Customized leadership development inherently has a higher impact on leaders and organizational results. Since tailored learning can be closely connected to the challenges a business faces or the environment in which it operates, leaders can see the value of putting a leadership program’s ideas into practice. Customization can help participants see “what’s in it for them” more clearly, as well as help the organization build a common understanding of “what it means to lead here.”Whether you are building a leadership development program from the ground-up, or tailoring an existing program, there are four highly effective ways to customize your leadership development offering:
1. Use your company’s vocabulary and models.
Every organization has (or should have) a shared vocabulary that is part of the culture and fabric of how the business operates. Intentionally reinforcing that vocabulary is a visible step to making even the most generic program specific to your organization. Refer to the titles you use; the customer segments/needs you care about; and the strategies you pursue. Help leaders use the models that the organization uses to plan direction or measure leadership effectiveness. Different words or models can complicate post-program actions for leaders, and in the worst case, decelerate an organization because of leadership complexity.
2. Use examples from your company’s experience.
Every growing leader wants to understand: “what does good look like here?” Best case examples from your company’s past, or from respected leaders, can help learners bridge ideas from concept to action. Leadership is often about judgement, and the criteria considered “good” can vary in subtle ways across organizations. Helping learners deepen their learning with highly relevant internal examples will customize even the most generic program design.
3. Create dialogue with executives.
Many leadership development programs include an executive speaker or two. The ask of the executive to participate is often focused on “how important it is for participants to hear from you.” While that is true, it is also an unusual opportunity for executives to hear from an often-cross-functional group of high potential leaders interested in learning. Creating opportunities for the learners to share ideas with the executives and the conversation will immediately focus on the reality of your business.
4. Embed follow up in your systems and practices.
Leadership development classes or webinars are events. The power of the learning is whether participants apply new ideas after the event. One of the most important elements of a program to customize is your follow up. Tracking systems that are not embedded in existing tools or practices have a low participation rate. Follow up that happens as part of existing, pre-established meetings or using the tools (even simple ones like email) that already have high adoption can help continue the leadership learning experience.
Take these simple steps to customize your leadership development programs and you’ll see an increased return on your learning investment.
Amanda Young Hickman
Amanda Young Hickman has more than 20 years of experience advising and leading clients on the design and implementation of strategic change initiatives and leadership development experiences. She is an expert facilitator and a seasoned program designer who works in all phases of learning experience design and delivery. Amanda is a founding partner of Insight Experience and believes in the impact a leader has on an organization and its results.