There are a variety of methods used for training leaders with billions of dollars spent annually. According to the American Society for Training and Development 2012 State of Industry Report, $87.5 billion was spent in 2011 on internal employee training. With this significant investment, organizations must review whether their training and development strategies are delivering cost-effective results.

With economic pressures to operate lean and profitable, training and talent development departments are vulnerable to budget cuts. The days of broad-stroked training and development methods, hoping that learning sticks, are a bygone luxury. So what is the best strategy for organizations to grow leadership performance and skills while operating leanly?

The #1 strategy to cost-effectively increase leadership effectiveness and grow talent is to conduct leadership development assessments (Self or 360-degree). Assessment results spotlight the specific skills that need further development and improvement at the individual and team levels and s#1 Development Strategyubsequently give focus to training and development efforts. Leadership development assessments save training time and money because development activities will target only those skill areas where further growth is needed as shown by the assessment data. Additionally, when done in teams, these assessments reveal data about skill weaknesses that may be common to the team.

Let’s take the example of one of our clients, Carol (name changed to protect confidentiality) and her team. We conducted 360-degree assessments for Carol and her leadership team. First, Carol discovered that her interpersonal skills needed improvement. This weak area was diminishing her credibility as respondents perceived her as difficult to work with. While this may not seem like a major problem, it was critical to have the entire department and those that supported her department motivated so they could meet their revenue goals. She realized that she set the tone and unquestionably took positive steps to improve with our coaching.

Additionally, Carol found that her entire leadership team, including herself, scored low in talent management skills. Due to heavy work loads and tight deadlines, the leadership team was not focused on individual development, nor did they have a talent management strategy. These results explained why some of her best people were leaving for opportunities elsewhere. Again, Carol took positive actions to adjust the leadership team’s priorities by training her leaders in effective coaching practices and by setting a talent management strategy within her department. With our temporary assistance and coaching, her team was able to get more comfortable with coaching and talent management processes. The following year her department exceeded their biggest revenue objectives to date.

Leadership development assessments are used to grow leaders in the critical skills which are tied to success. When leaders have excellent skills, teams and organizations typically get better results, as was the case in Carol’s department.

If you desire to grow yourself and your team, the first action you should take is to conduct an assessment so you know what development actions to target; thus saving you time and money while providing an accurate and data-driven focus to your development efforts.

For further information, see customized 360-degree leadership assessments. For information on self-initiated leadership assessments, see The Leadership Compass: Mapping Your Leadership Direction to conduct your own self-assessment and to get our recommendations for improving in critical leadership competencies.

Sidney McDonald

Author, executive coach, and leadership expert, Sidney works with university and corporate clients in growing their talent and results within all levels of the organization.

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