Anyone who has been through a leadership development program goes into the program expecting an opportunity to experience professional growth. The first off-site session reinforces all the positive expectations and starts to build the momentum needed for the upcoming development journey.
And then participants return to their daily responsibilities, time pressures, and deadlines…
The wonderful leadership development program we were all excited to be a part of suddenly becomes an annoying chore that we can’t wait to be done with.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are a few simple ways that we can help participants.
You likely already communicate the dates for off-site sessions to participants well in advance so they can save time in their calendars. You should also communicate how much time should be allotted for any supplementary work and recommend that participants schedule time in their calendars for this as well.
Take a quick survey of prior participants, incorporate recommended time frames for each component of your program, and communicate this to participants before they formally begin the program. This will help to manage expectations and help participants build the requirements into their schedules.
Watch My Back
When possible, arrange for someone to cover participant’s responsibilities while they are off-site and engaged in supplementary work. Coverage would be arranged for vacations or sickness, so it should not be an issue for something that will benefit the entire organization.
In an ideal situation, coverage can be worked into the leadership development program as a development opportunity; a manager program participant could be covered off by a subordinate that is also participating or will soon be.
Before beginning a leadership development programs, participants should be required to complete an inventory of potential roadblocks. Personal commitments, project deadlines, and lack of support are just a few things that can stand in the way of their success.
While there are always surprises and unknowns, looking ahead allows us to work with each participant and their manager to proactively plan for dealing with these roadblocks before they interfere with their learning. Many times the solutions can be as simple as scheduling off-sites around project deadlines.
The Goal Race
Even with all the best planning, it will be challenging for participants to stay focused on their development plan. Not unlike a triathlete training for their first Ironman, there must be something to work towards.
Identifying a real world development opportunity for participants to ‘train for’ early in the program will help to keep them motivated when distractions present themselves. We recommend identifying a challenging opportunity as their long-term goal and several lower risk challenges to practice.
Small Investment, Big Return
With a little time spent on pre-planning and helping participants manage demands on their time, you can help employees get the most from your leadership programs. By identifying something for them to train for early in the process, you can ensure motivation stays high and there is an opportunity to express their learning in the real world.