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5 Tips to Maximize Leadership Development Experience

Nov 6th, 2018 • Andrea Butcher

Transformational – Empowering – Collaborative – Thought-Provoking – Practical – Enlightening

This list represents six of the words that individual participants shared when I asked each of them to use one word to describe the leadership development experience so far. We were three months into a six-month development process and I wanted to see where their heads and hearts were.

 All of the words shared were positive and all of them in some way connected to growth. As the facilitator of the program, I was a bit surprised, as during the first two months of the program, the participants had been relatively quiet overall. While their post-workshop evaluations were positive and they were doing the application exercises we assigned, I wasn’t getting regular participation from the majority of the group during the in-person workshops. I was glad I had asked them to describe the experience so far, as I was able to use their words to further connect with them and build on and enhance the process.

You see, leadership development takes time and is most effective when viewed as a process. My natural style is fast-paced—I like to quickly solve the problem and skip to the good part, so as a regular facilitator of leadership development, viewing it as a process has been helpful to me as their guide and helpful to participants to provide a safe place in which to grow.

According to dictionary.com a process is defined as “a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” If the end is growth, leadership development must include a series of actions or steps that are intentionally focused on facilitating growth.Screen Shot 2018-11-02 at 1.52.50 PM

I have been facilitating leadership development for almost 20 years and through my experiences, I’ve developed a strong belief in the value of the process. I will no longer facilitate a one-day leadership development experience – that is not how growth happens and I’m no longer interested in just talking about leadership. I want to see transformation occur throughout the programs I lead. Development takes time and deliberate action and attention. Below is a sample development process that we use when facilitating leadership growth—the key is frequency, accountability and relevance for the participants.

There are all kinds of helpful tips and tricks to ensure the leadership development process is managed well. Below are five things I am always intentional about throughout the process: 

  1. Take time to build trust with participants. An environment of trust creates a safe place to share and learn in a group setting. Two ways in which I do this are by talking through the role I play at the beginning of each program—I refer to myself as their coach and use the analogy of a white rafting guide. I tell them “while this may be new for you, I’ve guided this journey many times and will do my best to keep you safe along the way.” In addition, I do my best to get to know participants (most importantly, knowing their names) and follow-up with them on conversations we’ve had throughout the program.
  1. Gently nudge participants along the way to facilitate growth. Three months into a recent program, after an icebreaker, I reminded participants of my role as their coach and that we’re still building trust. I then told them that because of that I wanted to push them a bit—I acknowledged that I hadn’t gotten full participation from everyone in the group and asked them to push themselves out of their comfort zone and participate more fully. My vulnerability and openness helped them to open up and I had deeper conversations with many participants in that session.
  1. Reiterate the process throughout the experience. Remind participants that they are engaged in a process to encourage ongoing growth and acknowledgement of setbacks along the way. For example, the sample development process noted above is something I show each time I am with participants to remind them that it’s a journey. The visual of the process also helps to reinforce the importance of sequencing and reinforce key elements of the process.
  1. Build in accountability throughout the experience. There are multiple levels of accountability built into each of the programs we lead. There is always self-accountability as we ask participants to share and update throughout the program. Peer is accountability through “accountability partners” is an excellent way to keep the content align outside of the in person sessions and create a space place in which participants can support each other. We also build in manager accountability by asking participants to update their manager throughout the program.
  1. Build in practical application and check in on successes and challenges. In today’s fast-paced environment, no one wants to sit in training for an extended period of time. We find the greatest success with short bursts of learning and practice. Participants are given tools to use throughout the experience and during in person time, we check in on successes and challenges. It’s critical to allow time for this debrief and exploration throughout the process.

By incorporating these tips into your development experiences, you will maximize the process and enhance the growth and transformation of everyone involved.