Developing Leaders One at a Time

Every owner knows the frustration of pouring time and money into training and development, then wondering if it’s making a real difference.

Every owner knows the frustration of pouring time and money into training and development, then wondering if it’s making a real difference. Whether its skill training for craft labor, continuing education in the business office, or executive development, measuring specific improvements in knowledge, attitude and most importantly, performance, can be tricky. The reasons why are many.

In the space of this column let’s talk about some common traits of leaders and organizations who always seem to get the best results.

Be Intentional

By that I mean senior leaders must have a clear focus, a firm commitment, and a specific plan for making sure the right people are given the right developmental opportunities consistently at the right time. That’s in contrast to the more occasional, opportunistic, contextual approach to development, like this…

“Hey boss, I just heard about this class. Mind if I go?”

How much is it?”

“$500. I’ll come in Saturday and make up the time.”

“Sure, go ahead.”

Opportunities for personal and professional growth are one of primary ways to improve employee retention. And yet too often we are afraid to invest in our people because they might leave. And they might. But the alternative is that we don’t invest — and they stay! Over time, we then slowly but surely lose the battle for talent.

A good place to start is to identify the skills and competencies needed for each strategic position. Clarify what you want them to know, do and be. You can then make informed decisions about where to invest your training and development dollars for the biggest bang. 

Be Purposeful

Purposeful leader development defines the type of leaders you need based on achieving your vision or purpose. Developing others without a purpose is like driving somewhere you’ve never been without a map. But once you know where you are and where you want to go, it is easy to find the right map to get there.

It’s not uncommon that, as a company grows, moves into new markets, or grows more complex, it will need a different type of leader than what worked well in the past. Knowing that and being able to hire and develop with a specific type of leader in mind are real momentum builders.

By that I mean your training and development focus is:

  • Based to strategic objectives
  • Tied to specific organizational results
  • Accountability based — part of a reward/feedback system

Be Personal

Much of our industry training methodology follows almost an assembly line approach to turning out trained professionals. While that’s an efficient model, it will likely become less and less effective over the course of an individual’s career. Our philosophy is that great leaders aren’t mass produced — they are hand-crafted one at a time. When we consider the unique characteristics of each person we are developing, success goes up exponentially. Being personal means:

  • Being focused on specific developmental issues (giving feedback, delegation and conflict resolution as examples)
  • Being focused on the individual’s personality, abilities and desires
  • Building in accountability through mentoring relationships

Your commitment to the career growth of your workforce will result in significantly higher levels of engagement and motivation. That’s why training and development is more than a good idea. It’s an essential focus for organizations who plan to endure.

Ron Magnus
Ron Magnus

Ron Magnus, managing director of FMI’s Leadership and Organizational Development Practice, with Tim Tokarczyk, partner.