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Who “Gets” Leadership Development?

Why Not Everyone?

A question we are frequently asked – and frequently wrestle with in conjunction with new clients is – who “gets” to attend thinking skills / leadership development?

It’s a tough question to answer because on the one hand, the logical answer is “everyone.”  Why wouldn’t you want everyone in the organization to work smarter, make good decisions, understand the vision and mission of your organization, etc.?

On the other hand, unless you are a small company of 150 people or less, that would be a prohibitively expensive endeavor.

So the tough question is – how do we make the cut? Who makes the cut?

Here are some “arguments” – none is “the best.”

Argument #1

As stated in the headline – why not everyone?  Simple things – not full blown curriculums – could be enmeshed in everyday work responsibilities (much like Google’s now defunct 20% time). Sending a business / industry article out each week via email, or leaving copies of it on the lunch tables, can help to ensure everyone has the same industry knowledge. By leaving articles on the lunch tables, spontaneous discussions can begin about the content and merits of the article. Managers can hold short, 20 minute, meetings two days after the articles are issued asking for feedback or questions about the article.  To help managers, the department that issues the article can include 3 or 4 discussion questions they’d like the employees to focus on.

This article sharing can be rotated throughout the organization. Much like “it’s your week for carpool,” it could be “your week for article sharing.”  Let’s say your company works in manufacturing or healthcare – while there are plenty of articles about the industry itself, there are department-specific articles as well – manufacturing operations, healthcare marketing, etc.

This is just one small and easily do-able activity that can be rolled out throughout the organization. Why not increase the knowledge and capabilities of all your employees?

Argument #2

Focus on leaders in the organization.  We’ve spent so many years making individuals experts (through training) in their fields that they often don’t have a big picture view of their organization or their role.  Sales Managers often don’t appreciate the need for profitability which is a finance-department focus.  Charge nurses often don’t appreciate customer service which is an operations (and accreditation) focus.

By directly impacting the thinking skills and thereby the leadership skills of leaders in an organization there will be an immediate and beneficial impact on the departments that they run and the individuals that they manage.

Argument #3

Include all new hires – starting now.  If everyone who joins your organization is indoctrinated in to a thinking curriculum from day one, they will grow in to your (smartest) future leaders. Over  a planned development process of 3 years, 5 years, or 20 years, you will have an organization chock-full of individuals who not only understand how the organization is run (because they will have had linear exposure to the organization) but they will also be knowledgeable and skilled in critical business topics such as communication, teamwork, risk management, continuous improvement, fiscal management and much, much more. Because they have been brought-up in cohorts (The Training Doctor’s branded design), they will have relationships and the ability to communicate with other departments and individuals in other disciplines.

The choice for every individual company will be different. Increase everyone’s skills just a little bit?  Deep dive for leaders who will return the most immediate ROI? Or plan a long-tail approach to enmesh employees in “lifetime” development to create a leadership pipeline?