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Five Strategies to Align Leadership Development Efforts to Business Strategy

In today’s business environment, it is critical that your leadership development (LD) efforts are aligned to your business strategy. By doing so, your LD efforts will have a greater impact on the business.

The critical first step in aligning your LD efforts to your business strategy is to understand that strategy. It might sound funny, but this important step gets missed often. To get a real understanding, you need ti be able to describe it in depth and in terms of decisions. A good test or two of understanding would be to list at least five decisions your organization has made that define the strategy or be able to describe how you business strategy is different from a competitors’.

With a firm understanding of your business strategy, the next step is to look at the different parts of your LD efforts and adjust them to bring them into better alignment with the business strategy.

Here are five strategies that will increase the alignment between your LD efforts and the business strategy.

1. Tailor Personal and 360°Assessments to the Business Strategy
The first place to start with is the assessments you use in any LD program, as these are the front end of leadership development work. For example, modify your 360° assessment so more of it is directed to the strategy. At a minimum, as it might be too costly to change your competency model, you can have the analysis of the 360° highlight certain strategically related items. Another choice is to select personal style assessments that tie directly to elements of a business strategy. For instance, maybe “change” is an important implication of your business strategy. Identify parts of existing assessments that can be emphasized and related to change, or, identify and use a particular assessment that focuses directly on change.

2. Select Development Goals Related to the Business Strategy
Another good area for increasing alignment is to have people’s development plans incorporate goals that align to the strategy. When people identify goals, have them describe on their plan how the goal ties back to the business strategy. This activity gets people thinking about how goals relate to the business and why they should tackle a particular development goal.

You could take this even further by having a common goal specifically related to your business strategy. Each person’s development plan would have this common goal.

3. Tie Training to the Business Strategy
In general, you have a choice of training topics and the design of the training. Based on your understanding of the business strategy, pick training topics specifically related to it. For example, have any training open with a review of the business strategy and explicitly say how this training ties back to the business strategy. Have a senior leader kick off the training. He or she can describe exactly how the training relates to the current business strategy. At the end of the training, have participants identify their personal takeaways and how they relate to the business strategy.

4. Select Action Learning Projects Directly Related to the Business Strategy
Many organizations use Action Learning as part of their LD efforts. These can be successful as places where participants can practice their development goals. The key decision is selecting the projects. Select those that best fit and push forward the business strategy. Work with your business leaders to identify these.

You can imagine a senior leader kicking off an Action Learning session describing how the chosen projects directly tie to the strategy. That would be a powerful alignment instance.

5. Create a Hybrid LD Strategy
The prior four strategies are independent. But they can be strung together. Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to combine all four strategies and take action in each area, or, maybe you can tackle two of them together. The key point is to look at each of your decisions in the above strategies and choose an overall combination that maximizes alignment to the business strategy and is doable.

About the Author(s)

Robert Hewes is a senior partner with Camden Consulting, with oversight for leadership development and management training. A skilled strategist, facilitator, and coach, he designs and delivers executive coaching and leadership development services for Camden clients.