Our approach to Leadership development – An example
Mandate and objectives of the programme
A large multinational company asked us to design and deliver a leadership development programme for high potentials. The objectives for participants of the programme were the following:
• Understand and manoeuvre organisational dilemmas and tension
• Learn to connect and build trust with diverse stakeholders globally
• Act as change accelerators and role models for the desired company culture
The programme was set up to work on 3 levels in parallel:
Individual: to help each individual to identify strengths and development areas and to build new skills
Team: to strengthen the cohesion amongst top talents and to form a strong intercultural network
Organisation: to make (cultural) change happen and to build a strong base for follow-on activities.
Design and methodology
To achieve those objectives, we created a “leadership simulation” with real and current challenges around strategic questions. This kind of “simulation” has nothing to do with computer based simulations; it works without any technology and focuses on the most relevant business questions and roles that are real in the organisation. This creates what we call a realistic “vehicle for learning”. Part of the organisational tension resulted from working in a multi-layer matrix, hence we designed the simulation in a way that people found themselves experiencing exactly those matrix related challenges.
Our long experience designing those innovative “learning vehicles” has revealed the following principles for success:
Balance between task and learning
To learn, people need a safe environment to step out of their comfort zone. They also need to feel that what they do is relevant and has a real impact. However, if participants are too concerned about the output of their task, it is very difficult for them to reflect on the process and on their own learning. The role of the coaches is to steer the right balance of focus on task and focus on learning.
Reflect in action on action
The key aspect of leadership is to reflect in action on action. This ability to notice if something is not heading in the right direction is difficult once you are in the midst of a challenging situation. Leaders need to develop their capability to take a step back and “go to the balcony” to observe and understand the dynamics of the situation.
This ability to notice and reflect enables leaders to make deliberate choices about what to say and do – or not say and do - to advance a situation.
As coaches, we provide sweet and sour feedback in a candid way and act as an outside “mirror” for participants. We play back how a certain behaviour and certain style lands with people and explore what could be more effective.
Teaching in the moment
From our experience, new knowledge and skills are learned best when they are acquired in a moment, where they can either immediately be applied or help to make sense of what just happened. This is why our programmes usually do not contain extensive lecturing but rather shorter input sessions. As coaches we make interventions on the spot which requires flexibility and a wide theoretic foundation.