Learning and development is a leadership responsibility: How you can take the initiative when it comes to L&D
We at CQ Net support managers and professionals to develop their employees, teams and organizations with evidence-based practices to the next performance level. This approach is based on the assumption that learning and development (L&D) is a key leadership responsibility. This is in contrast to the mainstream understanding of L&D which is mainly seen as a responsibility of the human resource (HR) department or external organizational development consultants. Taking this into consideration the question arises how managers and professionals can get into the driver seat when it comes to L&D. We collected a set of interventions that will help you to strengthen your and your organization’s L&D competencies.
Learn the social sciences basics necessary for effective L&D interventions
Many of the concepts and theories you need for effective L&D interventions are rooted in social sciences. For instance, goal setting theory which is widely used in organizations around the world was first introduced by pychologists Locke and Latham (2002). Self Determination Theory (SDT) which provides general guidance on how basic psychological needs drive motivation goes back to Gagné and Deci (2005). Strategy as Practice (SAP) is a new and promising field in the area of strategic management which is rooted in sociology and organizational studies (Whittington 1996). In contrast to the rather static and formal understanding of strategy, SAP accounts for a dynamic and context-driven understanding of strategy which opens-up a totally different approach to strategy development and implementation.
Have you ever heard about those theories and approaches? Most properly not unless you completed a study in (social) psychology, organizational studies or a related scientific field. However, most of those theories and frameworks are the very basis for effective L&D interventions. In addition, there is plenty of scientific evidence available that makes them “must know” for any manager and professional who wants to move from speculation to impact.
Don’t take us wrong. We don’t want you to get an academic degree in social psychology or organizational behaviour. There are numerous other ways to build your knowledge in those areas. You can for instance read some of the peer reviewed journal papers listed below that address topics relevant for your specific business challenge. You could also sign-up for one of our Evidence-based Management Learning Teams (EBMLT) or just the related CQ Dossiers. Every EBMLT covers a wealth of evidence-based knowledge carefully curated and distilled for managers and professionals like you. In addition, there are numerous other online resource available that provide you insights into the foundation of people and organizational development.
Select and promote the right people into leadership positions
When you want your organization to learn and thrive you have to recruit and promote the right leaders. Your organization will only reach the next level when they embrace people and organizational development as being their responsibility. While this sounds obvious, reality tells a different story. How do you hire and promote people for management positions? It is still very common that organizations make selection & assessment decisions based on gut feeling, technical skills only and other unreliable selection methods such as unstructured interviews (Rynes et al. 2002). There is a wealth of research that provides you evidence-based practices on how to select and promote the right people into leadership positions. Knowing those practices puts you also in a position to conduct L&D interventions in your organization about hiring practices. What are characteristics you should look for when hiring and promoting leaders?
There is no set of characteristics that defines the ideal leader. However, there is a lot of evidence that general cognitive ability also called “g” in combination with personality are two key determinants of successful leaders. In terms of personality it is openness to experience, extroversion, emotional stability and consciousness that predicts leadership performance to a certain extend (Judge et al. 2002). Too much of a good thing can also be a problem. This applies especially to dark personality traits which predict destructive leadership (Boddy 2011). General cognitive ability is one of the strongest predictors of job performance as it is related to learning and problem solving skills (Schmidt 2002) . You are wondering which evidence-based practices you should consider for hiring and promoting leaders? Our EBMLT on selection & assessment provides you the insights into different evidence-bases selection tools.
Put L&D into your organization’s strategy and make it a leadership priority
L&D is not just a leadership and management task. It is a strategic objective each and every organisation has to admire in the short, middle and long run in order grow and prosper. Thus, measures are needed that make sure L&D is always on the radar and finally becomes part of your organization’s DNA. You can achieve this goal by putting L&D into your organization’s strategy. No matter whether you call it vision, mission, strategy, future state, goal or in a different way. L&D has to be part of it. However, just adding it as a statement on piece of paper or a presentation slide is not sufficient. It is the strategy development process and your transformational leadership (Bass 1990) that makes the difference.
When you want to make L&D a strategic objective in your organization raise this topic during the strategy development process. Discuss the meaning of L&D and what you want to achieve with it with your leadership team and other key people in your organization. This usually requires some time as it involves a discussion and commitment process. It is this extra mile that makes L&D a common and institutionalized target of your organization. Finally, it is not you that wants to achieve it but the whole organization which makes it a powerful and energized narrative that will drive your organization into the right direction (Grant and Marshak 2011).
