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Ensure a Successful Leadership Development Program Kickoff in 4 Steps

Published Mon Nov 22 2021


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A successful leadership development program kickoff is a series of events that engage learners. It’s not just a one-time meeting. The kickoff process can happen over the course of several weeks. It can take about one month from the first event to the last event or step.

Here are the four steps we recommend to set up your kickoff for success:

1. CEO Message

This message can be recorded and used for multiple cohorts or done live. The goal is to prove to the learners the importance of the leadership program. It doesn’t have to be long. Ten to 15 minutes is plenty of time to build energy.

The CEO doesn’t have to be the one to deliver the message. It could be someone else at a senior level or someone who works at the C-suite level. What’s important is that someone the employees respect delivers the message and that employees care about this senior person’s agenda.

It’s also important how the senior stakeholder delivers the message. They need to build up excitement about the program and talk about the impact of developing current leaders at your organization. This person should be able to articulate what better leaders are going to do for your company’s future, strategy, culture, and customers.

2. Kickoff Meeting

Similar to the CEO message, the kickoff meeting can be done in person or virtually. This meeting includes the learners and their managers, as well as:

  • Sets expectations for the learning journey

  • Explains what’s in it for the participants, what’s in it for the organization, and what’s in it for clients

  • Answers learners’ questions

  • Defines what great leadership looks like at your organization

This meeting is best done live because learners can ask questions and get answers in real time as well as feel engaged in what they can expect their development journey to look like and what they will get out of it.

3. Moment of Need

This third event, or week three, is when you start to put some of the responsibility on the learners. In the first few events or weeks, they were doing things like watching a message from a senior stakeholder or joining a meeting that you or someone on your team ran. Now, you’re starting to ask learners to take on some responsibility and have some autonomy as they begin to access some learning content on their own.

So, what is a moment of need? At DDI, we refer to this as a curated set of content that’s already available to learners via DDI’s program delivery platform. It’s part of a personalized learning experience with only the content that learners need now. This is a learning path with content that’s already been designed by your organization’s learning and development team in alignment with your leadership development strategy.

4. Meet in Peer Learning Groups

In week four, or in this fourth kickoff event, learners should meet with others within the same development journey in peer learning groups.

Peer learning groups are groups of three or four learners in the same cohort. These meetings create a safe space for collaboration and learning. Note that if the group of peers doesn’t know each other well yet, some speed networking may be helpful.

This first meeting that’s part of the kickoff is when members of each peer learning group should talk about when it makes sense to schedule all upcoming meetings. It’s your job to make sure each group understands the expectations for the frequency of these meetings and how they can make the best use of their time together. But the groups themselves should be responsible for scheduling all the future meetings for when it works best for the collective group.

Read DDI’s blog post to get more best practices and to learn more about why a kickoff strategy is crucial.

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