Given the impact of leadership training on an organization, there’s significant spend to enhance leadership skills. However, the investment warrants these creative methods to ensure the learning sticks.
What Should Happen After Training Ends
Leaders hold a lot of power in every company. They have a direct impact on the rest of the workforce’s engagement and productivity. However, leaders don’t become leaders overnight. Some may have good characteristics for the position, but continuous skill development plays a big role as well. L&D professionals should encourage this continuous development and sustain it along the way to help leaders make a difference. These techniques allow you to do just that.
1. Create Accountability Partners
Capitalize on the connections participants build with their colleagues in formalized training sessions. Have participants partner with peers in the session and capitalize on the peer networks they’ll create. Design time for them to build rapport and conduct an activity together. Help them cultivate the informal connections that they’ll need to sustain their learning after class. Being able to hold each other accountable to their commitments will be a strong lever for their skill sustainment.
2. Harness Communication
Include a specific Call-To-Action within the learning and directly tie it to their existing work. Better yet, design the curriculum to be about a specific, real issue at hand. Consider action-learning or other peer-based solution endeavors to drive applicability.
Regardless of learning approaches or curriculum designs, encourage participants to actively share how they will apply it. Ideally, this is standard in every single formal training solution.
3. Increase Sponsor/Senior Leader Visibility
Invite the project sponsor or executive to physically attend the kick-off. Ask the sponsor to teach a section of the program for a strong impact or even encourage the sponsor to drop by for lunch with the participants.
For maximum impact, encourage the sponsor to tell a personal story that relates to why the leadership training is important. Overall, the sponsor’s presence, even if brief, goes a long way.
4. Drive Application and Put Equal Time On The “Post-Class” Activities as in Class
As part of the formal leadership training, encourage participants to determine their top two to three key leadership focus areas for the upcoming year. For example, “team empowerment.” Ensure they don’t choose more than three to keep their plans achievable. Encourage them to define and adapt what skills mastery means so it’s relevant, and ensure they’ll know how to measure their progress.
Next, have participants create a quarterly plan to practice the leadership skills identified in their annual plan. The intent is that they breakdown the broad leadership goals into more concrete quarterly plans. As part of this step, they would seek everyday opportunities to practice their skills (e.g., delegate to a direct report and check for understanding).
The quarterly plan allows participants to choose one micro skill at the beginning of each week (e.g., delegation) that ladders up into an overall skill plan. The magic comes in the daily practice that not only saves the participant time versus a fictitious application, but it benefits the organization immediately.
5. Remove Adoption Barriers and Embed the Training
Similarly, seek ways to integrate the learning within participants’ work and everyday workflow. For example, create the systems for coaching within their work. Create the seamless one-click process to use new strategic deliverables.
6. Keep Everyone Connected
Choose a user-friendly mechanism for people to connect. This will encourage more conversations about what they’re learning, and learners will enjoy the convenience factor. Examples of mechanisms to use are email, Slack, MS Teams, Yammer, or monthly calls.
7. Align Performance Measures
Participants’ new actions need to be reflected in the metrics they’re accountable for. This will reveal their growth and what techniques are working best.
8. Create Systematic Reflection Opportunities
As part of the informal learning, set up monthly reminders to reflect on how well participants have focused and improved their chosen skill focus areas. Set up quarterly touchpoints will all participants to share key insights from their reflection.
9. Tell a Friend
Encourage leaders to provide “insights” to their peers from the leadership program. This helps them recall and retrieve what they have learned and apply it to a practical situation. They’re more likely to be able to notice instances of application in others’ situations than themselves, so this becomes an easy first step on the road to retention and practical application.
10. Encourage Storytelling
To gain traction, ask the participants for their success stories and encourage them to share them widely. Stories stick, provide proof, and help motivate other learners.
Unfortunately, some leaders lose vital skills as quickly as they learn them. Your approach to their development now could be the difference between an average leader and a great leader down the road. By encouraging communication and engagement with these nine techniques, you’ll help sustain their skill development to be the best leaders possible.