I was working with a client who had a huge budget for development, leaders who were champing at the bit to engage with the development programme, and an Executive Team that was excited to be walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
And then I woke up.
Yes, we can all dream of these perfect circumstances when it comes to developing leaders in our organisations. The reality is usually quite different.
I’ve been there myself — convincing CEOs and Finance Directors that effective leadership development really isn’t possible without some budget allocation, and trying to engage leaders in development programmes they’re far too busy to attend.
So how to get results when time and money are tight?
In my experience, there are two critical things you need. When these are present, you’ll find you can achieve big results.
To outline these two essential requirements, let me share a story.
Some years ago I was working with a regional Clinical Research division in a major pharmaceutical company. They needed to achieve faster results and cut costs if they were to compete with less costly Clinical Research teams in other countries.
To do this, as well as refining some of the clinical processes, they needed to up-skill the clinical researchers in having more impactful conversations with a range of external stakeholders who took part in the studies. CommsMasters was invited to help.
The challenge was to up-skill several hundred individuals in a situation where investment — both of time and money — were extremely limited.
We worked with the senior leaders in the division to develop a series of short sessions (90 minutes each) which would run with groups of 50 participants at a time.
Normally I’d be ringing loud alarm bells, concerned that combining big groups and short sessions would not bring behavioural change — build knowledge and short-term inspiration, yes… but long-term results…?
However, I was confident this situation was different. Why? Because the two essentials that will drive change were already in place:
- There was a clear rationale for the change and the individuals across the division were committed to it.
- The leadership team was willing to work with people to help them change.
We all know that a clear need for change helps people focus. But the importance of leaders’ role as supporters of change is easily underestimated.
In this case, leaders made sure that they reviewed how people were applying the tools and techniques covered in the short sessions, asking them to bring examples to discuss at team meetings and in one-to-ones. They made sure they were applying the tools and techniques themselves. And people were held to account if they didn’t clearly demonstrate they were changing.
I know it isn’t always easy to get both of these in place and, if you can’t have both, I’d recommend focusing on getting No. 2 — leaders who will help people to change.
Ultimately people will go where their leaders lead them. Add to this a clear need to change, and you’ll see amazing results.
[Image courtesy of aechan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]