective. As talent management professionals, it's time that we retooled leadership development so that we can help drive success throughout our organizations.


Michael's Upcoming Events
Retooling Leadership Development:
An Executives Guide to Driving Results through Intentional Development
Friday, March 15 - Pittsburgh PA
Approved for SPHR Business Credits
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