Leadership Training Activities, Topics, and Modules
n a fast-paced, complex society like ours today, it can be difficult for companies to stay current with all of the constant changes, let alone get an advantage over the competition. Investing in leaders is critical to help companies thrive in such an environment. Now that you’ve decided that a leadership development program is a worthwhile investment, here are some tips and strategies to get you started on the path to helping your leaders move from good to great.
Things to consider as you create your leadership development program
Here are some sobering statistics to show why investing in leaders is such an important commitment for companies to make.
- When executives do not have the strongest leadership skills, it can impact a company’s productivity, causing it to suffer by up to 50%.
- It is estimated that the average company may miss out on $1 million dollars of income as a result of not fully utilizing all of the potential that exists within its staff.
- Employees who don’t see a clear path to reaching their own career goals are 12 times more likely to leave their current employer in search of a company that will help them achieve those goals.
In creating your leadership development program, you will want to stay focused on helping your current leaders, and potential future ones, reach their full potential. In order to do this, you may want to include the following in your plans:
- A way to put those employees you have identified as having strong leadership potential on the path to management positions in the future. All companies are faced with the daunting challenge of what to do when their senior leaders retire or leave the company. If you have been proactive about developing the skills of your future leaders all along, there will be no need to panic when someone from your senior leadership team leaves because you will know that you have other talented capable leaders ready to step up right away who have the leadership skills you have identified as being invaluable in your organization. They will be familiar with your company’s goals and vision and be able to maintain the focus and momentum toward achieving them without the delay you would otherwise invariably incur if you had to hire and train someone new.
- A support system to help make sure the senior leaders who are assuming a new role within the company have the skills they need to be successful from day one in their new position.
- Ongoing professional development opportunities for your leaders to be able to constantly strengthen their leadership skills.
- Opportunities for team building as you try to create or improve upon a positive collaborative culture within your company.
Steps for planning your leadership development program
- Work collaboratively to identify and prioritize the goals you want your leaders and company to achieve. How To explains the importance of this step that companies often miss.
- Gather honest feedback and input from all employees about how they view the current culture of your company. Decide if you are happy maintaining that culture moving forward or if you feel changes need to be made so the culture is more in line with the legacy you want your company to leave.
- Identify the specific qualities, skills, characteristics, and behaviors you expect to see from your leaders. Set up how you will assess your leaders’ performance and clearly communicate your company’s expectations to all of your employees. Include relevant, real-world examples of those expectations being met to make it more concrete and meaningful for your leaders.
- Decide which current and future leaders you want to have participate in your leadership development program. Know them well – their strengths, areas for improvement and what motivates them are all key things to know that can help you to design the program to meet their needs and help them to reach their full potential.
- Forbes highlights the importance of using the data you have to help you decide what you’d like to address in the program. This may come from the goals you want to achieve, performance reviews of your leaders and employees, feedback from your employees, or self-assessments and personal goals completed by your leaders regarding what they perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses.
- Ensure that your participants are all onboard with the priorities and goals you have set for the company and that they can see a benefit to themselves which can be gained by participating in the leadership development program.
- Encourage open and honest communication from all of the leaders who are participating and let them know that their feedback and input is welcome and valued. Epiphany Coaches stresses how vital this is in creating a culture where innovation is encouraged.
- Begin with the end in mind. Have a clear picture of what it should look like once your goals have been reached and have measures in place to analyze the success of your program as you go through the process. Be sure that you are going to continue checking in with your leaders regularly long after the current goals have been achieved to continue to mentor them and show them that you will always choose to invest in them and their abilities. This is further elaborated on in Successful Program.
Tips for a successful leadership development program
Here are a few more tips to help ensure that your leadership development program is successful and well-received by your leaders:
- Make sure that your company’s goals as well as what a successful outcome will look like have been clearly and concretely communicated to all of your employees and that you sought the input of your leaders in the process. This will help to decrease any confusion that could arise from people not knowing the expectations and not being focused on the same objectives. It will also help to increase buy in from your leaders and employees as they feel like you have sought and valued their feedback and input and they will have a sense of ownership in the process which will make achieving the goals even more important to them.
- The content you present in your program should be interesting for the participants. They will be much more receptive to the information and engaged if it is presented in the form of relatable, relevant, real-world examples in the format of stories. They will be more emotionally connected to their learning which will increase the likelihood that they will remember and apply it in the long-term.
- Design the program delivery around the needs of your leaders. Present the information in short chunks so that they can maintain their focus and attention and digest the new knowledge considering how they can best apply it as they go. Offer opportunities for them to also access the content online and on their schedule if possible.
