Developing Leaders – What Do They Need?

Several years ago, I was asked to be part of a team tasked with developing a leadership training program for the Northern California region of a large healthcare system. This particular project was focused on developing leaders within the Environmental Services departments across 21 hospitals in the region. We were to standardize a plan that would allow people to grow through three levels of leadership (supervisor, manager, director) and transfer seamlessly from one hospital to another. We started from scratch.

We decided to follow the advice of Stephen Covey and “Begin with the end in mind.” Our approach was to begin by identifying the knowledge and skills required of an advanced director asking “What does that leader look like?” Then we worked backward, peeling away one level of advanced competency after another until we arrived at the base requirement for a first-time supervisor. Our team identified 78 specific skills. We categorized them under a list of 14 competencies that reflected the organization’s 9 Core “Total Performance Behaviors.”  This ensured that the program aligned with the organization’s method of evaluating leadership performance.

We then worked on three levels of development for each of the three positions. Whether a person was a supervisor, a manager, or a director, we developed training that focused on

  1. “Foundations” – the basics for that position
  2. “Full Success” – what a proficient person at that level would look like
  3. “Next Level Prep” – which was getting them ready for promotion

Here’s an example

One of the core behaviors this organization wanted to see in their leaders was that they  “Champion Innovation and Change.” Below are the competencies and skills at each developmental level that we identified.

  1. Core Total Performance Behavior – “Champions Innovation and Change”
    1.  Competency 1 – “Models Change Leadership”
      1. Skill 1 – Understands the business need for change. Facilitates the adoption of change through engagement and role-modeling
        1. Foundations
          1. Communicates the case for change to staff
          2. Develops basic change plans to accelerate staff engagement and adoption.
        2. Full Success
          1. Produces comprehensive change plans that include; stakeholder management, plans for engaging staff, plans for early wins, and strategies for building momentum and post-implementation sustainability
          2. Generates buy-in with staff, celebrates their willingness to change, and acknowledges them for great work
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Provides Change Leadership on behalf of the Manager for Service Area wide change initiatives
          2. Implements sustainable changes within the department that become best practices
      2. Skill 2 – Provides Change Leadership for special projects involving labor and management (re-bid / re-balance, new space opening, re-organizing workflows, fixing problems, etc)
        1. Foundations
          1. Knows who to enlist to support the change (staff, HR, Labor Leaders, Department Managers, etc.)
          2. Articulates basic actions needed to move forward with a change
        2. Full Success
          1. Articulates changes that need to happen, and works with stakeholders to determine impacts to the stakeholders and strategies/tactics needed to enlist support (Staff, HR, Labor Leaders, Department Managers etc)
          2. Develops basic project plan and schedule to achieve change
          3. Has delivered special projects
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Develops and negotiates clear roles for all leaders and support functions involved in the change
          2. Creates comprehensive project, risk, and change management plans for special projects.
          3. Has delivered complex special projects
    2. Competency 2 – “Encourages Participation in Change and Innovation”
      1. Skill – Encourages staff to offer ideas about better ways of accomplishing work
        1. Foundations
          1. Creates opportunities and makes time for staff participation and ideas in decision-making about work.
          2. Encourages staff to test new ideas
        2. Full Success
          1. Leverages tests of change and analyzes failures to build sustainable solutions.
          2. Uses both success and failure of tested ideas as learning opportunities for the staff
        3. Next Level Prep
          1. Maintains a portfolio of improvements and tests of change planned or underway
          2. Acknowledges improvement ideas offered by staff that have been converted into practice.

Here’s Why

No matter what you want to create or develop, it begins with a clear picture of the finished product in your mind. Whether you’re baking a cake, building a skyscraper, or developing a leader, you start by knowing what the finished product will look like.

That finished product, especially in the case of a leader, will reflect what your organization needs from them. What do you need them to do for you? Once you know that, then you develop the picture of what they need to have and be able to do in order to deliver what you need.

The next several posts will be on the topic of developing leaders. I started where we should start in that process, identifying what they need in order to deliver what your organization needs from someone in that role. Whether or not you’re currently looking for a new leader (hint: you should always be looking for new leaders), I encourage you to invest the time and energy into creating a “what they need” list. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as the one we created for that healthcare system, but put some thought into it. It will pay huge dividends.

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