3 Free Leadership Development Resources

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Are you a business owner or manager who knows you need to start developing the future leaders of your organization, but you’re paralyzed by the idea of where to begin? No worries. This article will help you get started with no cost and minimal effort.

When people learn that The Training Doctor helps companies to develop their leadership strategy, we often hear, “Yeah, but we have no money.”

There are a LOT of organizations – big and small – in this same situation. And the good news is – leadership development does NOT have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are three resources (and we have PLENTY more to share, if you are interested).

Reading and Discussion Groups

The best activity your company’s future leaders can master is to be knowledgeable about business in general and your industry in particular.  A business leader needs to know how a business works, not how a job is done. Assist your up-and-coming leaders by subscribing to industry journals and general-business publications such as Forbes, Harvard Business Review, or the Wall Street Journal.

More importantly, form weekly or bi-weekly discussion groups around an article or two that you think is particularly enlightening or that would be good for discussion. If you really want to go the extra mile, pre-formulate discussion questions that get away from opinion (What do you think of that?) and lean toward critical thinking (Could that happen to us? What would we do, if that happened?).  It’s important to have your future leaders thinking about “the big picture,” and your company in the context of your industry and business in general.

Job Rotations

Job rotations are traditionally thought of as an activity reserved for “hi-pos” (high potential individuals). Why?

It’s important that your future leaders understand how your business works, what departments are interdependent, and especially how you make money. They cannot learn these things if they are stuck in the silo of their own department or role.

A job rotation doesn’t have to be extensive or lengthy, but it should give the “visitor” a thorough understanding of another department’s work processes, priorities, and constraints. Imagine having a customer service representative work in the sales department for a week. They could travel on sales calls, learn about your competition, understand better about contracts and pricing and the customer lifecycle, and on and on. Wouldn’t that make them a much more knowledgeable and helpful customer service rep? Now imagine the reverse – a salesperson on the phones in the customer service department for a week. Wow.

When people have a perspective on the whole organization they do their own jobs better, have better collaboration skills, better communication skills, more empathy, a better understanding of the constraints or opportunities throughout the organization, and are not just focused on the role that they do at their own desk.

Tuition Reimbursement

Finally, my third free leadership development recommendation is to institute a tuition reimbursement program. Now, this isn’t exactly cost-free because it will take a bit of money to hire a lawyer and/or accountant to set it up correctly (for instance, the rules are different for C-corps vs. LLC’s) but once that process is done, the payback is extraordinary.

First, you have little to manage but the reimbursement process because participants are engaged more with the institution where they are taking classes. Second, you are able to take advantage of a tax credit of slightly over $5000 per participant. Third, courses often require on-the-job projects, which means that your company reaps the rewards of better project management or a better HR communications strategy, for example.

And individuals often feel loyalty to those companies that help them to further their career and their education, so an added benefit is that you’ll see increased retention (which mutes those cynics who worry “What if I train them and they leave?”).

Bottom line: You CAN afford to develop the future leaders of your organization with little cost and minimal effort by starting reading and discussion groups, instituting job rotations, and offering tuition reimbursement, for everyone, not just for those employees you think are “high potential.”

For more great suggestions for leadership development follow The Training Doctor on Twitter or LinkedIn.