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7 May, 2015

How To Embed Leadership And Management Skills

Leadership and management training is provided within many organisations. Leadership skills, on the other hand, are less widely applied. Teaching managers new skills is one thing. Getting them to apply what they have learned is another matter entirely.

With some studies suggesting that less than 20% of training is ever used on the job, it is pretty obvious that billions of dollars spent by organisations throughout the western world is going down the drain.

When leadership training is used in isolation it fails to deliver sustained results and improve performance. Recognising this reality, Donald Kirkpatrick developed a four-level training evaluation model that is now considered an industry standard across the HR and training communities. Level 1 and 2 of his model relate to how the course participants feel about the training, and the measurement of the increase in knowledge and skill.

It is Level 3 and 4 which are the business-related parts of training evaluation. Level 3 is a behaviour evaluation – the extent of applied learning back on the job. Level 4 is a results evaluation – the effect on the business or organisation by those skills being applied.

The key to effective training isn’t necessarily what happens in the classroom. It’s what you do afterwards. The missing piece of the puzzle for most HR and Training professionals are the tools to measure and support the application of skills back on the job. Without the opportunity to do this, little improvement in results typically occurs.

However, when the right tools and processes are actioned I’ve seen increases in targeted productivity measures of between 17% and 412%, resulting in dramatic improvements in metrics such as sales conversion, service delivery, productivity, debt recovery, employee engagement, staff retention and unplanned leave.

Getting the tools and processes right to help you embed leadership skills is so important, and generally so poorly done, that I’ve directed a significant portion of my company’s resources into improving this for our clients. To the point where we are now accrediting Training Consultants, L&D Managers and HR Managers to use our tools and processes in the organisations in which they work.

In case you’re wondering about how to embed leadership and management skills in your organisation, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve found works:

Create an Action Plan
Throughout the leadership training we provide, we ask participants to write a detailed Action Plan that defines step by step what they’re going to do after the workshop. Just writing it down makes it more likely to happen. Outlining what needs to be done, and when, reduces confusion and helps participants visualise the outcome. It also provides a written document against which progress can be assessed.

Measure Behavioural Change
There will be follow-up; we are serious about this. That’s the idea behind behavioural assessment. When participants know that they are expected to apply what they’re learnt, and will be measured on the extent to which they have applied their new skills, the motivation to apply the leadership and management skills learnt increases.

This type of measurement needs to measure specific leadership and management behaviours targeted by the training. To help our clients embed leadership and management skills, we developed BravaTrak®, an online measurement tool that allows clients to compare what their first and second-level managers are doing, against what should be happening.

Apart from providing the motivation to apply the leadership and management skills learnt, the power of this approach lies in the opportunity to analyse the resulting information and put in place 90-day Action Plans that encourage on-going improvement.

Actively involve Immediate Managers
An actively involved and supportive boss greatly increases the chances that participants will apply what they’ve learned in training. By assuming the role of coach and mentor, a manager’s manager can communicate expectations, keep them focused, provide encouragement and eliminate roadblocks to success.

My work is focussed on Effective Leadership. My team has found that the most effective way to actively involve a participant’s manager is to have them implement a fortnightly leadership review. By setting up a regular, focussed meeting that has the sole purpose of supporting managers to apply the skills they have learned, the likelihood that a participant will make behavioural changes in the way they lead and manage people rises exponentially.

Provide Access to Experts
Participants who participate in follow-up training and interaction with tutors are more likely to apply their new leadership and management skills on the job.

Because this is a vital element in embedding leadership skills, my company developed an online leadership development site at Strada7.com. Here participants can complete extension e-Learning modules, have access to a wide range of articles, grab ideas from other managers in similar circumstances, and obtain online support from their own personal tutor.

The more that participants utilise their access to experts, and to other managers applying leadership skills in similar circumstances, the more they make actual change in the way they lead and manage their people – even if they lack support from their immediate manager.

If you provide leadership training to managers in your organisation, you must have tools and processes in place that enable you to embed the skills being trained. Unless you have participants create an action plan, measure behavioural change, actively involve immediate managers, and provide ongoing access to experts the likelihood of successfully embedding the leadership skills you’ve trained is low.


To get our report “The Secret to Leadership Effectiveness”, which shows how YOU can help your organisation improve leadership quality, employee engagement, and financial success, click here.


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