Delivering impactful leadership education

A leadership educational program can only be deemed a success if it changes targeted behaviors and leads to improved outcomes. A recent McKinsey and Co. survey “Decoding Leadership – What really matters,” describes how over 90% of CEOs plan to increase leadership development investment, as it is critical to the health of the organization. But the data also uncovered that most CEOs (57%) were not confident that these training investments would be effective. Often, there are few clear answers about where to focus leadership development investments. Unfortunately, programs can address a broad range of matters, may not be focused on the organization’s needs and are often ineffective and unsustainable.

McKinsey researchers found that four characteristics of leadership were correlated with “healthy organizations.” The qualities are: solving problems effectively; operating with strong results orientation; being supportive; and seeking different perspectives.

These leadership qualities fit well with successful leadership demonstrated by our clients. We can learn by examining how a good leader employs these qualities to increase organizational effectiveness. One client CEO, who embodied these characteristics, implemented a learning program to increase leadership and organizational capacity. She chose one area where she believed there would be an immediate and measurable effect. She felt that a positive change in meeting culture would increase leadership and organizational capacity – clearly a results-oriented approach. After collecting data from middle managers through senior leaders in her organization, the CEO learned that 66% of her management team spent between one and three full days in meetings each week, yet only 18% believed that all meetings attended were absolutely necessary. Meetings almost never started and ended on time, and very few meetings had all the correct participants. Agendas were generally lacking, as was a clearly defined purpose for the meeting. Ultimately she found out that only one in five meetings were achieving their stated objectives.

Knowing that the existing meeting culture was holding back productivity, she decided to impact their culture through the focus on meeting management skills. Armed with the above data, the CEO rolled out a 90 minute on-line interactive leadership-learning program with follow-up that included personal action plans – with each participant making a commitment to implement the newly learned effective meeting behaviors. The program was highly successful and especially impactful for middle managers looking to increase their leadership capacity. Senior management was then held accountable for modeling the newly learned behaviors, as everything starts within the C-suite of the organization. No training program that is not embraced or modeled at the senior-most levels of an organization will survive or become part of the fabric of the company.

The CEO knew that an educational program could only be deemed a complete success if it changes targeted behaviors and leads to improved outcomes. After the organization implemented this meeting-focused leadership program, meetings started and ended on time, had a defined purpose and included only, and, for the most part, all the right people. The participants were taught to stay on topic and the meeting facilitator assisted in this goal. By each meeting’s end, participants developed an actionable and accountable plan for follow-up.

This results oriented program, which took about three hours of employee time in total, was estimated to add days of additional productive time each month for each employee. It also relieved some of the frustration meeting participants felt due to the previously wasted time spent in meetings. Participant feedback was extremely positive as over 90 percent felt that the learning would make them and the organization more efficient overall. As this enlightened CEO demonstrates, an actionable results-oriented program can create a large impact on the culture and productivity of an organization. The seemingly simple task of running more efficient and productive meetings resulted in more professional interactions involving more strategic thinking and effective implementation of plans, not just in formal meetings, but also for the organization’s capacity as a whole.

Stuart R. Levine

Stuart R. Levine

Founded in 1996, Stuart Levine & Associates LLC is an international strategic planning and leadership development company with focus on adding member value by strengthening corporate culture. SL&A ... Web: Details