March 12, 2020

Tactical Guide: Create a Leadership Development Plan in 7 Steps

by Mike O'Neill

Are you struggling to create a leadership development plan for your managers? Do you feel overwhelmed by all the nitty-gritty details, and you aren’t even sure what information should be included?

Creating a Management Development Plan may seem like a daunting task at first, but it’s very doable. The process is not as "academic" as it seems, and a solid plan can be developed in weeks, not years like most managers seem to think.

Let us show you how to create a leadership development plan that is customized to meet the unique needs of each individual, and that produces real, measurable results.

What Is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan is a detailed action plan for advancing leadership skills. For a leadership development initiative to be truly effective, it should align with an organization's corporate strategy and offer development opportunities that are tailored to the individual employee.

Today's dynamic work environments must make sure there is a robust leadership pipeline for the future. Developing effective leaders in your organization is an ongoing process. In order to adapt to the ever-changing leadership challenges facing your business, you need to add new ideas and goals to your leadership development plan periodically.

Below, you’ll find a simple 7-step process to show you how to create a leadership development plan

Don’t have time to read this article right now? Click here to be taken to the summary at the bottom of this page.

Step #1: Assess Their Skills

The very first thing you should do before doing anything else is to have your managers take skill assessments. You need to know where they’re at so you can determine what skills they need to develop most, and it gives you a way to track their development over time.

Skill Assessments should accurately identify gaps in skills needed to be effective in the role.

Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders

There are a wide variety of different assessments that you can utilize, but make sure to use the same assessments you had them take before training to assess their skills after training, and periodically after that to track their progress as time goes on.

Comparing the results from one type of assessment with the results of another won’t give you an accurate “apples to apples” comparison.

Let’s take a look at some of the assessment options that you could use.

Personality Assessments

One of the most popular skill assessment tools that you can have your managers take is the Myers-Briggs Type.

Myers-Briggs is an assessment that tells you what personality type your managers are, based on how they answer the questions.

It reports if:

  • They are more introverted or extroverted.
  • They rely on their senses more or their intuition.
  • They react more often based on how they think or how they feel.
  • They are open to new information and ideas or not.

16Personalities has created an assessment that uses the foundation of the Myers-Briggs tool, but with a twist. They have turned each personality type into storybook characters.

Their assessment is much more enjoyable to take, and the way they present the results is entertaining and educational.

Leadership Style Assessments

The USC’s Leadership Style Self-Assessment is a 5 minute, multiple-choice questionnaire that helps you discover what leadership style you are, so you can learn how your style impacts your performance.

According to USC Price there are six different styles of leadership:

  1. Servant
  2. Front-Line
  3. Transformational
  4. Metamodern
  5. Postmodern
  6. Contrarian

Strengths Assessments

The CliftonStrengths is an hour-long assessment. It analyzes your natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

It then categories those patterns into 34 different CliftonStrengths themes and tells you what 5 are your most dominant.

Recommended Reading: Promoting Leaders? Best to Promote High Performers or High Potentials?

Step #2: Develop a Leadership Action Plan For Future Needs

Your company's needs and your managers' needs are going to change over time, and your leadership development plan needs to adapt to those changes.

Technology is continually advancing, and artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots are changing the way we do business and how we train our employees.

Managers are going to need ongoing training to develop new skills as their teams change and your company evolves.

Soft Skills will Need to Adapt to Changing Generations

As your company grows and changes over the years, your workforce will consist of many different generations. Each generation comes with a new set of challenges for managers.

Your leadership development program will need to adapt.

For example, current managers are facing changes due to the growing number of millennials in the workforce. Millennials don’t respond to egocentric approaches that require them to listen to management “just because.”

Managers are having to focus on developing and coaching their team vs. controlling them with orders and demands. Soft skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving are crucial as the pace of the workplace accelerates.

Leadership Development Needs to Evolve with Technology

Managers will also continually be facing changes in the technology that their teams interact with, for instance:

  • The company could adopt new software for managing inventory or workloads that the team will have to learn to use.
  • Advances in technology have already made it easier for employees to work remotely, and that has drastically changed the landscape for managers.
  • Artificial intelligence and VR software are getting more powerful every passing year and will have a more significant impact on how managers do their jobs.

