This is from my recent ExpertBeacon article.
Today’s technological, fast paced world is characterized by speed and innovation. As business owners and leaders your primary responsibility is to elicit the best out of your people, especially in terms of innovation and creativity. A significant source of support is an effective executive education program. Here is a compilation of “Dos” and “Don’ts” to support you in increasing your odds of success.
Do prepare your leaders to act without you.
The ROI of leadership is the ability to constructively improvise when a strategy fails to anticipate opportunities or obstacles. Since strategic foresight is very difficult given a host of factors out of one’s control you must rely on the judgment of your leaders. Aim to develop them to act without direction, but within the general confines of your charter and strategy.
Do incorporate core competencies.
So many business education programs center themselves around particular tactics, techniques or tasks to be employed under specific, controlled conditions. Largely ignored is thinking, communication, planning and execution – the fundamentals that ultimately determine which tactics to employ, when and to what effect. Look to develop your leaders in the broad sense. Help them think and communicate in essentials, plan with contingency and lead with confidence.
Do develop strategic know-how.
Author and award winning journalist Tom Ricks once remarked that good strategy can fix bad tactics, but good tactics cannot fix a bad strategy. Not surprisingly, research shows that “strategy know-how” is continuously the most sought after capability of leaders today. It is the means of leading others toward large, common goals without becoming distracted by daily noise. Develop your people to see, understand and communicate the big picture. Develop them to know when to step into the weeds of daily activities and when to step out.
Do make learning fun and engaging.
Successful organizations are those that can quickly progress up the learning and experience curves. A critical element lies in the learning delivery system. For example, some organizations employ the new trend of “gamification.” Participants compete in computer simulations that reinforce the assigned learning objectives. These types of activities compel teamwork and all participants to learn from experience.
Do let the educational process reinforce cross-functional awareness and cooperation.
Too many business units and functions become compartmentalized over time. Use educational opportunities as a means of prevention. Every business leader should be able to answer, “What is the leader/team on my right or left doing? What is their mission? How does it affect me and my team?” This type of awareness increases employee engagement, which in turn helps to establish a positive culture.
Do not ignore the general stuff.
We live in an age of specialization, and our natural preference is for the technical expert. Too often the flip side of that professional, the generalist, is ignored. This professional has a broad frame of reference that looks for the big picture and integrates the specialists toward common goals. In short, seek to balance the qualitative with the quantitative, the general with the technical.
Do not rely exclusively on traditional learning models.
Education often conveys the image of people sitting in a classroom being lectured to by an expert. Who has time for that!? Fortunately we live in an robust information age that hosts a variety of media platforms that can be fantastic sources for learning. Remember, there is an entire industry of non-traditional learning experts that want to build their credibility by making learning fun and interesting.
Do not think you don’t have the time to educate.
Education is an absolute necessity, not a luxury as many consider it. Your success as a leader requires you to elicit the best out of your people, especially in terms of innovation and creativity. Make every initiative and opportunity a learning experience. Remember, if you’re not developing your people, rest assured your competitors are developing theirs.
Do not think your leaders are developed enough.
The natural inclination for many people today is to confirm what they already believe. Business professionals are no exception. An executive education must be challenging in order to grow professionally and organizationally. If you don’t develop your people to question assumptions and sometimes ask the tough questions, then you’re stagnating.
Do not conduct only one professional development session each year.
Don’t mistake motion for progress. Development of business leaders must be constant and repetitive. If not, your yearly meeting will be one in name only. Such a pretense will demonstrate a non-seriousness to the subject. It is this type of transgression of people’s time and patience that poisons healthy cultures.
There are many opportunities to increase your odds of success for your business, and having an effective executive education is one of them. Unfortunately many programs produce task-oriented tacticians who require constant supervision. This list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” supports developing the alternative: leaders that drive strategy at all levels.