Money is tight. It’s no joke. Then again, neither is the impending flood of Boomers from the workforce nor the reality of leadership talent shortages facing every industry and organization. Money is tight. So, stop using that as an excuse to put off funding the development of emerging leaders.
Easier said than done, right? Not really. In fact, where many organizations fall short is that while they build and implement solid leadership development efforts, they fail in two significant areas – measurement and accountability.
Measurement – Jumping at the newest leadership development trend is enticing to be certain. Every month new techniques and approaches grace the pages of the Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and Success magazines. The internet is rife with consultants eager to peddle their proprietary solutions, complete with catchy marketing slogans and flashing off-the-shelf, one size fits all leadership cure-alls. Executives, concerned with lagging productivity and dipping morale, but like crows drawn to a crumpled scrap of tinfoil, are often the unwitting victims of these well-written and produced sales campaigns.
The problem, however, is that most of the tools, strategies, and instruments on the market lack robust statistical or scientific reliability and validity. Quite simply, while their purported benefits may seem intuitive and appealing, there’s little rigor in terms of actually producing results. And let’s be honest…how many executives are classically trained in understanding and evaluating psychometric instruments? Precious few, unfortunately…
Organizational development professionals, particularly those with I/O psychology backgrounds, are essential for investigating the validity and reliability of leadership development tools, systems, and approaches. For organizations unable or unwilling to invest in this internal or external expertise, it’s true that there’s not enough funding to focus on all leaders.
Accountability – Collectively, organizations spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year designing, developing, and implementing leadership development programs. Remarkably few spent time or resources ensuring accountability systems were in place to monitor and effect real change long-term. If you are aim to development leadership capacity and competency (particularly transformational), but fail to hold “developed” leaders accountable for desired behaviors, attitudes, and leadership traits, you might as well have flushed your development dollars down the toilet.
While formal accountability systems are important (performance appraisal systems, etc.), however, the real test of accountability is the extent to which executive leadership champions, supports, and insists on holding all levels of leadership to a standard of excellence. Too often, the relationships through which executive leaders (all the way to the CEO) built their careers make accountability discussions uncomfortable. The result is avoidant and tacit acceptance of sub-standard and undesirable behaviors that quickly trickle down and infect every layer of the organization. When allowed, these organizational dysfunctions render all leadership development efforts (regardless of the approach or tool used) pointless and a complete waste of money.
Solution – As companies become serious about not just developing leaders, but rather of developing leaders specifically to address the challenges of their specific organization, there is an imperative to seek out true expertise in the areas of measurement and accountability. Just as a cancer sufferer would be advised to seek a trained and board-certified oncologist, organizational leaders should avoid simply trying to leverage traditional internal HR/OD professionals to establish high-quality measurement and accountability systems. That’s not a knock against HR/OD generalists, who play a valuable role in all organizations. It is instead merely that the background experience and training of most HR/OD professionals do not typically include robust statistics and evaluation. Whether such expertise is internally developed or externally sought, the benefits of devoting time and resources up front of any leadership development program will pay dividend in multiples. And failure to do so will result in continued frustration with the quality and success of leadership development efforts.
We’ve all heard the saying about insanity…. It’s doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. If you’re concerned with your future leadership talent, maybe it’s time to try something new…