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A New Approach to Developing Leaders

Tammy Sicard, PhD, my co-creator of the REACH development program for future leaders, shares her perspective on how to develop leaders today and challenges us to let go of old assumptions about preparing leaders for tomorrow. Tammy wrote this article and I am delighted to share this with you.


No on-the-job experiences or training, no action learning or job assignment, no 360 feedback or self-directed learning could have prepared leaders for the cascade of disruptions brought on by COVID-19. Yet this is how the majority of managers are developed. While the development of competencies and skills remain important, that alone is not enough to prepare leaders to lead through unpredictable disruption and change.


The uncertainty, complexity and volatility of today’s world requires more complex and adaptive thinking. And measuring that sort of development requires different methods. In addition to the developing new competencies and skills, we also need to develop leaders to have a bigger mindset. We need to develop leaders who are aware of and can manage their emotional triggers, and who are more resilient and adaptive in the face of such disruptive events. And in a world that is so often divided by differences, we need to develop leaders who know when and how to shift from being individually focused to recognizing leadership as a collective process.


This sort of development does not happen with training. It is development that is more akin to discovery than to doing, and it rests squarely on the learner, not a teacher. It must be earned over time, and from the inside-out. And so, we are left with two questions:


· What kind of development methods support an individual’s awareness of and ability for this sort of self-leadership?

· How might we track and measure this kind of development?


REACH is our attempt to begin answering these questions. With the help of our pilot participants and their sponsors from eight very diverse companies, we have created a program that supports both the tangible development of new competencies and skills, and intangible development from the inside-out. No doubt our curriculum will continue to evolve and improve with each group. But a more challenging question remains: how do we measure and track the development of intangible growth?


The obvious answer seems to be not in the same way that we measure the development of new competencies and skills.


Our Approach

REACH has three interlocking components to support and track a learner’s development.

· A self-efficacy assessment, pre and post

· A monthly Leadership Conversation Guide

· One-on-one coaching with a REACH Coach


Pre and Post Assessment

Drawing on the research of psychologist Albert Bandura, we have designed an assessment that will allow each learner to assess the extent to which they feel confident in specific leadership skills and competencies covered in our curriculum. According to research, the perception of ability directly affects behavior, but it also affects expectations of outcomes and the perception of challenges and opportunities. For example, the extent to which an individual feels confident in their ability to have a difficult conversation, and manage their emotions in the process, will affect not only whether they initiate a difficult conversation, but also their expectations of how it will go.


This quantitative assessment will serve two purposes. First, it will allow us to measure the impact of the learning experience on each learner’s level of confidence in applying what they learn during the program, and second it will provide us with important information to tailor our one-on-one coaching to the needs and concerns of each learner.


A Conversation Guide for the Leader and Learner

Leaders and their learner will receive a monthly conversation guide the day of each session. The guide will follow the same format each month and will include key questions that will allow the leader to more easily:

· Support their participant to apply what they are learning

· Explore opportunities to stretch and challenge their thinking

· Track their progress in the program

· Engage their high-potential learner as a key resource for their pipeline to the future


One-on-One Coaching with a REACH Coach

Monthly one-on-one coaching sessions with a REACH coach will be designed to help each learner integrate both content and insights. The coaching sessions are designed to support each individual as they explore challenges that matter to them, discover the limits of their current way of thinking, and persist in the face of such challenges to create breakthrough insights. Here are a few insights from our pilot participants that we found inspiring:


· I realized that when planning for difficult conversations they begin as emotional, and I am thinking about things from my perspective. Then I began to realize that I need additional perspectives to broaden my own. It’s a process, not a to-do!


· I realized that I can separate myself from my emotions and then be more effective in my interactions with others.


· I loved the session with your guest CEO. What really struck me was the importance of decision making and how often we leave a meeting not knowing if a decision has been made and then the miscommunication that causes. This is something I can take back to my company and team.


Conclusion

As we look to an increasingly uncertain world our preference for predictable and measurable outcomes will lack substance. Development for that world requires the kind of exploration and commitment that we experienced with our pilot participants and their leaders. It was truly an honor to partner with them on the development of this program, and we look forward to learning even more with our 2021 participants and sponsors!




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