Step #3: Compare Leadership Development Programs and Workshops

There are numerous leadership development programs and workshops that claim to be a good fit for everyone, but we have found that “one size fits all” solutions are never as good as they appear or promise to be.

Take the time to compare training programs and make sure their objectives align with the goals of your company and the skills that you need to develop in your managers. Review the leadership development plan examples provided by each program to understand what you’re going to be getting.

Whatever leadership development program you choose should have training materials that are interactive and tailored to the different learning styles (visual, auditory, reading & writing, and kinesthetic learners).

Another thing to consider is where the training will take place. The environment should be quiet and conducive to learning so your managers can focus on the training and absorbing the information without getting distracted.

Don’t invest in a classroom-style program that doesn’t include chances for hands-on demonstrations and role-playing on the job scenarios.

Your managers need to be able to put what they learn into practice in class and on the job so they can retain the information much better.

“We retain approximately 10% of what we see, 30-40% of what we see and hear, and 90% of what we see, hear, and do.” — NHI Principles of Adult Learning

At Bench Builders, we offer customized leadership development programs tailored to meet the goals of your company and the unique needs of your managers.

Contact us to see how we can help and keep reading to find out why a customized training program is so crucial.

Recommended Reading: 5 Changes to Improve Your Leadership Training Programs

Step #4: Invest in a Customized Leadership Development Program

You don’t want to invest in leadership development plan templates. Cookie-cutter approaches aren’t likely to get the results that you want.

Instead, you should consider investing in a leadership development program that is created specifically for your organization and your managers. This is one of the most important things you can do when you’re creating a leadership development plan.

Don’t teach your managers skills they already know or skills they don’t need. It’s a complete waste of their time and yours. Use the results of the assessments they took and compare them with the skills and personality traits every good leader should generally have and the ones your company specifically wants them to have.

Where are they lacking? What areas do you want to see them improve on first? Specify all of this in their personalized leadership development plan.

Some examples of traits/skills that every good leader should have are:

  • The ability to communicate constructively. A good leader should focus on finding solutions and fixing problems, not placing blame or pointing fingers.
  • An overall positive personality with the capability of motivating and inspiring others. Every leader should be able to encourage employees to work together to achieve goals, and they should inspire their team to produce their best work.
  • Excellent time management and delegation skills. They can’t manage a team effectively if they can’t prioritize and assign tasks with deadlines.
  • An ability to handle constructive criticism positively. Your managers should be very self-aware and be able to take criticism well. Personal development should be important to them.
  • Providing clear, honest feedback. Teams need to understand what you expect of them and how they can perform their job duties to the best of their abilities.
  • Trustworthiness. Do you feel comfortable trusting this person to be in charge of others? Can you trust them to keep company secrets to themselves and not share them with anyone?

Contact us, we can help you come up with a customized leadership development plan for your managers.

Step #5: Align Training Objectives With the Needs of the Individual and the Company

You need to sit down with each of your managers and ask them what areas they would like to improve on. What are their career goals, and what skills do they feel like they need to develop to be more effective at their job?

Take what they tell you and see how it matches up with the goals of your company and the skills you and your company want them to learn.

Align your training objectives so that they meet the goals and needs of each manager that will be going through training, and those of your organization.

Training Objectives should identify the desired outcomes of implementing a training program. What should be different or better when the training is complete?

Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders

As Rhonda said, you need to focus on what specifically you want to gain from the training. How are you going to know if your managers benefited from the training if you don’t even know what you want them to get out of it in the first place?

You need to measure and track the results so you can prove that your investment is paying off. Use the following formula to help you calculate the ROI for your training programs.

ROI = (Total Program Benefits - Total Program Costs) / Total Program Costs X 100%

At Bench Builders, we help you calculate your ROI when we develop a training program to fit your needs. Contact us and ask us how we can help you create and implement a leadership development plan that produces the results you want.

Recommended Reading: Organizational Leadership: 5 Essentials That You Should Know

Step #6: Provide Honest and Constructive Feedback

Your managers need to be updated on their progress throughout the training so they can be aware of anything they should pay more attention to or topics they need to revisit for a better understanding.

