How to help your leaders solve business problems faster

Your business’ competitive advantage is the quality of its leaders. Strong leaders ensure that your employees are performing well and they inspire teams to do their best work.

By far the most valuable asset leaders bring to your business is their ability to navigate through challenges.

But, what helps your leaders enhance their ability to solve problems?

Access to the information they need, at the time that they need it

Relevance and Timing are the two most important ingredients to make training content helpful to your leaders. You know that you are implementing programmes with the goal of developing future leadership capacity, but these programmes do not necessarily address the needs that your leaders are faced with right now.

When your leaders are faced with a problem, they need information which is directly relevant to the challenge that they are grappling with, and they need it now.

This can be difficult to get ahead of as an HR leader, because often training needs are brought to your attention once the need is already there. If you do not have existing, in-house training materials to address this challenge, you sit with the problem of trying to find relevant content externally.

This, on top of the fact that you are now working against time as the need already exists and the business is essentially waiting on your HR team to find a training solution to support them.

Being a member of a community of practice

A community of practice has been described as “a group of people who engage in collective learning in a common area of interest” (Wenger: 1998).

Essentially, this is a community of people who share their challenges and then spend time thinking through these challenges together by sharing their individual experiences and insights for the benefit of the wider group.

Whilst your leaders may be part of a network of leaders inside your company, what makes a community of practice even more powerful is when this community includes leaders from different companies across different industries.

When your leaders become part of an external community of practice it unlocks benefits for them such as being exposed to different ways of thinking, strategies and information.

It not only has the power to accelerate their own personal development but helps them solve problems faster as they are able to draw on the collective experience of the group.

So, what’s one action you can take this week to put this thinking into practice?

Find out what types of content your leaders need. Survey your leadership across all levels of the organization and ask them what challenges they are grappling with right now.

Make this process easy for them by pre-selecting ten challenges which you believe they may be faced with, so that they are able to simply indicate which of those challenges are applicable to them.

Provide a space where they can share challenges you may not have included on your pre-selected list of challenges, so that these are also able to be included in your analysis.

Once you have reviewed the submissions, come up with your top 5 topics that your leaders have indicated they need support with.

With this in mind, consider how you could get your leaders access to the content and community they need to help them work through these challenges fast.

In our corporate membership, The Leadership Masterclass Collection, we help you to effortlessly upskill your leaders by providing them with online masterclasses on relevant leadership topics, as well as access to weekly facilitated sessions with our network of member companies. To learn more go to, click here.

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3 new essential skills your leaders need right now

All leadership programmes offer a core set of specific leadership subjects. These are viewed as the essential topics that leaders need to be exposed to during a leadership programme. Examples of these topics are things like: coaching, decision making, performance management – the fundamentals, right?  

And while I agree that these topics are important leadership topics for leaders to be exposed to, I believe that our current focus should be on giving leaders the skills they need to succeed in our current business environment.

Through my experience working with leaders both online and in-person during this year, I have found that there are three essential skills that leaders need right now to help them better lead their teams.

#1 How to lead during uncertainty

2020 continues to be a year filled with uncertainty. The uncertainty resulting from the pandemic has been challenging because it’s a factor that we are unable to control, yet it impacts everything we do. From how we work, to who we see, to what we are able to do – it impacts literally everything.

Due to this, many employees feel plagued by uncertainty in their personal lives, and in their professional lives they feel it too, as the companies they work for are also wading through unchartered territory. 

Despite this reality, companies expect leaders to inspire, support and guide their employees to achieve the results they need to. Regardless of the uncertainty unfolding around them. 

#2 How to lead remotely

With the impact of the pandemic, remote work has become the norm. During our initial stages of lockdown, it was mandatory. And since the lockdown levels have eased, it remains recommended. 

During this time many companies have seen that remote working can actually work for them. And so, some are applying a hybrid model going forward, where employees have a set amount of workdays in the office and a set amount of work days at home during any week. 

Whilst almost all employees are welcoming this increased flexibility with open arms, many of the leaders that I connect with have acknowledged that leading a team in a remote working environment is very different to leading a team that works on-site.

#3 How to develop personal mastery

The context that leaders have been operating in this year has required them to step up and to show up differently for their teams. It’s required leaders to have difficult conversations, to truly guide, support and mentor their employees and to be flexible and creative when it comes to ‘how’ they get things done.

That being said, it’s important to also acknowledge that leaders too have been going through the same challenges as their team members have been. 

