What we do as a leadership team matters!
How we speak to each other, the help we offer to one another, how willing we are to learn from our peers – all of these set the tone, not only for how we work, but for the employees who watch us with beady eyes.
So you can forget about leadership development activities or best courses, we won’t be giving you any of that…
Because leadership team development is about the actions and behaviours we exhibit every day. And it’s crucial that you remember there’s no one way to doing this, in fact, it’s a mix of testing, understand what already exists and the overall practices in your company – this is how you drive contextual leadership development.
Here are five steps, rules, guidelines for pulling this off.
Assume nothing! Whether it’s how we communicate with each other, the templates we follow, or the organisation’s leadership style, clarity helps…
Who is the lead on this project? Which process are we following? What outcomes are we aiming for?
If we’re going to avoid power battles and internal politics, it’s crucial we establish expectations and ground rules for how we work together. We’ve all probably seen or heard of situations where poor leadership among those with influence creates friction that inhibits our ability to progress as well as achieve collaborative leadership development.
We’re then accountable and have a common understanding of what we’re working towards and building mutual trust – which is helpful for that approach of leadership team development and our ability to work effectively together.
And this is a more crucial step than you might think! It’s easy for projects to get messy and leadership teams to get derailed by a lack of clarity or clear goal. If that does happen, you’re in negative feedback loop territory – where a poor experience makes people less willing in the future – which is very helpful when leadership team development is the goal.
Knowledge sharing is great! We crowdsource answers to problems based on the experience we’ve built in the right context.
Creating a company brain and building on compound knowledge often helps us drive performance – and this extends way beyond leadership teams.
Because we’re not repeating mistakes, we’re learning from people who’ve achieved success and tapping into those internal experts to provide answers to repeat questions that hold us back.
Now, we all know that managers deal with high-pressure situations that could have costly consequences. From handling difficult conversations to managing budgets, they’re on the frontline of things that can have massive impact on how effective we are as an organisation.
And think about all the contextual knowledge that sits among your leadership team members! All the hours and experiences built on the job, in your company and geared towards your culture or goals. We often say that companies have a Leaky Bucket, where knowledge isn’t captured and slips through the holes – something they only recognise once people leave the company and take it with them.
Remember when we spoke about everyday behaviours shaping our culture? This is one of the ones leadership teams can help foster! Share your expertise with others, flag where it’s helping and share your take on how tapping into others’ expertise helped you progress.
So, with all of this in mind, it’s even more crucial for leaders to lean on their colleagues’ experience, and there are ways you can foster this as a leadership team…
We actually have a brilliant example of leadership team development from a HowNow customer: Investec.
The distinctive bank and wealth management company run a Developing Team Leadership program internally, which combines modular learning sessions with group coaching.
And the second part allows people to help each other through day-to-day challenges, especially with the groups continuing to engage after the official program has come to an end and growing collectively as a leadership team.
“Beyond the program itself is the support team. If you’ve gone through a program with a coaching team, those people often continue to meet and hash out issues.
“So it really enables a network and further learning along the way. Which is something by design.” – Lior Chuvali, Leadership Learning Experience Manager.
What we’re aiming for is a platform where people understand each other’s problems and are able to provide advice based on their relevant and contextual experience. This is true team development! It’s allowing us to have a measurable and visible impact on performance too, so it’s validating the value in collaborative, social learning.
There’s a brilliant quote from Kasper Spiro that sums up this mindset:
“If somebody in your company has a question, somebody else probably has the answer. And if somebody has a problem, somebody else probably has the solution. And that’s what you want to achieve.”
Effective leadership development is about understanding which skills people have and who’s an expert in which areas – this is how you facilitate knowledge sharing among the leadership team and beyond.
People are part of the leadership development and management culture, even if they’re not necessarily part of the leadership team:
“Often, people think leadership is something that comes with a title… But there are a lot of people who are quietly leading, through the nature of how they carry themselves and the way they inspire people.” – Chichi Eruchalu.
There’s a massive difference between people following because you they feel obliged (they have a management title in the official leadership team) and because you’re inspired by how they behave (their day-to-day actions).
Think of it like this: a leadership culture already exists in your company, you are not simply trying to build one.
So, don’t be afraid to break out of the hierarchy! If someone is respected and admired because they have a load of evidence they’re good at Thing A, let them lead a project around that. Or maybe you just bring them in to consult on it alongside the senior team.
Leadership team development is just about people with the right titles, it’s about bringing the right skills and traits together to achieve those commons goals! So most managers can improve their leadership by listening to people who aren’t managers, you just need to identify those organic leaders and give them a platform.
We don’t need to roll everything out at a company level to understand whether it’s useful or not.
Because if it doesn’t land, the negative consequences could be pretty severe and ultimately, this comes across as poor leadership holding back team development.
Instead, we need this ‘think big, start small’ mentality in our leadership team. Try something on a small scale, understand whether it works, and then either roll it out, test again or pivot to something new.
And that’s why we need collaborative leadership teams and cultures.
Let’s say we want to try monthly performance reviews, rather than quarterly. Rolling that out everywhere takes a lot of time and effort without much indication of whether it’ll work.
But one team could be our canary in the coal mine. Maybe marketing give it a try for three months and report back to the other team leaders. This is true team development because they could leverage them to improve and refine based on real-time data, and therefore increase the chances that we build something effective together.