Manager input to leadership programs hugely increases skills uptake rates
Dominic Johnson, 4 July 2019
Mastering new frontline leadership skills takes both practice and reinforcement. Most of us have to be convinced it’ll be worth it before we’ll put in the effort to adopt something as complex and personally challenging as leadership. What makes the critical difference to learners is having relevant, knowledgeable support from the managers around them.
Can we measure this impact on leadership development programs? Yes. Having guided the progress of more than a thousand emerging leaders, our data indicates it can return a three times higher likelihood that new skills will be mastered and deployed. Both participant and managers exit surveys tell us unsupported participants struggle to deploy new skills whereas well supported participates have much high deployment rates.
The power of manager connection
Managers who are truly committed to the development of their reports are your advocates. These forward thinking individuals closely follow the progress of their people and their training experiences. They model the behaviors promoted in the programs. They assiduously turn up to managers’ briefings.
Of course, we’ve all suffered the negative influence on learning of detractors – those managers who are dismissive of any and all training programs. We have worked with both ends of the spectrum and have techniques to bring even the most cynical to the table.
Only with the locked in commitment of immediate managers will new frontline leaders be able to fully engage in development initiatives.
Learners take their behaviour cues from those up the chain. They need to see other managers dealing with their teams, using the same concepts and skills the frontline leader is learning about. It significantly increases the willingness to taken on new ideas and persevere in the inevitable trial and error of turning the newly acquired techniques into positive habits.
The power of transparent, complete small group coaching
One of the essential practices we’ve learned to include in our Fastlead program – small group coaching for frontline leaders – is heavily involving immediate managers of the learners in the:
• Creation of and goals for each participant’s development plan
• Information packs on the coaching session topics – with prompts on how to best support the adoption of the skills and concepts
• Progress reviews – three-way meetings with the coach, participant and manager, to review application of new behaviours
With this structured, open approach, frontline leaders are far more likely to be fully supported in the difficult task of taking on new skills. Being fully informed, managers are also more comfortable in the supporting role. With total exposure to what their reports are learning - if there are gaps in their own knowledge, they can study up.
Focusing just on the mindset of participants is a fatal error. The surrounding eco-system is vital and the behaviour of a participants’ manager is absolutely the starting point. How might you and your organisation best align the eco-system to support frontline leaders in adopting new skills and behaviours?
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