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Seb Anthony

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Making Leadership Training Practical


I am currently designing a course on leadership for middle managers in our organisation. We have recently restructured and our middle managers now have more responsibility and authority, and will be held accoutable for local performance. We also have a new vision and pledge for the organisation.

A comprehensive TNA has taken place at an organisational level and one of the results from this was that managers are good at managing (directing and instructing staff, focusing on the task and the process) but less effective at leading (motivating and influencing staff).

The organisation has adopted the Beverly Alimo-Metcalfe model of Transformational Leadership, and the aim of the course I have been designing is introduce this model to managers, explore the differences between management and leadership and identify the qualities demonstrated by an effective leader. I am happy with how to train the Transformational Leadership model and have included activities to help familiarise delegates with the model. I am, however, struggling to come up with challenging exercises for how the delegates can apply the model practically and see how they can transfer it to the workplace.

Does anyone have any suggestions for making leadership training more practical please? I've reached a brick wall and am struggling to get beyond it at the moment!
Nicola Jones

8 Responses

  1. Ask them to bring their work to the session
    This might be a bit simplistic, but perhaps the best way is to do pre-work with the group to ensure they have a situation in mind all the way through the theory.

    During the session, get them to discuss their challenges in small groups and how they could apply the theory in the workplace.

    At the end, get participants to tell the rest of group what they’re going to do back in the workplace and then do a follow up session to a) talk about what happened and b) discuss further the application of the theory.

    Hope this helps!

  2. I agree!
    I agree with Karen…I have found that an element of ‘action learning’ is often the best way forward, if your programme is run over time. Allowing delegates time to put a particular aspect into practice and discussing it after (perhaps with some coaching) usually helps to make training more meaningful.

    Another technique you could try on the course is a ‘percptual positioning’ exercise (NLP) that will help delegates to critically examine their own past behaviour and identify where, how and why they could do things differently.

  3. Thanks!
    Thank you for the suggestions and ideas. I’ll look into getting delegates to bring their own scenarios with them and developing a process for them to work through these issues.

    I was wondering if you were able to expand on perceptual positioning as I’m unfamiliar with the term?


  4. This might help a bit

    If it helps I can send you a slideshow of 150 leadership Power points. This is a very flexible resource and may be of value. It will certainly save you the reading and preparation time it took me!

    I have produced a 50 point leadership diagnostic that might help with the learning transfer issue – just contact me off line and I will send them both.

    Good luck,


  5. Not a word from Kirkpatrick?
    It’s great to see somebody looking to deliver an output based training program and not a theoretical model.

    It is however disappointing to see that no-one has suggested a way to incorporate this in the workplace through the evaluation stage of the progam and that perhaps this shouldn’t be a “deliver once and forget” program.

    The program should be delivered on a phased basis – with people ask to bring specific problems and work on them – not just in the classroom but afterwards too. Effective evaluation of people moving forward on these issues – through reviews and coaching sessions etc. will help people make the jump from theory to practice, and provide you with some material for a Kirpatrick level 3 evaluation too. Though how you go about an ROI calculation is up to you…

  6. Let them do it!
    I don’t know the group but why put the onus on yourself to come up with the learning transfer solutions? I suggest that you throw it over to them. Have an exercise where they work in groups as to how they COULD use it back in the workplace(what sort of situations, what sort of individuals etc) and then HOW they’re going to do that.

  7. Outcomes & Action Learning Sets
    I would suggest that the process of transfer and transposition of learning on the course into action in the workplace might be part of your programme design and this will contribute towards contextualising and making the material practical.

    Get candidates to go through a PDCA model as part of the middle and final phases of the event:

    At the planning phase you might get the individuals to develop perfectly formed outcomes, best case scenarios and develop clear objectives to frame and define what these will really look like. You could follow this up with some form of Force Field Analysis, getting them to identify where the help and hindrances will come from.

    An action plan which will be robustly supported by line management back in the workplace will be absolutely essential I think to secure success for this project so you could think beyond just the classroom and consider how you might integrate the efforts and interests of those line managers.

    Banal as it may sound ‘if you don’t measure it they don’t do it’ has more than ounce of truth in it and it might be worth developing some form of ‘action learning sets’ which will act as spurs to progress in the workplace and also ensure that Key Performance Indicators are agreed and that the candidates are going to be called to report back to senior management on the progress towards these.

    Bluntly get the buggers tied down to Specific and Measurable outcomes, if they can’t come up with any it might be that you’ve done something wrong or the recruitment or selection of staff is up the shoot.

    If the training you’re delivering is not coming across as practical and relevant it might be because the ‘comprehensive TNA ~ at an organisational level’ is still too broad and you haven’t bored down into how these organisational challenges relate to their individual specific needs and challenges and that depth of analysis is essential to understand how strategic demands relate to their operational needs and then design the training accordingly.

    I almost forgot, there’s some excellent free material here on how to set up and run action learning sets which you should easily be able to adapt and use:“>“>

  8. Putting the Plan into Action
    Hi Nicola!

    Having just spent three years implementing leadership development programmes across Europe, the main issue I encountered was not so much the participants not having an action plan of how they would put the learning into practice afterwards, but the fact that they quickly forgot all about their action plan once they were back at their offices.

    So I implemented an online action planning tool, that first of all captured their business-orientated goals for coming on the programme; secondly, they linked each goal to an aspect of the programme or an internal competency, which served as a useful reference point.

    The facilitators could review the goals online before the workshop and provide feedback through the tool itself.

    After the workshop, every two weeks for a period of three months, the tool prompted each person to provide an update on their progress, using a quick and simple 5-question survey. The facilitators were tasked with providing at least one piece of feedback for every update.

    At the end of the 3 months, we concluded the programmes with a programme close webinar, during which the participants could refer to their online action plan and share what they had implemented during the time since the workshop.

    The tool also allowed the central reporting of activity, so the managers and programme sponsors could see first hand what action was happening back in the workplace. Powerful stuff.

    A minority didn’t like the process, but even if they didn’t always post all of the requested updates, most were able to keep on track with their plans and realise personal successes linked to their business goals.



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