Over the last couple of weeks I have had multiple discussions about the topic of “leaders as teachers” approach for leadership development. This is an important concept and can be very powerful. Companies that want to maintain a competitive edge in their industry must move from a purely training organization to a learning organization – one that continuously shares new skills throughout its workforce.
At Textron, executives teach modules of senior level programs. This approach has been highly regarded by participants as a sign that they “care” and believe in the messages they are transmitting. Participants can have immediate discussions with executives. And not only is it unique opportunity for an executive to get “the ears” of so many of the company’s leaders at one time, but most participants would never have the opportunity to talk with a senior executive in this type of forum otherwise. Over time this practice has become embedded in the company’s culture and executives now expect to be invited each year to participate as a “facilitator.” If they are not asked, they are disappointed and question why not.
At TSYS, a large global provider of call center and telecommunication solutions, the approach has become so popular that leaders have to “apply” to teach. If they are selected, they must commit to a full year’s worth of teaching. This strategy has been very successful in creating continuity of courses, and has become a highly-valued learning experience for the leader-teachers as well. According to TSYS’s director of learning and development, the leaders who are teaching have increased their skill levels in presenting, facilitating, coaching, problem solving, and developing others.
This model works particularly well in companies that are going through a major transformation (e.g., their business strategy is changing, they are restructuring, and there is a need to rebuild core competencies across the workforce). Consider the tremendous changes which have taken place at HP:
HP has utilized the leaders teaching leaders approach in the implementation of a new “transformational” program that touches all of their employees. The CEO, Mark Hurd, led the charge by teaching the top 200-plus leaders at HP and set the expectations that these leaders do the same; and then the next level, and so on. Leaders customize content at each level to incorporate both corporate-level and local-level messaging, to make the program highly relevant and localized for participants. The program at HP was meant to deliver core messages of business strategy and values consistently while allowing business leaders to integrate business-specific information.
Our research clearly shows that “leaders teaching leaders” offers many benefits:
Some considerations before using this approach:
In today’s tight economy, we believe “leaders teaching leaders” is one of the most important elements to consider in your leadership strategy.
Are you implementing a “Leaders as Teachers” delivery model? If so, tell us about it.
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Kim Lamoureux is one of the most well-rounded experts across the various areas of talent management. She writes on various topics in talent acquisition including integrating with talent management, improving quality of hire for critical jobs, leveraging social recruiting to build talent pools, and building a global recruiting function.
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