ATD Blog

Starting Management Development From Scratch

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Starting Management Development from Scratch
I have spent the last four months designing and implementing leadership and management training at an institution that had none. The argument was, “Having anything in the basics would be better than what we have currently.” Therefore, I moved forward without assessment surveys, focus groups, or any type of research. I was hesitant at first, but I was hired to design, implement, and evaluate training for leaders so I proceeded with the assignment. Let’s review the strategic first step, the operational first step, and the tactical first step in creating a basic leadership development course.

Strategic-Level Initiative—Formation and Planning of Goals and Concepts

To gain strategic-level information, you need to consider an important question: Is there a senior executive who cannot get behind training that will cost very little yet help their leaders make better decisions, take better actions, and get better results? 

In a new position at an organization, I spent a lot of my time gaining strategic support by identifying “learning brand managers.” These are people who will support training initiatives, such as by marketing your events or volunteering to be a guest panelist or VIP speaker for a specific curriculum. 

Have lunch or coffee with as many of these leaders as possible. Gauge their perspectives on barriers to success, best practices, and collect anecdotal data of their expectations for leadership development. Most leaders are willing to help, especially when the meeting is informal and only informational. Conversely, most leaders have opinions on leadership development and having an opportunity to voice those thoughts increases your credibility.


Operational-Level Initiative—Shaping and Implementation of Goals and Services

Marketing plays a key role here. In fact, I place marketing at an operational level initiative for two reasons:

  1. I must rely on many others for training distribution
  2. Marketing takes place before the actual event. 

Case in point: I marketed the New Manager Leadership Training for one and a half months through direct personalized emails, infographics delivered personally through our HR business partners, and by conducting several meetings (most were impromptu) with senior and executive leaders to make them aware of the opportunities. My first class had 25 participants, which is big enough for word to spread but small enough to work out the kinks in preparation for increased visibility.  
Additionally, this first class was the only volunteer class. New managers are now automatically enrolled as an extension to our onboarding process. (Even without permission, new managers will likely not know any better. Eventually the course will be the norm or expectation for new managers.)


Tactical-Level Initiative: Tasks, Execution, and Resources

At the tactical level resourcefulness comes into play. In my experience, you can gain early victories by working with what you have. I start with leadership commitments. These commitments are not typically widely known, part of performance reviews, or referenced by any in leadership. Often, I know about them because I am in HR. Nonetheless, this is a good starting place. 

Everyone has his or her leadership pillars, traits, characteristics, keys, or commitments, and so forth. This can be overwhelming when starting new leadership training for all managers at an organization; however, I would argue that these leadership qualities are irrelevant unless you point them back to the organization’s mission and vision. The mission and vision should be influence the workplace culture. The tenants or values are just buzzwords until they re-emphasize the culture through the mission. As L&D professionals and leaders, we just need to apply the terms that the organizational already adheres to—towards productive leadership attitudes and behaviors specific to our mission and vision. 

Bottom line: Starting training from scratch, you will want to consider the strategic, operational, and tactical implications for your new training. Think big picture, but funnel that all the way down to the user who will apply such knowledge in a real-life scenario. 

About the Author

Drexel King is the manager of learning and Development at Baylor University. Years of service as a Naval Academy graduate and infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps provide him with more than 10 years of experience in leadership and performance management. He was a platoon commander in Afghanistan, a leadership consultant for 150 officer candidates, and the training officer for 1,200 incoming freshmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. He has earned several distinct honors and awards for his military service. As a transitioned veteran, Drexel continues to be a student of leadership development with a strong desire to impact lives, learn from others, and make connections.

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