8 Tips to Maximise your Leadership Development Results

"We know that improving our leadership will help our business, so we’ve decided to run a leadership development programme, but we want to make sure that we’re going to see some value for our money."

If your organisation is investing in leadership development, you’ll want to know that you’re going to see some real benefits back at work. We’ve put together eight tips that we know will help to ensure that your programme is robust and that your participants are well set up to bring back new learnings to their teams, and in turn produce results for your business.


1.  Be very clear up front about the business outcomes you want from your leadership development programme.

Ensure the provider you choose is prepared to spend time with you and others in your organisation to really understand the high-level business outcomes you’re looking for from your programme. These outcomes should clearly link to your business purpose and strategy, and should be measurable over time.

You might be wanting to see improvement in customer satisfaction, for example. How do you measure customer satisfaction now? Can you measure in the same way at a future time, say one year after your leadership programme?

If improving employee satisfaction is an important outcome of the programme, do you run regular employee engagement surveys that can be repeated in the future?

You will of course have metrics around production, sales, etc. These metrics can be measured at a future time to see if any improvements have been made, and can be attributed to the learnings from the leadership programme.

2.  Once you’ve articulated your desired business outcomes, identify the skills and behaviours required to meet them.

Having a behavioural competencies framework that articulates the expected leadership behaviours for the various levels in your organisation will make this part relatively straight forward.

If your framework has been well designed, and is aligned with your organisation’s purpose and strategy, running a customised 360o review of your programme participants will give you rich information about the common needs. Armed with that information, you can design your programme and its content with those priority needs in mind.

This is a much better approach to programme design than simply taking a stab in the dark or using gut instinct to decide on content.

3.  Make sure your CEO and senior leaders openly demonstrate their support of the programme.

Senior support for the programme needs to be overt from the outset – even before the programme begins – and particularly from the CEO.

Communication to staff about the programme, its purpose and desired business outcomes, invitations to apply – all of these should come from the CEO or at least a member of the senior management team.

If you’re having a launch event, ensure the CEO is there and as many members of the senior team as possible. Involve them in the delivery of the event – use them to tell stories about their own leadership journey. And if there’s a closing event, ensure they’re there and involved in celebrating participant success.

Throughout the programme, senior support and commitment to the programme can be demonstrated in simple ways:

  • Casual conversations with participants in the staffroom – “How’s the programme going?” “What have you changed that’s helping in your team?” “What’s been a light bulb moment for you?”
  • Openness to learning about the programme, reading some of the recommended articles, learning about the tools and models used.
  • Popping in to the occasional workshop or at break times.
  • ‘Walking the talk’ – demonstrating appropriate leadership behaviours on a daily basis.

4.  Use specialists.

Don’t be tempted to use one facilitator to deliver all of the components of your programme; use a provider who can pull in subject experts who have a depth of knowledge of their subject area and experience of workshop facilitation in an adult environment. This will not only ensure your participants get access to best practice tools and methods, but they are also exposed to a variety of people, experiences and delivery styles.

Your provider should be able to manage communication and liaison across the facilitators to ensure programme cohesion and flow.

5.  ‘Sell’ the programme, then require people to apply.

Rather than expecting or directing all of your people leaders to take part in the programme, market the programme so that staff are keen to take part and they see participation as a privilege.

Make it a requirement that prospective participants undergo an application process where, together with their line manager, they ‘put their case’ as to why they should be accepted on the programme and their agreement to meet the expectations of the programme (see 7 below).

6.  Make the change in leadership practices in the workplace the highest priority.

Whatever can be done to encourage changes in leadership practice back at work should be done.

Provide a simple tool to help participants to plan for practice changes, share their plan with someone else, implement their plan, and reflect on the outcome. Get them used to using it throughout the programme, taking baby steps to make some changes quickly, getting some wins under their belt and building confidence. Not only will this help to achieve change in the workplace, it will also help to develop a reflective practice habit – a key skill for effective leaders.

Line managers are in the best position to encourage practice changes on a day-to-day basis. Their support is critical to the success of any development initiative. Ensure line managers of programme participants understand the importance of their role in supporting their people through the programme.

As well as coaching skills training for line managers (see 8 below), provide guidance about other ways they can provide support, eg how to:

  • respond thoughtfully to diagnostic assessments such as 360o reviews
  • discuss and agree individual developmental goals that address 360o feedback and the organisation’s desired business outcomes
  • show interest and encouragement for practice changes and sharing with the rest of the team.

7.  Make participant and line manager expectations clear from the outset.

As part of the application process, outline your expectations of participants and their line managers throughout the programme. And at the start of the programme, use a launch session for participants and line managers to reiterate those expectations.

Start by clearly spelling out the organisation’s desired business outcomes from the programme.

Be very clear with participants that they are expected to attend all programme components, be actively involved in coaching conversations with their line manager or coach, even if they have to instigate them, share new learnings with the rest of their team, change practices at work and reflect on the outcomes, complete all tasks set outside of workshop.

Ensure that line managers are clear that they’re expected to support their programme participant by having regular coaching conversations, encouraging and providing time to share and change practices, and allowing time for him/her to attend all programme components.

8.  Provide a coach or upskill the line managers of participants so they can provide coaching support back at work.

Coaching of participants improves markedly the level of change at work and therefore the results for your organisation, but providing an external coach for each participant for regular coaching sessions adds a lot of cost.

If you don’t have the luxury of using external coaches, spend a fraction of that cost in upskilling participant line managers in how to effectively coach so they have a toolbox of skills to support their people. Don’t assume they know how to coach their people. Many people think they coach their staff, when actually they are either directing or mentoring. Coaching is a different set of skills.

If you’d like some help with your leadership development, contact Nicky or Kyran - info@odi.org.nz or 03 943 2373