These ideas are explained in more detail at Training Systems and Leadership Training.
An invaluable tool for evaluating your leaders
As you make plans for your leadership development program, the following grid from the Society for Human Resource Management may prove to be an invaluable asset. It will help you to evaluate the current performance of your leaders as well as the potential you see for their growth and could definitely be an asset in determining the types of professional development opportunities you want to offer them. The grid can also be viewed at Building Future Leaders.
What types of success might be experienced after participating in leadership training? Here’s one company’s take.
No one can tell you exactly what success you will experience as it depends to a large degree on the time you have taken to identify and communicate your company’s goals and unifying vision to all employees and the level of commitment and buy-in everyone has for the process, but great outcomes are certainly possible. Take this story from TrainSmart Inc. about a construction company client of theirs as an example of what can be achieved with a little hard work and the right leadership training activities.
The owner of the construction company had 2 major areas of concern that she felt were really holding her company back from reaching its full potential: conflict among her senior leadership staff and a lack of strong communication skills. She identified that these areas were having a negative impact on the company’s performance and productivity as well as their connection with clients. They worked to identify the skills in team building and communication that each individual leader needed to further develop and improve. This was done through a collaborative process of assessment involving both the owner identifying areas of concern as well as the leaders reflecting on their own strengths and weaknesses. They discovered that the senior leaders were not always sure what was expected of them, the company needed a more clear unifying vision that could readily be communicated and shared with all employees, and there was a lack of trust among the leadership team that needed to be rectified. TrainSmart and the senior leaders were able to work together to tailor the leadership training and activities to meet the needs of the company and came up with a plan for implementation. Coaching and follow-up meetings were big components of the plan.
After the leaders participated in the training program, the owner was pleased to communicate the following results: the leadership team was more united than ever and committed to working toward the company’s common vision and goals, the leaders were easily able to collaborate and share ideas and resources with each other, and the leadership team was better equipped to identify potential future leaders within the company and help them to develop their skills and reach their potential.
An invaluable tool for evaluating your leaders
As you make plans for your leadership development program, the following grid from the Society for Human Resource Management may prove to be an invaluable asset. It can help you to evaluate the current performance of your leaders as well as the potential you see for their growth and could be an asset in determining the types of professional development opportunities you want to offer them. The grid can also be viewed at Building Future Leaders.
Leadership Development Topics or Modules to Include in Your Program
The following topics or modules may be helpful to consider including, along with any specific needs your company has, as you plan your leadership development program:
- Building strong communication skills
- Developing leadership skills in managers
- Coaching for improved employee performance
- How to increase and maintain employee engagement
- Goal setting and accountability
- Limiting stress in the workplace
- Managing conflict
- Improving problem solving and decision making skills
- Strategic planning
- Time management and productivity
Visit Dale Carnegie to see details of some of the classes they currently offer their clients.
Leadership Activities and Exercises
There are countless activities and exercises that are designed to promote reflection and self-assessment, team building, and improved communication and leadership skills. With a little research from places like Best Activities and Training Course Material, it is possible to select some activities that are tailored to meet the needs of your leaders and company and will keep your participants engaged as they make the learning more memorable for them. While it would be impossible to list them all here, here are a few examples to give you some ideas and get you started:
This exercise is designed to make your leaders reflect on how they currently spend their time and whether they believe they should make changes going forward. As a group, brainstorm a list of leadership actions and behaviors that are valued in your company like giving feedback, reflecting, encouraging, or resolving conflict. Then ask each individual leader to write down an estimate of how much time each week they spend engaged in each behavior and how much time they believe they should ideally spend doing each one moving forward. Then have the leaders discuss their thoughts as a group.
The Best Leader
In this exercise, split your leaders into pairs or small groups and ask them to brainstorm a list of the characteristics that they think should be present in an exceptional leader. Discuss with the whole group and then try to figure out what percentage of the characteristics involve technical skills and knowledge and what percentage are related to communication and interpersonal skills. It is likely that most of the characteristics are interpersonal and communication skills.
Manager or Leader
This activity is designed to demonstrate that there is a distinct difference between being a manager and a leader. Managers are typically focused on completing tasks in the present or very near future while leaders usually look at the bigger picture and focus more attention on people and the long-term and future goals and projects. Generate a list of responsibilities and ask your leaders to sort them into 2 categories: those they think that are more related to being a manager or those that are related to being a leader. The chart below shows an example of what the completed exercise might look like and was created by www.TrainingCourseMaterial.com.