In my recent Inc. post about why many aspects of existing leadership and team development programs are no longer as effective as they could be, I focused on how leaders can improve cognitive development (how they view the world around them) in addition to the usual traits (emotional intelligence, courage, charisma, integrity) we consider as part of being an effective leader. While all of this is critically important to improving the performance of any leader or team, the question I pose now is what does the future of personal and professional development look like?

Many organizations invest in ongoing programs and reward success accordingly, but many don't have the structure or resources for making this investment. Or worse, they see little reason to shift budget towards providing these resources. I'd say the majority of companies fall somewhere in the middle, but lack the foundation for really measuring performance improvement.

In my experience, through years of anonymous surveys given to the employees at my companies, there were always a few constants in the feedback: (1) gaining a better understanding of the company's purpose; (2) knowing how the individual's role plays a part in accomplishing the mission; and (3) more ongoing resources for professional development and career-pathing.

Even when companies invest in professional development, how scalable and effective is it? How does one maintain consistent focus on improving themselves and those around them? My perspective is that many workshops and leadership development programs alone are not sufficient nor do they result in developing team members and leaders quickly enough. To create a winning team environment and culture based on accountability, leaders must design experiences that nurture constant improvement for themselves and their team. Therefore, development must be part of the culture.

In doing some research for my new book, I recently posed these questions to some colleagues and many agree that unless leadership and professional development programs are in line with the culture and values they will have little impact.

Mike Salvin of WealthStake said, "Individuals aren't machines and each business has a different set of core values and principles. Only when leadership development programs pay close attention to the development of an individual in accordance with the core principle and values of a business will it be able to transfer development ownership to the leaders of tomorrow."

Others believe that tenure and identifying talent that have already proven themselves plays a large role. "I think it's best done by promoting an individual who started off from the lowest rank of the organization and worked his or her way up. Whether or not they had any formal training, their progress shows accountability and that they can own their process for improvement," noted Said Firas from Mattress Inquirer.

In addition to good programs and a culture supporting constant improvement, highly focused feedback and accountability partners are the key. That's where development can start to transfer to the individual as opposed to "making" employees attend courses or workshops every now and then. So what does this look like? Any team or organization can accomplish this in several ways.

First, select three areas you want to improve upon and write them down.

Next, choose five or six people from within and outside of the organization to be accountability partners. Those from within the organization should be a mix of people at different levels of hierarchy.

Then explain your goals and where you want to improve so they know what to look for.

Finally, schedule regular check-ins so they can provide targeted feedback. Consistency is key and this process should be a constant evolution.

In tandem with investing in programs, workshops and mentoring, I have seen this approach work quite well. It ensures consistency and adds value to the other training programs.

Give it a try! What do you have to lose?

Published on: Nov 28, 2016
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