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For Leadership, Learning & Talent Executives

Part 1: Real-World Problem Selection – How to Ensure Your Programs Change Leadership Behavior

So in last week’s Todd Talk, which we called “Is your organization complaining about the length of your leadership programs?” It’s not what you think, I argued that complaints from our stakeholders about the length of our programs are often just symptoms of a deeper problem. There are often symptomatic that our stakeholders and the people going through the programs don’t feel they’re getting sufficient value from the time that they’re spending on the programs, therefore prematurely caving in to the pressure you’re feeling to reduce the time on your leadership programs can be a big trap for two reasons. Number one, you end up just treating the symptom of the problem, time, and not the core problem, value or the perception of a lack of value. And number two, because the implicit message you might be sending to your stakeholders that your leadership programs weren’t valuable enough in the first place to warrant the amount of time spent on them and thus hurting your credibility.

So instead of reducing the amount of time on your leadership programs, I argued for increasing the perceived and actual value of those programs by ensuring they deliver at least three things. Number one, lasting changes in leadership behavior. Number two, ensuring those new behaviors get applied to solve real problems for the business during the programs. And number three, having some way to showcase the impact on behavior and on the business to your stakeholders. So in this week’s Todd Talk, I’m going to share with you a proven methodology that will enable you to do just that. And I call it my real work process. It’s a proven, widely applicable methodology that you can leverage regardless of leadership behaviors that you’re trying to build, or the consultants you’re partnering with. So in this video, I’m going to deep dive into the first step of the methodology. And in the coming weeks, I’ll share the other steps.

And step one of the methodology is work on real-world problems or RWPs. RWPs are unsolved problems or unseized opportunities that the participants going through your programs, their managers and the business care about, and that are just beyond the reach of their current leadership capabilities to solve. And it’s critical that your leaders going through your programs work on these RWPs for at least three reasons. Number one, because it inspires the leaders going through your programs and their managers to prioritize their development because nothing motivates a leader to learn, grow and change like a problem they care about, but that’s just beyond the reach of their current leadership capabilities to tackle effectively. Number two, because ensures your programs are going to have an impact on the business. So instead of hoping your leaders who are going through your programs will apply what they learned to their real-world problems, have them bring their real-world problems to your programs.

And the third reason why it’s so important to work on real-world problems during your leadership programs is because it immediately increases the perceived value of your programs. And that’s because when your leaders bring real business problems to your programs, and we create an expectation that they’re going to be able to make progress on those things there, it immediately reframes the entire learning and development experience from an optional learning exercise to a vital business tool. So those are just three reasons why you should have your leaders work on their real-world problems during your leadership programs. But there’s a less obvious reason, because in leadership as in life, the difficult problems that we all face contain hidden lessons that have the power to transform us and to enable us to transform the world around us.

And I believe that these lessons must be mined for the benefit of your leaders going through the programs, your organization, and the lives of the numerous people that your leaders touch. So I hope you found this valuable, and I look forward to talking to you about step two next week. But in the meantime, be candid, be compassionate, be collaborative, but most of all, be curious.

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