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Leadership development workshop do’s and don’ts

Leadership Development
Reading Time: 4 minutes

As it stands, the most common way to build leadership within a company is through leadership development workshops. However, too often what passes for “leadership development” is a short seminar on management that puts the participants to sleep.

To really engage your front line leaders, and make leadership development seminars worth their while, you need to focus on the big picture. Not bore them with trivial or mundane information that they’ll forget as soon as they walk out of the room. Unfortunately, this is usually what happens — because organizations often treat leadership development like something they need to do rather than a key area of leverage for competitive advantage.

Today, the labor market is tighter than ever. If your top talent isn’t engaged they can just leave, because they can go anywhere they want. To prevent turnover, and inspire your company to pursue new heights, focus on developing genuine leadership throughout your company. Especially with middle management — an often neglected segment of the company for leadership training.

It’s hard to know where to start for successful leadership development workshops. So, to get things going, here are 6 do’s and don’t for your next leadership development workshop.

Do teach servant leadership

Servant leadership means what you think it means: a leadership style that focuses on service and team building, rather than individual ego. When an organization has servant leaders it has leadership that seeks to develop the organization as a whole and doesn’t cut down others who are trying to achieve the same things. A culture of servant leadership is a culture of mutual support and mutual gain.

What servant leadership means more concretely, in the frame of a workshop, is teaching a coaches mindset rather than one of a manager. The focus should be on developing skills and pursuing growth rather than just following orders. Further, servant leadership has a way of creating more and more leaders — focusing on servant leadership now could mean that it cascades throughout the organization.

Don’t teach management

As general Grace Hopper famously said, “you manage things, but you lead people.” In today’s dynamic workplace this insight is more important than ever. Leadership is about inspiring people to pursue growth and achieve things that they haven’t — not getting better at scheduling or making comms systems more efficient.

Better management is always good, but that’s not leadership. Leadership is harder to develop and requires continued effort. If you develop your leaders as leaders first the management skills will come with time regardless.  

Do focus on values

Leaders today are expected to be standard bearers for organizational values. After all, people look to them for models of behavior. But, you can’t blame them for not exhibiting those values if they don’t know what they are.

This is why leadership development workshops should put them front and center. The workshop should focus on how leadership can live the values daily by breaking up each value into specific kinds of actions. Be sure to give examples and explain the benefits of those positive behaviors and how they play into the larger mission of the organization.

Don’t dwell on the short term  

Businesses are starting to catch on — focusing on short term goals alone is a recipe for disaster in the long term. Sure, businesses have to meet benchmark levels of performance, but focusing only on these goals while neglecting the bigger picture causes cultures to decay from the inside out.

To avoid this, be sure to convey your organization’s Why — it’s reason for existing that goes beyond profit. While this may seem idealistic, organizations with a powerful Why are ultimately successful. With a powerful and inspiring Why your business can get through any how it faces.

This is especially so in today’s climate as the younger side of the workforce is not only looking for a job, but a way to make the world a better place. Teaching your leaders to communicate the organization’s mission is key to keeping young talent engaged and inspired.

Do make it worthwhile

As I mentioned above, too often leadership development workshops are full of trivial information that people forget as soon as they leave. Instead, bring in insightful and engaging information to bring the workshop alive. This can be best done through stories.

When the power point gets turned on and there’s yet another set of bullet points with jargon for your team to stare at their eyes are going to glaze over. So instead try this: when you walk into the room don’t turn on a powerpoint don’t hand out sheets of paper — tell a story.

Tell a story about how you or someone you know overcame a personal struggle and became a better leader because of it. And if you don’t feel comfortable recounting something personal people are always interested to hear dramatic stories of leadership from history – they’re easy to find too!

Don’t put people to sleep

At most jobs people are sitting all day staring at a computer anyway — they don’t need to sit through yet another meeting. Get people up and moving – have them engage in team building exercises and whatever else you can do to keep them up and interacting with the workshop.

You can even do something way out of the ordinary — you can have them dance! At some forward thinking organizations a trend is emerging to start team meetings with exactly 60 seconds of dancing before jumping in. Coupled with upbeat music, this exercise will enliven your team for the workshop.

Do utilize emerging technology

Even if you have the perfect leadership development workshop that everyone enjoyed and got a lot out of, it will be useless if they can’t sustain what they learned. I’ve seen this time and again — people will walk out of a workshop feeling inspired and ready to make changes, but by the next week they’ve gone back to normal.

Fortunately, technology we’ve created, and continue to develop, at ProHabits can help sustain leadership growth and supplement any leadership development strategy. We ensure that transforming organizations sustain their growth while helping propel them forward.

Learn how your organization can elevate its leadership here.