Learning and development
Learning and development are probably among the most important functions of an organization. Effective developmental programs are rare and hard to design; furthermore, there are few ready-made solutions. However, there are some general rules and patterns that should be followed in order to maximize the effectiveness of the learning process and achieve impressive results.
Noel M. Tichy (1997) compares and contrasts old and brand-new ways to pass the knowledge from an inspired leader to his or her co-workers. There are several areas that deserve particular attention, and they are Ideas, Values, Energy, Edge, Leadership Focus, and Senior Executive Role.
In each of the areas there are specific guidelines to follow. For instance, when dealing with Ideas, it’s important to maintain a focus on larger issues instead of details. The conventional approach suggests coaching on day-to-day problems rather than on strategic questions, and development programs are theoretical, based on cases taught by professors. New approach implies that coaching should rest upon leader’s own ideas, challenging people to create their own points of view.
Development programs should be practical, and the discussion of real business issues should prevail. This goes in line with the advices suggested in the book ‘Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience’:
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Leading global companies have already pioneered many of the innovative practices discussed here. For example, General Electric’s Leadership Development Center is more f a discussion forum, where knowledge circulates freely among different parties. It is there ‘that everyone from important customers and partners to present and future GE leaders – thousands of people each year – come together to identify opportunities and debate the issues facing business around the world’ (General Electric, 2007, para.3).
In terms of values, it’s necessary to make them comprehensible and convenient to relate to. Managers often put forward some organizational values, which are often superficial messages for everybody and nobody. It’s advisable that leaders help people integrate their personal values with the values of the workplace and solve the dilemmas when values contradict.
Energy is particularly important for training successful and productive workers. In reality, programs deliver a sugar high; this means, by the time people come back to work, it’s all over. This process should be ongoing, and leaders teaching may be used as underlying frameworks for motivation.
Off-the-job training being the most popular type of training for middle and upper level managers, there is a necessity to critically reassess their learning value. Professional trainers devote more attention to time management and priority setting instead of tough decision making, which is by far the most important characteristic of a successful leader. Alternatively, leaders themselves should help people tackle such paradoxes as what to do with employees who do not meet performance or value standards. It’s widely recognized that on-the-job learning offers more opportunities for personal growth. The book suggests developing a concrete action plan and setting a framework for receiving and analyzing feedback.
Designing a proper learning program in leaderships requires a fundamental reevaluation of the concept itself. Leadership is understood as a collection of technical skills in strategy, finance and other fields. In reality, teaching leadership in an effective is based on hard and soft issues and on personal leadership stories. As the book indicates, soft skills such ad listening, managing conflict, or building relationship with each other are hard to measure and transmit. Therefore, learning from a leader is the only viable solution when it comes to such skills.
The implementation of developmental program is also very important. While design and planning play a crucial role, many mistakes occur at the stage of implementation. Too often do senior executives sponsor development programs, parading in and out of them periodically. Effective leadership implies that senior executives are active participants, leading all or substantial portions of leadership development initiatives. They should support employees when they are meeting serious learning challenges.
In short, the best template for designing an effective developmental program was suggested by Maryann Billington (2003) as consisting of certain steps. As a rule, it’s necessary to: 1) Identify the goals and destination for organizational learning; 2) Define the desired skills and behaviors; 3) Determine skills and abilities using assessment tools; 4) Measure the gap; 5) Identify training and learning options; 6) Craft the learning solution; 7) Execute the learning plan; 8) Measure progress and performance; 9) Constantly evaluate and adjust course.
Hughes R.L., Ginnett, R.C. & Curphy, C.J. (2006). Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience (5th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Tichy, Noel M. (Fall 1997). ‘The Mark of a Winner.’ Leader to Leader, 6, 24-29. Retrieved February 20, 2007, from http://www.leadertoleader.org/knowledgecenter/L2L/fall97/tichy.html
Billington, Maryann. (2003). ‘Training/Learning: What Fits Your Company?’ Retrieved February 20, 2007, from
General Electric. (2007). ‘John F. Welch Leadership Center.’ Retrieved February 20, 2007, from