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Lets get real.

Most organisations do not have an unlimited pot of cash that sits gathering coins underneath the mystical money tree.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

If I had my way, the learning and development pot would be the priority. It still bamboozles me (given the impact that’s possible from such a pot), that it’s often the first pot to get strangled when times are tight.

If it were my budget it would be the first pot I’d ring fence. And here’s why.

When an organisation is facing challenging times, or even unchartered territory, the things you need more of are creativity, innovation, better decision making, agile problem solving, decent constructive feedback, and teams working together in the most united, responsible and effective way.

To cultivate THAT way of working takes an investment of time, energy and resources into YOUR people and culture. And it cannot be carried by the board alone. 

What typically happens in tricky times, is that organisations lock down their resources, putting all the control (back) in the management suite, creating more hierarchy and distance between people, suffocating creativity and disempowering talent. Sure it may come from a good place of intention to ‘protect’, but typically it creates the opposite effect.

So if you are considering investing more in your managers and your leaders, continuing reading…

Five ways to maximise the return on your leader and manager investment.

  1. Prioritise success measures:

Before any investment in development or learning, it is ultra important to get clear why you are doing it, what you hope to achieve and how you envisage the business will be different as a result.

The best place to begin is asking your intended learning provider to do a discovery process. To enquire into the realities of your organisation’s eco system, what works and what hinders success as a result of your leadership culture.

From this place of independent and neutral review, you will be able to set some clear intentions for measuring the success of your investment. 

The success measures should be realistic, achievable, shared and committed to by all parties involved (the learning provider, those doing the learning, the managers, leaders and board of the business, possibly even the wider staff group).

2. Include ALL management:

One of the biggest mistakes I see in organisations commissioning management learning and leadership development, is that it’s viewed as an issue ‘over there’ and therefore ‘nothing to do with us’. If you’re going to invest in a learning journey for managers or leaders, do your business a solid, and make sure every manager and leader goes through the same programme. Otherwise you create mini cultures within a culture. A small group of ‘awakened’ leaders behaving in one way and the rest of the management team another.  Hello conflict. I’d even go so far as to say that the board should go through the learning first.

This will ensure a common language around management and leadership culture exists in your organisation. It also enhances alignment, accountability and responsibility taking as a bi product.

3. Board level sponsorship and shared accountability:

A courageous and high performing board would know that learning must first start with them. If you’ve identified a need to develop, train or support your leaders and managers to ‘step up’, you must first be willing to look at yourselves as a group. What tone are you setting as a board? How does your approach to working impact on your leaders ? Are you enabling or crippling their potential?

A developmental programme will struggle to achieve its full impact, if the board are not directly sponsoring and championing it. It’s tricky to do that if you have no idea what’s involved.

A board also needs to have the skills to mentor, coach and facilitate the learning of it’s leaders back into the organisation so that constructive challenge and business improvement can happen

And as such accountability must also be shared with the board. They can indeed enable or hinder the success of any changes to the leadership culture.

4. Embed the learning (after the learning):

Another obvious but common block. The learning stops when the input is done. That is to say, leaders and managers return to their day jobs and are expected to keep the learning alive, embed new knowledge (into a system which has not changed) and dare to be different (often against a board still working from the old ways). Often the hardest part of any learning journey (particularly leader development), is going back out there as your enhanced self but meeting the world as you left it.

It takes great courage, resilience and determination to do this and hold on to the change that’s possible at a cultural level. 

We always advocate (budget permitting) for additional support in the months after a significant learning programme. This might be 121 coaching or group coaching which is a fantastic way of enabling the learning and challenges to be shared. Increasing the knowledge and awareness that’s needed to embed change.

And again, make sure the damn board are involved… or nothing will change and your leaders will leave looking for more awakened organisations to put their new skills to good use. 

5. Review and celebration:

Management training and leader development are change programmes. There’s an expectation that after doing the training and embedding the learning, that something will be different. Job done. Box ticked. Move onto other challenges/fires to put out.

If you have tackled point 1 with panache well done. You’ll be able to navigate this hurdle more easily.

Cultural and leadership change does not often happen over night, it takes time. Like nature, it tends to unfold at a pace the culture is willing to allow it. Faces obstacles, has to cultivate work arounds, gather different resources, adapt. 

Regular intervals for review, reflection and celebration are essential if you want to ensure the learning lands well back in the mother ship!

It’s ideal for a short period to have this facilitated by the learning provider. They can occupy the role of ‘critical friend ‘ better than anyone internally will be able to do.

So there you have it, five ways to ensure maximum return on investment for all your leadership and management learning needs.

To find out more about our discovery process and identify what might be maximised in your leadership culture, drop an email and we’ll put our heads together over a brew.