Learning Resolutions: Three Ways to Make Better Leaders in 2015

Once Thanksgiving, Christmas and their various global iterations have passed, most people spend time planning how to make the New Year easier, healthier, more productive or just plain better. Learning leaders are no different. Only, instead of resolving to exercise more, CLOs resolve to make development options that resonate with audiences and create bigger impact for their respective organizations bottom lines.

Leadership development is a common focus, specifically, how to build more effective leaders who have the skills organizations need today and tomorrow to be competitive in the global marketplace. Executive education is one solution, and it requires that learning leaders build close relationships with business schools.

Traditionally, leadership development programs have not lived up to expectations. A 2013 survey of 329 organizations by Brandon Hall Group found that 75 percent of organizations rate their leadership programs as “not very effective.” Yikes.

Investments of this kind don’t come cheap, so for such a significant chunk of companies to say they’re not getting the ROI they need, well. Something needs to change. I’ve come up with three ideas learning leaders may want to consider as they build custom leadership development programs with business schools.

One, have professors be executives for a day. A week or even a month might be more suitable. But why shouldn’t professors or academics sit in on meetings and hang around the office to observe how business is really done? What better way to learn what skills or competencies need to be developed in leadership development programs? Having academics step into executive shoes can turn a learning provider into an agile and responsive learning partner.

Two, custom learning programs should be adaptable. The global business environment is changing so rapidly, it only makes sense that development programs should be as agile as responsive to the marketplace as the executives it’s intended to build. Programs shouldn’t necessarily look the same from one semester or session to the next. That means learning leaders and academics need to learn the graceful art of feedback. What’s working? What isn’t? Why isn’t it working? Can we use technology to change what we do and how we do it? What ideas can we “steal” and adapt from other industries?

Three, shake up – or even get out of – the classroom. It should be standard to set up learning interventions that use real, timely case studies based on current or potential issues an organization might face. Have successful executives teach classes so they can bring their daily issues into the classroom like Viola Davis character Annalise Keating does in the new TV series How to Get Away With Murder. Bring leaders in training onto the shop floor, so to speak. Annalise has her students in court, assisting on real cases, upping the stakes by connecting them fully with the subject matter. Further, she makes it interesting by promoting a strong sense of competition. Help her win a case? You win a coveted prize.

Effective leadership is critical for any organization. Let’s make sure the leadership development programs organizations create are agile enough to not only meet business needs but to exceed them.

Kellye Whitney is the associate editorial director for Chief Learning Officer magazine, a Human Capital Media publication. She can be reached at kwhitney@humancapitalmedia.com.