Conduct team development interventions
It is your responsibility to develop your people and your organization. This requires you to conduct team development interventions both on a regular and situational basis. There are numerous ways to do that. The most common ones are team building and team training interventions (Shuffler et al. 2011).
Team building interventions are most suitable when you want to improve the interpersonal and social interactions of your team (Klein et al. 2009). More specifically, team building targets at building trust and cohesion between team members. One team building approach that can easily be implemented is related to goal setting and role clarification which was found having a positive impact on team performance (Klein et al. 2009). Spend some time with your team to go through your organization’s goals and discuss what has to be done in order to achieve them. Clarify each team member’s contribution and actively seek feedback on how the goals are perceived by each team member. Listen to concerns of your team and take them into consideration which could even require you to re-align some of the goals.
Team training interventions usually start with an analysis of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) a team has to have in order to operate on the desired performance level (Shuffler et al. 2011). Based on the results of the needs analysis you can setup a team training intervention. Leadership, change management, selection and assessment are examples of learning domains of critical relevance for almost any team of managers and professionals. Instead of solely focusing on business related topics in your next team workshop, you could add a time slot for one of these topics. Our CQ Dossier white papers provide you the content-backbone of your team training intervention. They translate years of social science research into distilled, practical advice that is both empirically supported and easy to comprehend.
It's up to you to take the initiative
L&D is a key leadership responsibility. Thus, managers and professionals have to get into the driver seat when it comes to L&D. This requires moving away from calling the HR department or external consultants, but to roll up one's sleeves and learn the basics required to get things done. Evidence-based management resources such as peer reviewed journal paper or learning platforms like CQ Net provide you the necessary knowledge to take the initiative and develop your organization to the next performance level.
Bass, Bernard M. (1990): From transactional to transformational leadership. Learning to share the vision. In: Organizational Dynamics 18 (3), S. 19–31. DOI: 10.1016/0090-2616(90)90061-s.
Boddy, Clive R. (2011): Corporate Psychopaths. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Gagné, Marylène; Deci, Edward L. (2005): Self-determination theory and work motivation. In: J. Organiz. Behav. 26 (4), S. 331–362. DOI: 10.1002/job.322.
Grant, David; Marshak, Robert J. (2011): Toward a Discourse-Centered Understanding of Organizational Change. In: The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 47 (2), S. 204–235. DOI: 10.1177/0021886310397612.
Judge, Timothy A.; Bono, Joyce E.; Ilies, Remus; Gerhardt, Megan W. (2002): Personality and leadership. A qualitative and quantitative review. In: Journal of Applied Psychology 87 (4), S. 765–780. DOI: 10.1037//0021-9010.87.4.765.
Klein, Cameron; DiazGranados, Deborah; Salas, Eduardo; Le, Huy; Burke, C. Shawn; Lyons, Rebecca; Goodwin, Gerald F. (2009): Does Team Building Work? In: Small Group Research 40 (2), S. 181–222. DOI: 10.1177/1046496408328821.
Locke, Edwin A.; Latham, Gary P. (2002): Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation. A 35-year odyssey. In: American Psychologist 57 (9), S. 705–717. DOI: 10.1037//0003-066X.57.9.705.
Rynes, Sara L.; Colbert, Amy E.; Brown, Kenneth G. (2002): HR Professionals' beliefs about effective human resource practices. Correspondence between research and practice. In: Hum. Resour. Manage. 41 (2), S. 149–174. DOI: 10.1002/hrm.10029.
Schmidt, Frank L. (2002): The Role of General Cognitive Ability and Job Performance. Why There Cannot Be a Debate. In: Human Performance 15 (1-2), S. 187–210. DOI: 10.1080/08959285.2002.9668091.
Shuffler, Marissa L.; DiazGranados, Deborah; Salas, Eduardo (2011): There’s a Science for That. In: Curr Dir Psychol Sci 20 (6), S. 365–372. DOI: 10.1177/0963721411422054.
Whittington, Richard (1996): Strategy as practice. In: Long Range Planning 29 (5), S. 731–735. DOI: 10.1016/0024-6301(96)00068-4.
Markus is one of the founders of CQ and leads trainings in the area of Management and Mechanical Engineering. He holds a Master and Doctoral Degree in Economics and Computer Science from the Technical University of Vienna and a MSc in Organisational Behaviour from Birkbeck College, University of London. Being a dedicated "Knowledge Worker", Markus has continued his career with various private sector assignments in the management consulting, automotive and mechanical engineering industry.