CONSIDER HOW TO BEST DEVELOP THEIR CURRENT EXECUTIVES TO GROOM FUTURE LEADERS
By Jeanne Kerr, Director of OD and Assessments
1. HOW HAS EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS?
2. WHAT SKILLS ARE MOST CRITICAL FOR EXECUTIVES?
Communication is a complex skill. It requires thinking as much about how things are said as what is being said. Most important is the ability to communicate the “why” to a wide range of stakeholders. When people know why decisions are made, they are much more likely to buy in and support new direction. How leaders communicate is also important. Passion, authenticity, and enthusiasm are what inspire others to believe in the company direction.
Systems thinking: Executives need to take a whole-system approach to managing organizations if they wish to maximize organizational performance. Systems thinking is all about cutting through complexity to arrive at powerful, sustainable solutions. It is the exact opposite of siloed or linear thinking. When leaders want to transform their organizations, they must be able to see things from multiple perspectives: financial, process, technology, and people. Systems thinking also enables situational leadership—meaning leaders are more flexible and able to act in tandem with varied stakeholder needs.
Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience and feelings. It isn’t easy because it does not mean to put ourselves into their shoes, but rather to understand how they feel in those shoes. According to global leadership consulting firm DDI, empathy is the biggest single leadership skill needed today. Empathy drives trust and loyalty. Most leaders prefer to consider themselves “no nonsense,” and miss the point that such an attitude will drive people away. Since the most talented tend to leave first, such leaders quickly find themselves with a weak and unproductive workforce.
Collaboration: Collaboration, interestingly, requires all three of the above skills. To collaborate, leaders need to truly value the ideas and opinions of others rather than putting their own team or unit’s needs first. They must be able to communicate with empathy, balancing their own motivations with those of other stakeholders. They must be willing to break down walls and openly share information. They need to think systemically in order to see what the organization as a whole might need both for the short and long term.
3. WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO TRAIN THESE SKILLS?
4. HOW CAN ORGANIZATIONS MEASURE THE ROI IN EXECUTIVE LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS?
Subjective measures are typically based on assessments and surveys. Engagement surveys often report on communication, for example, and these scores can be correlated to KPI improvement. In other words, we target communication skills for our leaders. We track improvements in that category on our engagement survey over time along with the KPIs the business seeks to improve. The improvement in engagement is typically a leading indicator for business improvement.
360 assessments can be used to track individual leader skills based on employee feedback and also measure overall improvement in key soft skill categories of the entire leadership team.
The key to measuring training effectiveness and ROI is to target business metrics that are already in place and look for correlations in improvement between business metrics, employee surveys, customer surveys, and employee feedback.