Don’t underestimate the value of leadership development
Employers who question the value of training often ask “What if we train people and they leave?” As a leadership development facilitator and coach, I often respond, “What if you don’t train people and they stay?” I’ve spent literally thousands of dollars investing in my own development, and so it seems a no brainer for potential employees to check out the specific job growth potential as well as the overall growth opportunities offered by the organization they are joining.
StarFish Medical is investing in the most robust and intensive corporate leadership program that I’ve been a part of. This program, developed and customized by Calliope Learning in consultation with StarFish, is based on our experience with intensive MBA residential leadership development programs and current research. It flips the training model on its head and provides supporting structures to enable individuals to customize their learning needs and accelerate their leadership growth and potential.
Three key features of this mini-MBA like program are exactly what job seekers interested in job growth potential should be hearing from potential employers about growth opportunities.
- Individuals choose their learning goals based on their unique and current work challenges. Through a continuous cycle of reading, acting, and reflecting in peer learning groups, they develop learning habits and skills.
Many organizations typically develop a set of job competencies and then design training experiences around those competencies. This one size fits all often does not fit all! In this program, individuals identify their learning goals through feedback, support and coaching. The learning goals address their real challenges and are meaningful to them. They then work in peer learning groups as they act on their goals, reflect on their experiences using a journal, and make sense of their experiences through dialogue with their peers. Traditional training program content is replaced by a roadmap about how to learn versus what to learn.
The design of the program, which combined peer coaching and feedback with personal reflection and journaling, really helped create an environment where we were able to learn as a team. This learner-centered, experiential approach helped us to understand our own leadership styles, as well as to appreciate and learn from the styles of the other learners.
Many of us have taken training programs that weren’t relevant and/or not been able to apply what we’ve learned to the job. As a job seeker, ask the organization how they address individual learning needs, support employees to apply their learning to their jobs, and develop their leaders.
- Collective skills and mindsets are learned through cross-functional teams that work on an important organizational challenge. Peer observation and feedback provide useful vehicles for individuals to develop their skills real-time.
A complaint I often hear from the clients with whom I work is that they receive little to no helpful feedback on their performance and sometimes feel like they are operating in silos, disconnected from those who could most help them with their work. They are also looking for more opportunities to develop their leadership potential and contribute to meaningful organizational initiatives.
Melissa Anderson, HR Leader with notes about her experience in an MBA leadership program that utilized peer feedback:
The peer feedback experience opened my eyes to the fact that no matter what you think you know or how you think you act, others may see it all differently – good or bad. It’s an eye-opening experience, a gift really, for people to share their perceptions of your contributions and behaviours. Going through such a process continues to help me be more resilient, aware and courageous in my leadership journey.
When you’re interviewing a potential employer, ask them how they approach not just the performance review process, but how they ensure that people get real-time focused and constructive feedback that allows them to grow. Ask them about the opportunities that are available to learn from others who are in other parts of the organization.
- Observation, feedback and coaching from an external coach provides a neutral and safe vehicle for exploration and growth.
Many organizations are realizing that investing in coaches instead of sending everyone to a generic training program ensures a transfer of learning to the actual job itself. External coaches help individuals tap into their unrealized potential as well as help them surface and address barriers and challenges that would feel too vulnerable to reveal to someone inside the organization.
John Douglas, President of of Douglas Group Communications, offers this perspective on the value of external coaching as part of his MBA leadership program:
For me, the external coaching was truly transformative and this approach to learning was a game-changer. It made me a much better leader by helping me better understand how team victories could be so much more fulfilling than personal wins. It helped me better understand the positive influence that I could have in a room and it unleashed potential that I did not know I had.
While coaching has had a prominent place in the careers of athletes for years, it’s now becoming recognized as an important way to accelerate learning for those in organizations. Ask your potential employer for the type of access you would have to external coaches.
Given the increasing complexity and pace of change we are facing in organizations, this type of program offers a powerful opportunity for individuals to accelerate their own growth, while also building the overall capacity of the organization. If I were looking to join an organization and wondering about job growth potential, I would be excited to see them make this kind of investment in the leadership potential of its employees.
Tammy Dewar is a passionate facilitator and coach who integrates theory and practice into meaningful, engaging, and interactive learning experiences. She holds a PhD in adult learning from the University of Calgary, is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, and a certified Workplace Restoration facilitator through the Workplace Fairness Institute. Find out more about her work at www.calliopelearning.com/