Ten Questions To Ask When Evaluating Leadership Development Programs

The 2010 IBM® Global CEO Survey identified the single most important leadership attribute CEOs are looking for in future leaders is creativity and their ability to cultivate creativity throughout the organization.  More than half of the CEOs surveyed also commented that they did not think they were doing an adequate job managing the growing complexity and unpredictability of the global marketplace.  This reflects the fact that the fundamental driver of value creation in business today (and tomorrow) is, and will continue to be, intellectual property.  Human beings, and their creativity and adaptability, are the raw material for value creation.  This requires leadership to develop subtle skills in order to cultivate this human source of innovative products and services.

Our next generation of leaders must be capable of fully engaging and inspiring their associates, prospects, customers, constituents, partners, stakeholders, and shareholders.  They will need to be capable of aligning their vision with organizational strategy and culture, and continuously communicate with authenticity and empathy.  To succeed going forward, companies must seriously consider adopting a new perspective towards developing their organizational leadership.  This new approach must develop astute generalist that are multi-dimensional and multi-cultural.  Here are some key questions you may wish to ask when evaluating leadership development programs for your organization:

1.)  Is the program built upon real-world, business leadership experience?

We believe this is one of the most critical questions to ask when considering leadership development programs and executive coaching engagements.  While academics bring theory and research into the conversation, real-world, executive leadership experience provides a context for application.  Institutional research can have great value, yet it is the application and correlation of that research from a practical perspective that drives professional development.  This is why we integrate the two perspectives.  We envision leadership development in much the same way as the development of a surgeon.  After medical school, a surgeon experiences an internship and then a residency in which they’re mentored by senior surgeons handling real cases.  Leadership taught by leaders parallels this approach and philosophy.

2.)  Does the program align with and integrate your business objectives?

Leadership does not develop in a vacuum.  In our experience, leadership development is best conducted in conjunction with a strategic initiative, business project, or organizational function that involves engaging and motivating fellow associates.  Not only does this immediately contribute to your return on investment, it also enables the emerging leader to understand their role within the organization, its culture, and strategic direction.

3.)  Does the program drive your strategy and support your culture?

We believe igniting transformational performance is like lighting a fire.  It requires three critical elements to thrive; Leadership is the heat, Strategy is the fuel, and Culture is the oxygen.  Take away any element and the high performance is extinguished.  When evaluating leadership development programs, ensure the philosophy and approach drives your strategy and fits your culture.  A good fit creates a multiplier effect, delivering multi-dimensional results.  A poor fit will wane and dissipate quickly within the organization.

4.)  Is the program event-driven or process-driven?

Leadership is not event-driven, it is a developmental process that grows and matures over time, over a continuous succession of events, increasing challenges, escalating responsibilities, and the feedback that comes through mentoring and executive coaching.  While an event may trigger a shift in perspective, it takes time for lessons to  engrain and emerge as positive behaviors and critical thinking.  While a single event may look cost-effective, the organization and leader is best served by a process-driven approach to professional development.

5.)  Is the executive coaching process passive or active?

The traditional approach to coaching is passive.  It insists all the answers must come from the person being coached.  While this approach may have been adequate ten or twenty years ago, it falls short in today’s rapidly changing, sophisticated, global marketplace.  To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of consciousness that created them.”  Today and going forward, we face adaptive, unanticipated challenges that demand a new level of consciousness to emerge.  Not only does this require a shift in perspective, but an entirely new set of management tools must accompany it as well.  It requires an educational element to build skills and capabilities tomorrow’s leaders will need to successfully navigate the turbulent waters ahead.

6.)  Are developmental criteria quantitatively and qualitatively measurable?

This begins with baselining skill sets, leadership style, and the developmental needs of both the individual and the organization.  Key metrics, of both the leader and organizational performance, enables a clear return on investment to be measured and continuous improvement elements of the process to be incorporated throughout the organization.

7.)  Is the developmental process evidence-based and well documented?

Simply put, are the leadership concepts, skill sets, aptitudes, and perspectives that are incorporated in the process supported by peer-reviewed research and validated through real-world application?  Performance Transformation’s Transformational Leadership program evolved over three years of canvasing the academic research, conducting direct research, development, and validation; and it is supported by more than two decades of direct, leadership experience.

8.)  Is the developmental process multi-dimensional?

Many leadership programs incorporate one, two, or perhaps three key developmental elements.  While historically this approach was often sufficient, the complexity of today and tomorrow’s global markets demands a new level of creative problem solving and adaptability to emerge.  Tomorrow’s leaders must be generalists!  This is why Performance Transformation’s developmental programs draws from more than twelve scientifically-based disciplines to cultivate well rounded, inspirational leaders.

9.)  Is the process anchored to tangible improvements in immediate and future business performance?

The most efficacious developmental programs are integrated with real-world projects and initiatives designed to drive performance today, and tomorrow.  In doing so, stretch goals can be introduced for the future while continuous feedback can be provided on incremental improvements today.  This balanced approach supports engagement, passion, and growth at the edge of professional comfort zones while not disrupting day-to-day operations.

10.)  Does the program include a Diversity and Inclusiveness element? 

When we refer back to the IBM CEO survey, we should ask ourselves one question…Can we predict where the creative solutions, innovations, and insights may emerge in the firm?  Or from outside of the firm, for that matter?  Diverse perspectives, when authentically included, are the grist for the mill.  Companies that ignore inclusiveness will inevitably miss opportunities for value creation in the future.

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