Every company needs effective leaders throughout the organization, but that importance is often overlooked. It is ironic that businesses will often choose successful projects that hinge on strong leadership over the cultivation of those leaders.

It is important to develop a successful leadership development program that will strengthen current leaders and provide a clear pathway for potential leaders to learn and grow.Internal leadership development programs provide employees with opportunities for broadening their skillsets and strengthening the skills that they need to advance in your organization as well as in their career.

This results in added benefits to your company including increased innovation, creativity, and productivity within teams as well as giving a healthy boost to employee morale. It also helps employees understand their own value within the company and how their work contributes to it, making them feel more connected to the organization.

Your company could benefit greatly from a leadership development program. Incorporating these elements into it will help you produce the strongest leaders for your organization.

Define the needs of your organization from a leadership standpoint

What are the current gaps in leadership within your organization? What are the upcoming leadership needs that your company will experience? What are the characteristics and attributes that current leaders within your organization possess that you would like to see throughout your business?

Consider your business’ long-term and short-term strategic goals and incorporate the answers to these questions into the development of your program. You want it to line up as closely as possible with the unique leadership needs of your business – because not all businesses have the same needs.

This is why cookie-cutter leadership development is rarely effective and usually fails to provide the well-rounded, complete training that companies need. It must be tailored to the organization in order to be truly effective.

Assess your organizational goals

At least some of your organizational goals should address your organizational needs, especially in terms of leadership. This is integral in not only developing your program but also in enticing potential candidates to participate as well as inspiring leadership.

Think of things that you want to recognize and reward employees for when you see them doing it right? What do you want your leaders to accomplish? What about future leaders?

Define your organization’s values – the ones specific to your organization. These are not universal and they don’t translate across all companies. Some organizations are focused on being highly collaborative while others focus on high growth and still others may be heavily based on interactions with the public.

The problem is, many businesses view leadership as a cookie cutter process where a handful of highly defined skills work across the board. That simply is not realistic. There are a variety of organizations with a variety of goals – and they need a variety of skills.

Identify viable candidates for leadership roles in the organization

Potential leaders can show up in some of the unlikeliest places. They can literally be anywhere in your company which makes identifying them a challenge. Many companies attempt to identify potential leaders by looking to the employees who perform the best – and they look nowhere else. This is a common mistake.

A person who has not demonstrated exceptional abilities in their current position is not necessarily lacking in outstanding leadership skills. Likewise, a top performer may not have what it takes to be a strong business leader.

Offering an opt-in Leadership Skills Assessment Test will allow employees the opportunity to explore their potential and help you determine who may be an effective leader and good candidate for your program.

The value in this approach is the ability to promote from within, thus retaining an employee who is likely already performing well, knows the business very well, and feels connected and engaged.

Choose instructors who are experienced and proven leaders

When choosing facilitators or instructors for your program, make sure that they themselves are leaders with a proven track record. Participants in the program will have a hard time getting behind someone who has not experienced what they are sharing. It will be difficult for them to inspire the participants and challenge them to reach higher and stretch further.

Choosing the right trainer isn’t always easy and it can be time-consuming. Working with a third party that specialized in creating leadership development programs for organizations is often a preferred route for many companies.

By choosing specialists in that area, it minimizes the impact on resources and productivity. Personnel is not pulled away from their regular jobs to develop a program that they know little about and must research.

They don’t have to spend the time searching for trainers or reviewing the results of assessments.They can view the finished reports and make decisions from there. In other words, they only have to worry about the results.

Use a blended learning system

There are several reasons to utilize multiple methods within your learning system. You will have different people with different backgrounds and different learning styles coming into the program. They will have their own ways of absorbing the information, processing it, and sharing it with others.

They will see the world differently, have different experiences, and exhibit different learning strengths. To accommodate this, you want to incorporate many different methods to your program.

Classroom, e-learning, written materials, lectures, and training videos are a few common training methods. You want to inspire your participants and provide them with a leadership development program that is exciting and fun as well as information and growth-oriented.

Use real world examples as teaching tools

Providing program participants with real-life situations is a powerful development tool. A practical application should be woven into every lesson, every aspect of the program.

This can be accomplished by creating hypothetical situations, but a more effective method may be to use stories from actual events within the organization and actual customer feedback (good and bad) as a teaching tool.

Exposing the participants to aspects of the organization that most employees may never see is another good way to draw them into the “real world.” This could mean touring the engine room of a cruise ship or going backstage at an amusement park to experience its vital infrastructure.

Virtual classes may include photos, audio recordings, and video to provide a more virtual experience. The key is to draw the participants into the situation so that they not only learn but experience the process.

Teach leaders how to cultivate and establish relationships within the organization

One common misconception is that “natural” leaders automatically know how to establish and cultivate relationships. That isn’t always the case. Even leaders who are perceived as being strong in interpersonal relations may need a little work. Incorporating this into your program is a necessity.

This skill is particularly necessary for this digital age where some managers have employees that they only interact with on a computer screen or over the phone. The time of having a manager in the office and several employees on site are over.

