Stop the waste! Two ways to drive your leadership development budget further

While reading the McKinsey Quarterly the other day, I had a flashback to my former incarnation as the Head of Marketing for a retailer with a multimillion dollar budget.

My mentor at the time had introduced me to a famous dictum attributed to Lord Leverhulme, the founder of what is Unilever today. “Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half!”

Wasting half your budget

Leverhulme’s dictum is not as relevant in advertising today with the advent of Google Ad words and targeted social media.  Instead, I can hear his words being lamentably paraphrased by CEO’s around the globe: “Half my leadership development budget is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half!”

Despite leadership development sitting at the top of many CEO’s priority list and an estimated $50 billion spent annually growing future leaders, many leadership development programs fail (See McKinsey Quarterly January 2014). So why do we continue to waste so much money on programmes that are so ineffective?

4 Success factors

Fortunately, McKinsey’s research details four factors that drive successful and effective leadership development programmes, namely:

  • Focusing on the behaviour that really matters;
  • Designing programs for the transfer of learning;
  • Ensuring sufficient reach across the organisation; and
  • Using system reinforcement to lock in change.

Behaviour not Competencies

For me, 2 things stood out from the research. Firstly, successful leadership-development programs were eight times more likely than unsuccessful ones to focus on leadership  behaviours that were critical drivers of business performance. My takeaway? Competencies don’t count – behaving appropriately does. That’s why leadership development programmes incorporating behaviour based assessments tools such as the LMAP or MMAP 360 are more effective; they are focused on shifting behaviour, not on building competencies to improve leadership effectiveness.

External recognition

Secondly, only 20% of respondents stated digital learning in their organisation was accredited. External recognition increases managers’ confidence to perform and deliver as it validates their skills. Better still, delivering accredited programmes using small chunks of information including video and practical, self-reflective activities work well – and can be delivered in less than an hour at a time.

Lord Leverhulme was undoubtably right over a century ago with advertising expenditure wastage but in today’s digital age, there’s simply no excuse to waste money on leadership development. Accredited digital programmes combined with workshops can help leaders change their behaviour through greater awareness and practice.

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