It's hard to believe that 2016 has nearly come to an end, but what better time to start thinking of your organization's learning and development programs than with the fresh start of 2017 on the horizon?
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Companies implement thousands of programs not only to ensure that their employees are happy and thriving, but also to attract the talent they need to continue succeeding. And yet, for most companies, the thought of developing a new program to implement in the new year can seem daunting.
However, I think one program that all organizations should consider launching in 2017 is a formal leadership development program – one that brings a level of middle management to the organization.
Leadership development programs ensure that employees who are managing individuals and teams for the first time are learning how to succeed in their roles and developing authentic relationships with their direct reports. Furthermore, these programs help employees grow in their careers and become more comfortable adopting managerial roles.
Let's take a look at the components that should go into your new leadership development program in the coming year:
Learning to Coach
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Conversations between managers and direct reports need to happen more frequently than they typically do. Instead of a yearly performance review wherein employees receive feedback from their managers, workers should feel empowered to have more of an ongoing dialogue.
Traditionally, performance reviews come with negative feedback, but a leadership development program teachers managers how to provide coaching to their direct reports in a more natural and timely way. When feedback is given in the moment (rather than months later), it allows the manager to focus on how their team can do better work moving forward, instead of on how things could have been different in the past.
Bringing in Outside Help
Another good idea is to utilize insights from guest speakers (both internally and externally) and the expertise of executive coaches to help managers become stronger leaders for their direct reports. Roundtable sessions and one-on-one meetings with coaches allow program participants to receive specialized and targeted guidance. This guidance gives participants the support they need to improve their particular management skill sets, such as by becoming better at delegation or recognizing the difference between coaching and conducting performance reviews.
Remember: Coaching isn't about telling employees what to do; it's about giving them the chance to have real conversations about their work and making reports feel like they are contributing to their own personal development.
Additionally, more training programs, such as biweekly sessions with executive team members and external thought leaders, will equip managers to be stronger leaders – ones who can shape the organization into an accomplished business overall. Companies may also want to consider having participants set specific goals related to the program. Participants will become even more motivated when they set official goals that map back to the overarching aim of becoming a better leader.
Finally, a leadership development program does not need to have a specific duration. As long as employees are invested in their growth, the program can continue. In fact, continuous education is a way that organizations can create better workforces. There should be no finish lines when it comes to personal development.
In my own personal experience, I've seen leadership development programs greatly increase the skills and competencies of company managers. Participants provide more genuine feedback to the program and give more thoughtful responses to questions they're asked by guest speakers, which is useful for gaining genuine insights into how they are embracing the program. I know that coaching and providing feedback can be hard for some managers, especially early on, so to see that people are feeling more comfortable with the leadership development program is a success.
As companies look to 2017, they should consider adopting leadership development programs. When they do, they'll see better relationships between employees of all levels. Developing strong workplace relationships is a crucial step in building an overall positive work environment.
Tamara Cooksey is head of people operations at BetterWorks, a company that provides enterprise software for powering performance with goals, feedback, and data,