We now live in an age of global workforce where digital conferencing, remote workstations, and virtual offices are almost as common as onsite employees. It is vital that managers are able to interact with these employees whom they either never see or don’t see for months at a time as easily as they the employees sitting outside their office door.

Effective communication should be an ongoing lesson, but a cornerstone of your leadership development program.

Create measurable benchmarks to determine the success of the program

You can build the best leadership development program in the world, but it won’t be truly and completely effective if you don’t incorporate some method of measuring the results.

Some of the areas you will want to focus on include how many participants successfully completed the program, feedback from the participants’ peers regarding their development, and how many have been promoted after completing the program.

From a more personal standpoint, conducting regular reviews and assessments will not only show how the participants have grown but also reveal development opportunities. The 360 Skills Assessment is an exceptional leadership development tool.

The feedback report which provides the results will help you create a roadmap for future leadership development by revealing opportunities and potential candidates.

5 Tips for a strong leadership development program

Having the necessary elements of leadership development program in place does not guarantee its success. There are certain values and methods that you need to incorporate in order for it to operate smoothly and effectively.

There should be no room for confusion so the entire process should be well laid out with very clear parameters for trainers, mentors, coaches, and managers as well as participants. Everyone needs to have a clear idea of what is expected of them and how the process works.

The more organized you can be, the better. Establish timelines when applicable and set goals with timeframes, even if they have to be flexible.

Once you train your new leaders you won’t want them to take their newly acquired or honed skills to another organization. Find ways to retain your employees and include them in that conversation.

In fact, keep your employees engaged in the entire process. Ask for their input and listen to them. Often the employees who are “in the trenches” have a better idea of what they need in leadership. They may also feel that their current management or leadership is out of touch.

If you want to make an impact and inspire them to participate in the program, get in the trenches with them and experience for yourself what they go through every day. This will also give you the valuable insight to develop a program that is in line with your organization’s goals and values, but also speaks to your employees.

1. Establish clear goals for the participants

Each participant should sit down with a mentor or coach and clearly define their goals for the program before they begin. They should establish both short-term and long-term goals that are achievable but challenging.

Each goal should have milestones which allow for measuring the success of the program and the person. Different people will have different goals or different things that they want to glean from the program.

Focus goals on a range of areas including improved skillsets, interpersonal relations, growth, experiences, and others as are applicable to the organization and to the individual. Even people within the program may have different goals due to varied experiences, values, and skills that they already possess or are lacking.

2. Factor in retention strategies

Once you have identified potential leaders within your organization and taken them through the leadership development program, you want to make sure that you keep them. One way to accomplish this is by compensating the employees for the skillsets they are developing.

An incentive program where employees are regularly rewarded with PTO, recognition, or other perks is another. One of the strongest retention strategies is having regular face to face meetings where you “take the temperature” of the employees in regard to their growth and job satisfaction.

During these meetings, you can also discuss growth and professional development opportunities that are available to them – but make sure you follow through.

3. Keep the groups small and focused

Small groups provide participants with better access to support within the program and it makes it much easier for them to connect with other participants. While the program may grow at some point, it is good to at least start small. Somewhere between 10 and 20 participants at a time is ideal.

Stuffing 50 people in a program with one or two facilitators will not allow them to make the necessary connections required for the practical aspects of leadership development. Additionally, the smaller groups provide participants with the benefit of receiving individual time and attention to focus on their skills and growth.

When a facilitator is working with 30 participants, it just stretches them too thin and the program suffers, not to mention the participants.

4. Avoid the training mentality – Develop leaders

Leaders cannot be created or fabricated. They can, however, be developed and nurtured – which is what your leadership program should do. As you build your program, consider situations you can pose to your participants that will push them to grow and learn.

This could mean incorporating job rotation, acting as a project lead, and job shadowing into the program. What is important here is to provide continuous feedback as well as supplementing that feedback with mentoring and coaching.

5. Maintain a leadership development program that is sustainable at its core

Your program should not end when all of the members of the first, or core, group has achieved their goals. It should be an ongoing, living system that brings new candidates in as others meet their goals and exit.

You should have an ongoing effort to identify future leaders and bring them into the program. This means that skills assessments and other tests should not be a one-time thing. While it should be an opt-in arrangement, employees should be encouraged to participate. It should never be a one-time, make or break shot, for the skills assessment or for the program itself.

People grow and change, they experience new things that shape them. Even your company changes. Organizations shift focus all the time and when that happens their leadership needs often change as well.

Develop successful leaders with proven programs

At Edge Training Systems, we value your business. We are the leading producer of leadership development solutions. For more than two decades, we have helped businesses develop the most successful workforces possible.

Our extensive line of training material, videos, and other learning tools have helped organizations excel in the marketplace and their employees excel in the workforce.

Our talented team will help you with all your leadership development needs, whether you are teaching new skills to an employee or helping them hone existing strengths. We offer customized and turnkey assessments, blended learning, and performance management solutions so you can find the solution that is best for your organization.

Call today and find out how Edge Training Systems can help your organization develop top leaders in your company. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff is ready to get to work and help you make your organization a formidable presence in your industry by aiding you in cultivating the strongest leadership possible. Look to Edge for your leadership development program needs.