Employee Development

A CEO’s guide to developing their leaders

a man discussing qualities of the best executive coaches

No leader reaches the peak of success on their own. Great leaders work hard to hire a diverse and resilient team. They share a clear mission, vision and purpose. They ensure everyone on their team knows why their role is relevant and important to the strategy. And even then, great CEOs realize, that’s just the beginning.

Successful CEOs are always striving to improve and continue learning, and their teams want that for themselves too. In our Q1 2021 Vistage CEO Confidence Index survey, 91% of CEOs said training and development of their employees was important or very important. This investment is key to achieving objectives and to retaining an engaged workforce, especially as the battle for talent escalates. Yet, with so many options, it can be difficult to determine which approach to learning and development will work best for your company.

In speaking with hundreds of leaders over the years, I’ve noticed that there are some best practices that make certain employee learning and development programs more effective:

  1. Real-life application to your goals: Rather than training programs that last just a day or a week and are quickly forgotten, the most successful development programs are ongoing, with follow up that helps to integrate the learning into the actual work. Gaining inspiration from books is important, but becomes exponentially more valuable when the team comes together to discuss what they learned and how it can be applied to their company.
  2.  A common approach: When everyone in the organization has the same set of values and follows the same framework, teams become aligned, leading to improved collaboration and problem-solving. Having a common language pulls the team back on track when communication lapses or challenges arise.
  3. Outside perspectives from beyond the walls of your organization: When employees come together with people outside their organization from diverse backgrounds and experiences, they can tap into new ways of thinking – fresh perspectives that challenge the status quo. External perspectives that aren’t constrained by institutional knowledge can offer fresh, objective perspectives on a solution.
  4. Applies to all levels of leadership: Great leaders recognize that the most innovative ideas can come from any level of the organization, and tap into that concept when considering training and development. The best training programs are not one size fits all. They meet your employees where they are, and honor their unique role within the company and how it contributes to the collective success. Your employees’ growth and engagement not only has an impact on your goals but leads to better retention and a culture of learning that’s a benefit to all.
  5. Coaches with business acumen and track record of success: Coaches who’ve occupied the C-Suite and run large organizations innately understand how to translate the CEO’s goals into a learning and development program for the entire organization, from high-potential leaders to middle managers to senior management. They make sure that leaders at each level are equipped with the skills and competencies they need to execute. You want someone who knows when to serve as a coach versus a mentor, who asks the right thought-provoking questions, and brings to bear the best resources.

Without great employees who are equipped with the right skills and competencies, even the smartest strategies will fail. The best leaders will tell you that investing in people yields better teamwork, improved collaboration and decision-making, and better results. They ensure their teams develop the capability to succeed in a constantly shifting environment. That means giving their people a voice in their organization, and ensuring they have autonomy and competence to act. Most importantly, success comes from developing a culture of ongoing learning, development and mentoring. This belief that there is “always more to learn” allows organizations to overcome today’s setbacks and prepare for tomorrow’s challenges and successes.

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About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio

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