And so, the requirement for them to step up and lead differently during this time, requires them to know themselves, and to commit and take steps towards their own continuous professional development.  

How can you use this information to help you?

As 2020 comes to a close, many of you HR and L&D Leaders will be considering the question: How do you best support your leaders with training into 2021 and beyond?

A good first step would be to look at this past year and determine what skills your company required of its leaders, and what gaps were felt in the skill set of your leaders.

Then look to the future, and consider what skills will be needed of your leaders to get your company to its next level – to meet its goals for 2021.

The list you come up with will probably not be a textbook list of fundamental leadership topics. Perhaps you’ll find some of the topics I’ve discussed on your list.

In essence, you will now have a list that reflects the skills your company needs its leaders to have in order for it to thrive in the current business environment.

Take this list, and find a learning solution that will help you to develop these essential skills for your leaders. Or have your team build this solution, or work with a partner to help your team build this solution.

By doing this, you’ll be offering your leaders a learning solution that actually helps them to gain the skills that they need right now.

Coming up. Our next article will discuss how the delivery of leadership training needs to change to meet your leaders where they are at. To see this article as soon as it is shared, join our VIP list.

Here’s an example of a new skill your leaders may need: Do your leaders know how to facilitate virtual meetings? If not, I can help. 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.

Boost Leadership Programme Engagement With Three Simple Changes

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.

Maximise the impact of your leadership programme with these four essential features

Having a great leadership programme ensures that the leaders who complete your programme actually become better leaders who are able to drive team and business performance. And that long after the programme has ended, they can continue to sustain their learning so that the business continues to experience the value of the investment in the programme.

So, how do you take your leadership programme from good to great? Well, you need to give your leaders on the programme more than they expected.

More than just excellent content.

More than just a great experience.

To maximise the impact of your leadership programme, I recommend that you incorporate these 4 key elements. 

A network they can lean on

Your leaders need a trusted network that they can turn to for support. This would be a group of people that they could learn with and learn from.

It is generally assumed that the people who are on the programme will create this network. While it is true that a network is created during internal programmes, the learning within this type of network can be limited. The reason for this is that there may not be enough diversity within this network. 

Leaders need a diversity of industry, location, job functions, subject matter expertise amongst others. This is very difficult to curate in a network internal to your business.

Instead, to maximise the impact of your leadership programme, create a wider, extended network incorporating leaders both from within your organisation and leaders from outside of your organisation, or enable your leaders to access one that already exists. 

A facilitator they can count on

The relationship between your leaders and the facilitator is a critical success factor to the effectiveness of your leadership programmes.

Your leaders need a facilitator thathas the right level of subject matter expertise. And It’s important that the facilitator understands how to facilitate courageous and engaging conversations, and serves your leaders as a trusted advisor and resource throughout their programme.

To maximise the impact of your leadership programme, find a facilitator that meets your leaders where they are at, and who is able to walk alongside them through their learning.

A platform to engage freely

It’s often said that most learning happens outside of the classroom – meaning, outside of formal learning events. In a traditional setting this could happen on lunch breaks, after class or during practical assignment implementation.

To capture this type of learning and to catalogue these conversations for the benefits of the wider network, you should provide your leaders with a platform that they can engage with each other. This could be a Slack channel, a Facebook group or even a Whatsapp group. 

To maximise the impact of your leadership programme, choose a platform that your leaders can have “on the go” or “in their pocket” so that they can access this knowledge bank easily.

A leader to be their champion

For leaders to implement their learning from a training programme into the workplace, they need a working environment that is conducive to allowing them to experiment and implement new ways of working. 

One way to create this enabling environment for your leaders is to provide them with a workplace mentor. A leader, in a Senior position, who is able to influence others. This person becomes the leader’s champion: someone who guides, supports and motivates them to achieve their goals.

To maximise the impact of your leadership programme, assign your leaders with a mentor to help pave the way for them to put their learning into action. 

How can you apply this learning?

To come back to the question we started with: What makes a great leadership programme? The answer is simply that a great leadership programme is one that never ends.

If you apply these learnings, then long after the programme has ended, your delegates will still have retained these key resources: a network they can lean on, a facilitator they can count on, an accessible knowledge bank and workplace mentor. 

These resources and relationships will continue to serve your leaders into the future as they further develop in their careers.

Learn more about the Leadership Masterclass Collection. This corporate membership gives you the ability to share ready-to-use leadership masterclasses with your leaders, and gives them access to weekly webinars where they can learn alongside leaders from their fellow member companies. Click here to learn more.