Developing Leaders Through Training

by | Nov 3, 2016 | approachable leadership

Developing leaders is a crucial to any thriving business.

But two things prevent a lot of companies from developing leaders. Time and money. Sound anything like your company?

Developing leaders is easy to put on the back burner, especially if time and money are in short supply (and when aren’t they in short supply?) It takes a strong commitment.

I’d like to highlight one of our clients who really gets the importance of investing in leaders: Ellwood Texas Forge Navasota (ETFN). They are a forge located in Navasota, Texas. They are part of a 100+ year old privately held business employing over 2,000 employees. They supply high-quality engineered, heavy metal components to customers all over the world.

What’s ETFN’s secret to success? Quality leadership.

For the past several years ETFN has been working hard on developing leaders. They meet monthly to work on their leadership, and they read leadership books together. The first time I visited Navasota over half of the team showed up for my training with my book Left of Boom! I learned that pairs of leaders were asked to do presentations on each chapter in my book (and I was reassured that this was not done as punishment!)

Developing leaders is important to ETFN.

Over the last two years I’ve been honored to help developing leaders at ETFN. Our focus is on leader approachability. Last year we did our Approachable Leadership WorkshopAfter the Workshop leaders continued to develop their Approachable Leadership skills through the year by working with an accountability partner.

Last month we did a deeper dive on four of the key behaviors of approachability. Here is the “team picture” from the event:

The Four items we focused on this year were:

  • The Approachability Window. We used a new exercise to illustrate The Approachability Window. It helps leaders understand how to reliably build connections by opening up and asking for feedback from teammates. This behavior is difficult for leaders and is hard to simulate. Our exercise is a great way to quickly put people into a safe – but real – conversation where they give and receive feedback about “blind spots.” Each leader walked out of the room with a tool they can use to have the exact same discussion with their own teams. Several leaders mentioned this as one of their key takeaways from the day.
  • Recognizing Gaps. We often tell folks that your teammates aren’t going to some up and say they aren’t comfortable approaching you (especially the ones we need to approach us the most). So you have to get really good at recognizing the “tells” that someone is experiencing a gap. We worked our way through the Recognizing Gaps Tool and the team learned how to recognize – and shrink – power distance gaps.
  • Positive Feedback. Next we went over how to give positive feedback. We shared our 5-part Positive Feedback Model and surprised quite a few leaders when explaining how the popular “feedback sandwich” is a terrible way to give feedback, even though many consider it positive feedback (it’s not). Instead we taught our model that teaches how to give feedback in a way that motivates, builds relationships, and encourages “above and beyond” work (a key to thriving teams).
  • Coaching Someone with a Performance Concern. Finally, we talked about coaching when someone is struggling (again, no feedback sandwich). Instead you make the “Hero Assumption” and use a goal-setting model that people find motivational instead of feeling like they are about to get fired. Unfortunately, a lot of coaching conversations feel like that. This was another key takeaway mentioned by the leaders who attended.

We LOVE developing leaders.

It is so rewarding to work with leader teams like the one at ETFN who really value building leadership skills. More important they practice building these skills – you can have the best playbook in the world, but if you don’t do the reps in practice you will never execute the plays. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Navasota to see how much more progress they make!

Does your company invest in developing leaders? What has your experience been? Let us know in the comments!