Leadership training isn’t just for leaders. If your organization is thinking about leadership training too narrowly, you could be missing out on big opportunities to improve communication, collaboration, and productivity across your enterprise.
Companies often view leadership training as something that’s helpful for new managers, as well as junior managers looking to advance within the organization. But it can actually be helpful for just about everyone in your organization.
That’s because leadership is more than just a title; it’s about how you act and react to people and situations. It’s about improving “people skills” as opposed to technical skills, answering questions such as: How do I communicate more effectively? How do I resolve unproductive conflict? How do I build relationships to help get things done?
Here are several reasons to look at leadership training more broadly.
Today’s Uncertain Labor Market
With record levels of employees voluntarily leaving companies as well as workers taking early retirement, companies are recognizing the need to improve their “bench strength” at every level.
It’s not only about preparing senior director-level talent to move into a VP or CxO role, but also about backfilling director spots, training managers to move into director roles, and preparing talented, ambitious individual contributors to make the move into management.
Leadership training can also help with retention. When employees see that their company is making an investment in them and helping prepare them to advance in their careers, it increases satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty.
The “Superstar” Problem
Quite often, the people who get promoted into management positions are those who are strong performers as individual contributors, whether in finance, marketing, operations, or another function.
This is particularly true of salespeople. The hope of management is that by promoting their top-performing sales person into a sales leadership role, they can replicate that strong performance.
But for many people, making the leap from being a strong individual performer to becoming an effective leader is challenging. That individual became very good at accounting, or sales, or whatever their role may have been, by honing their technical skills over many years. Leading others, however, requires a very different skillset.
The problem is that many companies don’t have the structure or training process in place to mentor the new mentor. So, new leaders are left on their own. That’s where leadership training comes in; pulling them out of the office gives them an opportunity to stop and think.
It starts with a behavioral assessment, asking the new leader to look in the mirror first, to be able to say, “This is what drives me in the workplace. This is how I communicate. This is how I interact with people.”
Then we ask them to flip the mirror and say, “Okay, these are the people whom I now work with. How do they behave in the workplace? How do they communicate? How do I interact with them?” Leading becomes less about the leader and more about the team they manage.
It’s Not About You
In making the move from individual contributor to leader, the employee needs to shift their focus from doing a task well to increasing the skills of others. It can be tempting for new leaders to keep “doing the work,” which leads to lack of focus, resentment from the team, and even burn out.
It’s challenging to go from managing one’s own to-do list to leading a team of people, each with their own task lists. An individual who may have been comfortable as an individual contributor in sales or accounting is now being pulled into more meetings, called upon to resolve conflicts, and asked to coach others.
They may know that having regular one-on-one meetings with their team members is part of their role, but they may not understand how to get the most out of these. Those individual conversations are more than just a status check—that can be done with email. They are opportunities to coach, to make sure employees are engaged, and to help them improve their direct or indirect job skills.
Leadership training helps managers to not only do the right things, but to do those things consistently well.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Any work team may include one person who is eager to get promoted; another who loves their role and never wants to get promoted; another who has young children at home and whose focus is therefore on work-life balance; and others, each with their own priorities.
Managing each of those people requires a somewhat different skillset or approach. Being an effective leader requires learning how to recognize and adjust to those different perspectives.
Individuals often under-perform or limit themselves because of obstacles they’ve unconsciously placed in their own way. It may be an attitude, a belief, or a shortcoming they are unaware of.
Leadership training helps managers help employees to recognize the limitations or hurdles they’ve placed in their own way, so they work to change those things. The employee often can’t articulate why they’re not performing; they can’t figure it out. Leaders need to understand different approaches they can try to help the employee see the answers that are right in front of them.
Managing Up, Down, and Across
It’s clear why new leaders and even experienced managers can benefit from leadership training, but what about that employee who loves being an individual contributor and isn’t interested in a promotion to management—how can leadership training benefit them?
First, it helps them learn to “manage up” more proficiently; to influence their boss so they can get what they need in order to be more productive in their job. The basis of leadership training is empathy and communication, which can improve outcomes when an employee is talking to their boss just as much as when the boss is coaching that employee.
Second, it helps people to “manage across” more effectively. A great deal of work today is done collaboratively. Employees rely on others, in their own department or other parts of the business, in order to accomplish goals. The ability to influence others is just as important when working with a peer who is not a direct report as it is when managing and coaching subordinates.
Third, it helps employees to better understand how their manager thinks, and why they do or say certain things. Developing the ability to understand that perspective helps employees to ask better questions when meeting with their manager, and to improve that working relationship.
Finally, most employees value increasing their skills, and appreciate their employer investing in them. This may mean direct skills like sales training or classes with CPE credits. It may mean learning indirectly helpful knowledge like presentation skills. Or it may mean enhancing their interpersonal relationship skills through leadership training.
Wrapping It Up – the Best Leadership Training Programs
Leadership training can benefit virtually every employee in an organization in some way. And it’s a wise investment for companies to make: it helps increase retention, develop bench strength, assist employees with the transition from being strong individual contributors to effective leaders, and help non-management employees better communicate up and across the organization.
Among the key skills employees develop through leadership training are communicating more effectively; resolving conflicts; coaching and developing others; goal setting and time management; strategic thinking; and relationship building.
Leadership and professional development programs offered by Best Corporate Events include:
Managing conflict effectively can make the difference between a simple “bump in the road” or lost productivity and long-term animosity in the workplace. Participants learn strategies to engender a workplace culture better equipped to handle conflict.
Participants are introduced to the DiSC Model, a behavior assessment tool that helps professionals understand their own styles of behavior and communication, as well as those of their colleagues.
Learning how to manage these styles can help participants eliminate bad habits, minimize conflict, and improve the overall success of their team.
Constructive guidance and consistent coaching are critical responsibilities of all managers, but the best managers utilize proven coaching practices that can strengthen relationships, bolster trust, and reap the benefits of open and positive communication.
An Emotionally Intelligent company is one in which each member understands their Emotional Quotient (E.Q.) and how best to tap into it for professional growth. Applying E.I. within an organization can build trust and encourage open communication.
In short, as noted in the opening, leadership training isn’t just for leaders. Employees at all levels can benefit from learning how to productively influence others. These training programs are ultimately about helping your team members better understand each other by first learning more about themselves.