Leadership development cannot only be done through classroom training. This reality has now been accepted by most Indian organizations when they think about developing their leadership pipeline.
As a result, most organizations are now looking at creating leadership incubators to impart the required leadership and management skills in their high potential employees but also to put them in situation to assess their ability to apply learning and to lead others. We call these leadership incubators or greenhouse programs.
Different organizations have different ways of conducting these incubators but some commonalities are present in most of them. Incubators are usually conducted over a few months and include, in respect with the 70-20-10 guideline, learning modules, on the job coaching and action learning group working on real life business problem statements with a pitch to senior management as a conclusion to the entire leadership development initiative.
Action learning has been on L&D lips for a long time but was, at least or some organizations, limited to peer discussions on personal action plans. This is probably the most important change to leadership development training in the last few years. Today, organizations expect participants to be able to provide solutions to real business problems and are sometimes ready to fund these. Groups of 5 to 10 participants are given a problem statement by senior management and are expected to present their solution to the CxO suite by the end of the incubation period. The advantage for organizations is certain: they can observe the how each participant behaves during the incubation period, how motivated they are by the challenge thrown at them, especially since this needs to be done over their normal workload, and also get cross-functional groups of managers to work and provide solutions to different problems the business is facing at the time.
In order to enable on the job coaching, organizations have started investing in training senior management in coaching skills so that they can effectively support participants that are engaged in leadership incubator programs Often, each action learning group is assigned one senior manager to coach them in their project work and eventually help open doors internally for them to access relevant information and/or people. Building coaching skills in senior managers also enables them to follow up on the use of psychometric tools. Until recently, usage of psychometrics was mostly limited to a self-awareness exercise in the classroom was not really build on after the learning events were completed. Training senior managers in in becoming coaches also allows psychometrics to become the basis for future coaching when learners get back on the floor. This makes these psychometrics a lot more impactful as they become a kind of silver-lining to future development discussions.
Overall, leadership incubators are an effective way to assess how participants apply learning that classroom training alone might not allow, their potential to lead others and provides solutions to real business problems. For participants, it is a more engaging way to develop critical skills that they will need as they grow in the organization but also a sign that their leadership trusts them to solve mission-critical problems.
I am an Organizational Development professional based in Bangalore, India. I blog about my learning from my past experience in the corporate world and some reflections coming out of discussions I engage in with some of my friends, colleagues, clients and participants from around the world.
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