Make It Count: Build a Leader-First Development Program

Have you ever found a just-right pair of jeans? They fit so comfortably that you’d swear they were made just for you. But here’s the thing—although they’re perfect for you, they may be the most uncomfortable, ill-fitting pair of pants someone else ever tried on.

That perfect pair of jeans draws comparisons to an effective leadership development program. Like a pair of jeans that fits one person but not another, the one-size-fits-all approach to leadership development just doesn’t work. These programs need to be based on your learners’ needs.

But if you want to build a leader-first leadership development experience, there are several best practices to follow. Each one puts your leaders at the center of their own development.

Build Leader-First Experiences
Organizations with winning leadership programs have the same thought: It’s all about personalization. They understand the specific needs of their leaders and ensure their development programs speak to those needs.
Here are a couple ways to ensure your program puts the needs of your leaders first.

· Make Learning Relevant: Leaders are often given development in areas they don’t see as relevant to their day-to-day work. To make an impact, learning must address real situations and challenge leaders’ experiences. It also needs to happen quickly to keep their attention.

In addition, leaders look for how their development connects to the values, strategy, and purpose of the organization. DDI’s approach to building relevant leadership development programs draws on:

Bringing in the Organization’s Culture: Find ways to incorporate the leader’s current situation by tying learning to the company values or current plans. Ask leaders, “Does this work at our company? If not, why?”

Using Real Examples: When introducing a topic, ask leaders to give examples that are relevant for them. Canned examples can work but give them the option to suggest others.

Asking Learners About Their Needs: Ask leaders, “What challenges do you face most often? Where do you need help the most?”

· Prioritize Personalization: Leaders have limited time. Therefore, it becomes much more important that every minute spent learning is meaningful. A personalized experience, with the organization’s context kept in mind, helps to do that. It also allows leaders to quickly understand and apply what they’ve learn.

According to DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast, leaders want personalization most from their development. Personalized learning can take many forms, from simply allowing leaders to choose their own learning path to helping leaders make sense of concepts and behaviors based on who they are and what they bring to their role.

DDI believes personalization is driven by data, which can be gathered through diagnostics and self-insight tools. For example, before starting their development, leaders could join an immersive assessment center to ensure they start with an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are also creating new opportunities for personalization. AI can not only react to individual differences and needs; it can start to anticipate and predict leader needs.

Keep Leaders at the Center of Their Learning
These are just two considerations for a leader-first leadership development experience. But why is this important? Learning that’s engaging and connected to a leader’s day-to-day work, as well as the organizational context, will stick.

For more ways to ensure your leadership development program takes a leaders-first approach, visit DDI’s blog.

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