Having worked as a consultant helping organizations to develop leaders and improve their collaborative culture I am always interested to read new books on the subject. A case in point is Mark Miller’s ‘Leaders Made Here. Using the business parable style Mark tells the story of a CEO building Leadership bench strength in a company called Dynastar. Mark simplifies what is a complex process of building a leadership culture into five key commitments. These are:
- Define It
- Teach It
- Practice It
- Measure It
- Model It
Over the years as a leadership consultant working around the world I’ve seen clients train their leaders in a variety of ways. Some take the aptly named ‘one and done’ approach conducting single leadership training events others take a more holistic approach following most of Mark’s key commitments. However the one commitment I see most struggle with is the ‘Practice It.’ Specifically he mentions two key interventions under this commitment; Mentoring and the Power of Opportunity, which essentially means the opportunity to practice in order to master leadership skills. Neither of these approaches needs to make a great dent in the budget and yet will reap individuals and the organization huge benefits.
This aspect of a leadership development program has often proved a challenge to many of my clients, especially if leaders are not in a leadership position, when they complete their training. And it is where the rubber meets the road when building a leadership and collaborative culture, benefits any organization wanting to make both skill sets part of the way they do business.
When building and sustaining a collaborative culture my co-authors (Ken Blanchard and Eunice Parisi-Carew) and I share the importance of not always using the same leaders for every project team. Doing so can lead to burn out and less creativity. This is where HR and L & D need to work closely with their Business Units and weave the ‘Practice It,’ element into business as usual, enabling newly trained leaders to practice their leadership skills in a temporary appointment. Not only will the ‘Practice It,’ element get done but also by sharing the workload creativity is likely to improve.
Of course they should not be left alone to sink or swim they will need mentoring as they master the skills of leadership. Mentoring programs are tricky to set up well. I’ve found that when Senior Leaders are asked if they would like to build their Leadership Legacy they are thrilled to do so but wary of what the process would mean in terms of time commitment. And Mentees often come into the process with the wrong mindset, thinking the senior leader is going to coach them. With these obstacles in mind the HR team has to do the selling of the program all over again. And they have to ensure that the Mentees know they are responsible for their own development not their mentor. Therefore the bulk of the work falls not on the senior manager but the new leader. It is up to them to be curious as well as asking great questions and listening well - I important skills to have.
Both these interventions are low to almost zero cost to the budget. They do however require HR and L&D to be inserted into their business units, to look for ‘The Power of Opportunity’ and for leaders who want to leave a leadership legacy.