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Getting the Most from Leadership Development – Part 1

October 19 2020 - by Dr. Lois Parkes, Leadership Development and Institutional Strengthening Specialist,CARICAD

The real costs for the design, development and delivery of a robust Leadership Development Programme is by no means cheap. Depending on the length and depth, global market-value fees for a leadership development programme can range from as low as USD$7,500 to USD$75,000. With the growing recognition that leadership capability is critical for organizational success, more organisations and individuals are investing in leadership development. However, that question remains – what is the return on investment? Are we getting the most from this investment?

Typically, organisations will select employees for participation in a leadership development and/or coaching programme, because they see potential for greater growth in this individual. Many times, it is because they see gaps in their leadership competencies that desperately need to be closed. They send the employee to the programme, and then ask the Programme Facilitator how the person is progressing.

However, for the organisation to get the most from an investment in Leadership Development, there are some vital steps that most precede and proceed the intervention:

  1. Give feedback. The employee needs to be provided with comprehensive feedback on their performance, strengths and gaps, prior to the programme. If they are being considered for future promotion, they need to understand what it will take for them to be fully prepared for that promotion. If there are serious performance gaps that are creating challenges for the organisation or the team, these need to be clearly articulated. More importantly, the employee needs to own their deficiencies, and be willing to work on improving same. Without that awareness and acceptance of the need for improvement, the weak employee will simply attend the programme, and select elements of the learning that they construe as being in support of their maladjusted leadership behaviour, and reject all the rest (this is called cognitive dissonance).
  2. Define the expectations. Once there is clarity and agreement flowing from effective feedback, the expectations from engagement in the programme need to identified. What are the improvements in leadership behaviour that are expected? What will be the indicators of success? Some examples might include greater ability to manage team performance, operate more collaboratively, greater emotional awareness and control, better management of conflict, exercising greater levels of assertiveness and confidence. It is not only important to define the expectations, but also how will it known that these expectations have been met.
  3. Develop a transfer of learning strategy. During and after the leadership learning intervention, there is a need to work with your employee to understand what they are learning through the programme. The real return on investment comes from the application of learning. Help the employee to develop and implement a transfer of learning strategy. For example, if they are learning more about collaboration, how might they apply this learning on a current work assignment? Application of learning helps to concretize the learning, and to also share the learning to others for the greater organizational and team development. Having such a strategy and ensuring its execution also encourages higher levels of accountability for performance and growth for the employee.
  4. More feedback. Feedback in the process should be on-going, and should not be a one-time event. This allows the organisation to truly follow-up and get the most out of its leadership development investment. Remember, define the gaps to be closed, define the learning goals; define how the gaps will be closed through transfer of learning to the actual job; then evaluate the extent to which you see these gaps being closed.

Never fear having the up-front discussion with the employee on how they need to grow, and what the organisation expects from them after they have engaged in the programme. “You cannot achieve what you have not defined.” – John C. Maxwell




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Keisha Wright - Reply

The post training activities are important to help leadership training recipients to put into practice what they have learnt. Structured Peer Group Support could be instituted for this. Also post training assessment by both trainees and their supervisors could assist with monitoring the impact of trainings. Follow on trainings and opportunities would also be useful in this regard. 

Personally I have seen improvements in my own leadership capacity subsequent to my leadership development training. I intend to build on the gains made by accessing opportunities to consolidate what i have learnt. 

Lois Parkes

Dear Keisha: these are very useful suggestions. Thanks 

Ann Marie Francis-Charles - Reply

Like every other form of training if a person does not put to use what he /she has learnt it's lost or fades. Therefore the post training activiites and oppportunities are vital. For example, giving the trainee, the opportunity to lead a team or simply manage a unit/dept for a short period to assess the lessons learnt could be helpful. 

Lois Parkes

Great tips! Thanks for sharing

Kayla Tingling - Reply

My interest is to grow and develop into a better leader.

Lois Parkes

Dear Kayla: That's a great aspiration. Do check out our various leadership development courses; currently accepting applications for our Leading Change workshop. E-mail us at for details

Deborah Norville - Reply

I really appreciated this article. I particularly liked the steps which clearly outlined a role for both employer and employee in the success of the intervention.

Lois Parkes

Dear Deborah:

Thanks for your response. As a leader, we definitely have to move beyond just simply sending staff on training without the requisite follow-up and support for transfer of learning.

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