The feedback you provide should be honest and constructive. Just telling a manager that they need to improve on something, but not giving them clear instructions on how to improve isn’t helpful.

Be aware of how you phrase things and try to keep the “compliment sandwich” in mind. Tell them something they are doing great at, then tell them what they need to improve on and how, and then tell them something else they are great at.

Starting and ending with a compliment makes it much easier for them to digest the negative part of the compliment sandwich.

Praise and recognition are critical too. Employees who know they are appreciated are more motivated and work harder.

94% of employees say they would work for a company longer if the company was invested in their development.”

Following the advice above shows your employees you care about their progress and that you want to see them succeed.

Here are some examples of negative vs. positive feedback so you can understand the difference better:

  • Negative Feedback: “You are taking too long to complete assignments. You need to speed up and get faster.”
  • Positive Feedback: “It’s taking you longer than it should for you to complete your assignments. We noticed that you’re taking more client calls and responding to more emails than normal lately, and this seems to be negatively impacting your turnaround times. We recommend you limit the amount of time you spend on these activities to 30 minutes at the beginning, middle, and end of your shift to give you more time to complete your assignments.”
  • Collaborate on a Solution: Another potential approach you can use is to state the problem and ask the employee what actions/ideas they have for how to improve.

Did you notice the difference between these two examples?

The negative example tells them what they are doing wrong, but not how to fix it. Telling them how to fix it or helping them to see the problem and come up with solutions is the most essential part if you want them to improve.

Step #7: Continue Their Education With Follow-Up Training

One of the biggest mistakes we see companies make is to invest in a training program and never provide follow-up training. Leadership development is an ongoing process that requires ongoing training. The learning should never stop because your managers will stop growing and improving when it does.

Follow up training and application is crucial to ensure that new skills are being used.

Rhonda Beard, Bench Builders

When you don’t provide additional training afterwards, employees are likely to forget about what they’ve learned and fall back into the same routines they have been doing.

You may need to make changes to your company structure or processes, enabling them to put what they learned in training into practice. Procedures that make it impossible for them to utilize the knowledge they gained are going to keep you from seeing the results you want from the training.

Make follow-up training something your company provides on a consistent schedule, and check-in with your managers frequently to see how they are doing. Surveys are an excellent way to get feedback on your training programs.

Recommended Reading: Leadership Workshops: The Last Guide That You Will Ever Need

Quick Summary

Creating a leadership development plan might seem like a long and complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be that bad. You can come up with a solid plan in just a few weeks and not years, like many managers seem to believe.

Follow the 7 steps below and contact us when you’re ready to invest in a customized leadership training program.

  1. Assess Their Skills: have your managers take pre-training assessments to see what areas they need to improve on most.
  2. Plan For Future Needs: create your leadership development plan in a way that makes it quick and straightforward to customize for each manager that needs training. This makes your job much easier when you scale and hire or promote new managers in the future.
  3. Compare Leadership Development Programs and Workshops: don’t just choose the first training program you find that seems decent. Compare your options and make sure what you get is what you need.
  4. Invest in a Customized Leadership Training Development Plan: “one size fits all” leadership plans might sound like a good idea, but trust us, they are not. Your leadership training should be tailored to suit the learning styles and unique needs of your managers.
  5. Align Training Objectives With the Needs of the Individual and the Company: what you teach in training should line up with the unique needs of the manager and the goals of the company.
  6. Provide Honest and Constructive Feedback: telling a manager what they need to improve on without telling them how they can do it is ineffective and negatively impacts their confidence.
  7. Continue Their Education With Follow-Up Training: leadership development is an ongoing process, so the training should never stop. Offer follow-up training on a consistent schedule and ask your managers to provide feedback on the training.

Download Your Free Guide to Managing Humans

Are you ready to create leadership development plans that are going to provide you the results you want? Do you want to be able to measure and track the effectiveness of your leadership training?

Managing humans is challenging, and there’s always more to learn. That’s why our experts have put together a free guide to help.

You’ll learn how to help your managers create effective daily habits, manage their time better, resolve conflicts, inspire greatness, and much more.

Download your free copy of the guide and start developing better leaders today.

Receive your free guide here: A Tactical Field Guide to Managing Humans

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