Designing Development to Impact Business Results






During my last few blogs, we have discussed the first five best practices of leadership development. Here, we’ll chat about the last best practice: applying targeted solutions.

When developing others, executive engagement (the first best practice) is critical  — in crafting the leadership strategy and leadership development strategy, in promoting learning across the organization, in defining the content ensuring its alignment with critical business goals, in imparting critical messages to the leader participants, in ensuring that the organization has the resources necessary to support the development activities, and in embracing an organizational culture that values individual leader growth and organizational capability by providing targeted development opportunities.

What Is Targeted Leadership Development

Targeted development refers to customized learning opportunities for each leader level in order to reap the maximum business impact and benefit. It’s not about looking only at building individual leaders’ capabilities, but also at closing whatever gaps a large number of leaders may have and building targeted solutions and development programs to raise the bar in those areas.

Targeted solutions are about working towards a learning and leadership development environment where leaders have opportunities to learn in a variety of ways (the 70% and 20% of the 70-20-10 rule) outside of the traditional classroom (the 10% of the 70-20-10 rule). This doesn’t mean that an organization’s leader development strategy should eliminate traditional face-to-face learning experiences, but it does mean that to develop this most effective learning environment, in addition to face-to-face development, organizations should work on an implementation strategy for one or more of the following development approaches:

·         Coaching;

·         Mentoring;

·         Action learning;

·         Cross-training;

·         Job shadowing;

·         Special assignments; and

·         On-the-job training.


Working on these strategies enables developing leaders to experience learning in the context of their daily work and by collaborating and partnering with others. In this fashion, an organization and its leaders have a clearer vision of the competencies needed to achieve the organization’s business goals and increase the competitiveness of the organization.


In short, targeted leadership development builds a high performance workforce. It is the answer to the gap that many companies have reported to us regarding their shortfall in their talent pipeline (see our High Impact Leadership Development for the 21st Century report) and it distinguishes organizations who are able to compete and thrive versus those who are failing. 

Targeted Leadership Development Best Practices

As you develop your targeted leadership solutions, consider these 9 best practices:

·         Define leadership competencies needed for future business growth: derive these from a review of your business goals.  

·         Determine leaders’ skills gaps: use of a 360 is recommended to determine where individual leaders, and groups of leaders, may have development opportunity in one or more of your critical competencies.

·         Define each of your leader audiences: in our model, we define six audiences (emerging leaders, front-line leaders, mid-level leaders, senior leaders, executives, and high potentials) but you may have a different number.

·         Design a blended development solution: place leaders in intense “let me experience it” type assignments (as listed above — the 70-20 part of the equation) with precisely described development challenges.

·         Implement signature development programs for each leader level: ensuring that each program is threaded and linked to the program preceding and following it for continuous and progressive leader development in each of the critical competencies.

·         Create individual leader development plans: link personal objectives to one or more of your business-driven leadership competencies (rather than to generic competency models).

·         Re-evaluate development opportunities regularly:  for possible changes needed in design, or even retirement of the opportunity, to stay aligned with leaders’ goals and business goals.

·         Hold regular, open dialogues: between participating leaders and their managers to monitor development progress and leader engagement.

·         Define metrics for success upfront: before designing and implementing any development opportunity, HR business partners should dialogue with business unit leaders to determine what leader behavior success looks like to ensure development opportunities are aligned.

If organizational leaders take the time to implement these targeted leadership development ideas, they have the opportunity to build the kind of workforce that their organization needs to promote lasting cultural shifts needed to accomplish its goals and remain competitive. As Peter Drucker states, “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes …but no plans.”

What does your targeted leadership development look like? Please write to me  to share your best practices and continue our discussion on how best to evolve targeted development to prepare your leaders to take on the challenges of the 21st century.

Andrea Derler

Andrea Derler, Ph.D., joined Bersin by Deloitte in March 2015 and leads the Leadership & Succession Management research practice. She brings international work experience as leadership trainer & coach and a solid academic background to this role. Prior to joining Bersin, she collaborated closely with organizations in the USA as well as Europe in order to pursue practice-oriented leadership research. Andrea studied international management, organizational culture and integral leadership and facilitated leadership development efforts in a variety of industries. She holds a doctoral degree in Economics (Leadership & Organization), and a Master’s degree in Philosophy. Her work about leaders’ Ideal Employee recently received wide-spread media attention in Europe and was published in the Leadership & Organization Development Journal

4 thoughts on “Designing Development to Impact Business Results

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  2. Leadership is an important factor that can easily lead an undertaking to success. The ideas you shared are truly worthy and though leadership development seems like a long and tedious process, for sure, in the long run it will allow you to relax comfortably on your very own[url=]ergonomic chair[/url].

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