The way we run leadership training sessions has not changed much at all. If you think about it, it looks largely similar to our school system model which has not changed for centuries. Until 2020 of course, where the majority of us have all been required to re-imagine what learning looks like.
Before you copy and paste this model onto your in-house leadership programme, or accept this model from an external institution, it’s important to ask yourself whether this training format meets your leaders where they are at.
And if you find that it doesn’t, here are three ways that you can re-imagine the traditional training format to better serve your leaders.
Give as little as possible, in a variety of formats
The usual approach to leadership training is that your employees get a beautiful lever arch file or binder filled with their written content that they will work through during the session. Sometimes the provider also has a digital learning facility where your team is able to login and engage with the materials online. And on some fancier programmes, the content includes outings like equine therapy or outdoor reflection time.
The common thread is that your leaders get a LOT of content that they need to engage with during the course of the programme. Let’s get honest for a moment here – anyone who has trained a group of leaders on this type of programme has seen how they interact with this content.
They page through it looking for only what they need, and then lift what they need out of the content for their future reference, classroom exercise or assessment.
So if they are only looking for what they need, as guided by their Facilitator, then why give them all the rest of it? Instead my recommendation would be to create training content that focuses only what they need to know; and within that range focus in even more on only what will give them the biggest return in practice.
For example, take the topic of productivity – which is the topic of the first masterclass we released to our members inside the Leadership Masterclass Collection. This a massive topic, that you could create a 200 page training manual about, with tons of supporting resources, and even a field trip.
But, instead we focused in on the 5 key concepts and tools, just 5, that would give the leaders completing the masterclass the biggest positive impact to helping support them to better manage their productivity at work.
And to share these 5 key concepts we created 5 short videos, 4 infographics, 1 workbook and 1 assignment. We are giving the leaders just what they need to get the results they are looking for.
Make face-to-face time more impactful
The usual approach with leadership training is that your leaders would attend facilitated training sessions for a certain amount of days to engage with the content, each other and their facilitator. The facilitator is the centre point, providing knowledge to those on the programme on the topic in question from start to finish.
While there are some topics or participants that would need this step by step approach, the reality is that the employees on the programme are not able to focus for durations of this length, and a lot of the time they are still needing to attend to work related matters during the course of the session.
Instead, re-think how facilitated training sessions are used. Consider reducing the length to focus in only on the core of the topic (see Point 1 above), and require of the leaders that they have engaged with the content prior to the session and find out their experience level with this topic before the session so that you can draw on the experience they already have.
By doing these things, you are able to ensure that your group is more likely to maintain their focus for the entire session because the majority of what you are sharing is of relevance to them.
Focus more on interaction, and Q&A, seeing the facilitator role as that of a resource to the leaders on the programme, as opposed to the messenger of knowledge that the group could have read up about themselves.
And finally offer more slots for these sessions. Instead of making this a once off experience, offer multiple opportunities for employees to book into training sessions; so that they can manage their experience. They will choose a session that works for them, again increasing their focus, and they could choose to attend a session more than once if they feel that they need it.
In the Leadership Masterclass Collection, we facilitate a weekly session on the training topic of the month. Leaders from our member companies are able to book into a slot that works for them; and in the session the facilitator shares core concepts, and then spends the majority of the time facilitated a Q&A discussion on how the leaders can make use of these tools in their environment.
Help leaders practice applying their new skills
The approach with assessment varies. Some training programmes have no assessment, others require a project or presentation at the end of it; and of course accredited programmes require formative (classroom) assessments and summative (workplace-based) assessments.
If we take a step back, the reason we conduct assessment is to obtain evidence of knowledge transfer. We want to know whether the participant knows what we trained them in, and whether they can apply it. Some assessments of course only ask the former.
If this is the goal, then you could consider re-thinking how you do assessment. Instead of assessing someone to find out what they now know and can do after the training; support them through assessment to practice applying the new knowledge and tools they’ve acquired during the programme in their work environment.
By giving them an exercise that asks them to apply the skills they’ve learnt, you give them the opportunity to notice how the skill works, how it feels and the impact it has; and you’re there for any questions they may have if they experience a challenge. This type of assessment shows you that the person is able to apply the skill, and gives them feedback on how to do it better next time. This approach increases the likelihood that they will apply this skill again in the future, or better yet integrate this new skill into their general leadership toolkit.
In our Leadership Masterclass Collection, we provide leaders with reflection questions in their workbook to help them engage with the content that has been provided. The focus is not on testing if they know what was in the content, but the focus is on asking them to apply the thinking of what they have learnt to themselves and their team through a process of reflection.
From there leaders have the option to complete the assignment, which is a practical exercise which asks them to apply the skills they have learnt in the workplace. For this month’s productivity masterclass, their assignment asks them to create a work plan for themselves & implement a delegation process amongst others. Through this assignment they are practically engaging with the concepts and tools we learn about during the masterclass and applying it to their role.
So, what now?
Use these recommendations and apply them to enhance the effectiveness of the leadership programmes you currently have in place. Or, use this as a framework to assess potential leadership programmes that you are considering embarking on into the future.
Remember, that there is no one size fits all approach to training. There is no one delivery model that is best. It’s about meeting your employees where they are at, and packaging their learning in a way that moves beyond the classroom.
By doing this you are no longer offering a once off training opportunity, you’re offering an ongoing learning experience to your employees that they can access when they need it.
Coming up. Our next article will discuss how you can make learning stick so that you see the impact of your training on business results. To see this article as soon as it is shared, join our VIP list.
Here’s an example of a learning module that gives as little information as possible and helps leaders apply their new skills. Access our free masterclass which you can share across your company to help your leaders learn how to facilitate an effective virtual meeting. Click here to get the masterclass.