Become a Leadership Development Sponsor

The most essential ingredient for robust leadership development in your company is senior executive commitment and support.  OK, we can all buy into that…seems logical and necessary.  But if you’re a leadership development professional, how do you get senior leaders on board?  And if you are a senior leader, how can you get involved?

Let’s start with attracting the attention of senior executives.  Here are three “must haves” to get them onboard and involved:

1. Show them the ROI. Normally, I’m not big on ROI, because I believe LD has such obvious payback that chasing down esoteric financial estimates seems like a waste of time to me. That said, you need to have a POV on why this is good for the company. Crunch the appropriate numbers, and show them the data – attrition, tenure, time in role, promotion rates, time to fill, promote vs. hire ratios, etc. Make your case that you need to be developing leaders at all levels. Start with the cost to replace someone if you have to go out on the open market – that should get their attention.

2. Show them how to get involved. Describe how you want them to be involved in the process, not just as “reviewers” of talent but as teachers. Get them in the classroom, serving as mentors or coaches, and overall evangelists of LD throughout the company. Show them (specifically) how you want to get them in the mix; stroke their egos if necessary, but get the right leaders involved for the right reasons, with the right attitude and mindset.

3. Put them in a position to succeed. First, you have to ensure their messages are aligned; practice with them to ensure their messages fit what you’re trying to do. I’ve had several embarrassing moments with senior leaders in front of the classroom, and it’s always because we didn’t prep them enough. Check their content, their style, even their jokes. Put them in front of the right audiences, in the right venues, etc. Make it easy for them to participate (travel, schedules, etc.), and then help them succeed. They’ll invariably say how much they enjoyed the experience if you do your homework to set it up properly. If you are a leader in your organization, look around you… does your company have a way for you to get involved in formal (or informal) leadership development efforts? Ask to get involved. Do you have experience you could share as a mentor? Are you comfortable in front of an audience, and do you have a teachable point of view on something of value? Reach out beyond your own extended team and get involved in developing a broader group of leaders within your organization. It’s the right thing to do, you’ll learn something about yourself, and my guess is you’ll have a lot of fun, too. Leadership development is every leader’s job, from the CEO down to the middle management ranks of the company.

If you’re a senior leader in an organization, get out there and get involved in your company’s leadership development efforts!