"Bomb Proofing" For The Coming Recession

Corporate leadership development leaders can boost their job performance, advance their careers, and make notable contributions to their companies ... but only if they act immediately on advice I heard Larry Bossidy give 27 years go.

By Brent Filson - 07/2006

Subject: Corporate leadership development leaders: Prepare now for the next recession. July 2006, Vol.1, No.1 6 Ways to “Bomb Proof” Your Leadership Development Programs For The Coming Recession by Brent Filson Consulting with General Electric leaders for many years, I several times back in the late 1980s heard Larry Bossidy say, “When the bomb drops, make sure you’re not there.” This is great advice for leadership development leaders, especially now. The “bomb” comes in many forms: a changing marketplace, leapfrogging technology, surging competition, new customer needs ... a recession. If you’re there when it hits, watch out! Right now, as a leadership development leader, you should be focusing on one particular bomb: the coming recession. Of course, it hasn’t hit yet. The economy is robust. But you know the next recession is inevitable. You know too that the first casualty of a recession is often training -- in particular, leadership development. When times get tough, many company cost-cutters view leadership development programs as expendable. Is there any wonder, look at this: According to a new study recounted in Chief Learning Officers magazine -- “Accenture High Performance Workforce Study” which is conducted every 18 months and surveys more than 250 senior executives -- only 10 percent of respondents reported being very satisfied with the performance of their human resources and training. I don’t have to do the numbers for you. That’s a prescription for large cuts in training in the next economic downturn -- if not before. But it doesn’t have to be. There’s another phrase I heard often when consulting at General Electric. “Control your destiny before someone else does.” Here are 6 ways to control your destiny, to bomb-proof your leadership development offerings: (1) Be a results-partner to your clients. Have your interactions with them help them achieve increases in results they badly need to get. Figuring out whether training really does pay off is a perpetual struggle for Learning and HR departments, even though executives are demanding it. The trouble is the pay off is often viewed within the context of training results, such as the findings of 360 degree assessment instruments. Learning leaders must drill down through training results, identify the real business results then tailor leadership development courses to help their clients achieve increases in those results. Results can be defined in many ways, speed, productivity, operations efficiencies, sales closes, sales leads, sales to new customers, failure prevention, health and safety scoring, quality, logistical performance, marketing targets, top line growth, new revenue streams, sales erosion, price protection, supply chain management benchmarks, cost reductions, demand flow activities and technologies, inventory turns, bottom line growth, cycle time reductions, materials and parts management, etc. Team up with your clients to precisely identify the right results to target. You can’t help your clients or yourself you if you (A) mix up training objectives with business objectives or (B) identify the wrong business objectives. (2) Achieve INCREASES in results. You’re not their results partner if your interactions with them have them getting results they are used to getting. You’re not their results partner if your interactions with them force them to take time away from their going after results they are being measured on. You’re only their results partner if you are helping them get increases in those results, results they couldn’t get without your help. Furthermore, your leadership development programs should help your clients get increases not just in results but in hard, measured results. If your programs don’t lead to such increases, they are more likely to be viewed within a training-results context and be in the cross hairs of the bombsight. For instance, at the beginning of your courses, you should find out exactly what the participants’ results-challenges are and what’s obstructing them from getting more results. Then throughout the course, focus relentlessly on those two factors, the challenges and the obstructions, tailoring your material not just to eliminating the obstructions but actually turning those obstructions into results-accelerators. In that way, the improvements they make in their leadership skills are tied directly to their achieving increases in results in the areas they are most concerned about. (3) Make it stick. Get increases CONTINUALLY. Having leadership development live after the courses conclude has been an on-going challenge in your profession. (My next report I’ll detail specific ways to make learning stick.) The best way to make it stick is to put into place post-course systems and processes to help your “results partner” achieve CONTINUAL increases in business results. For instance, if you are dealing with manufacturing clients, you might focus on having your leadership development programs help improve operating efficiencies on a continual basis. Or, if you have sales people in your programs, you might focus on your leadership methodologies helping them get increased closes on an on-going basis and then have them use those methodologies and the results they achieve as springboards for even more results. Or you might bring unique, customized, total solutions to your company such as getting measured increases in the efficiencies of order-to-remittance cycles that will last for months and years. (4) Measure the right results in the right ways. You know that measurements are vital to the success of any leadership development program. Focus on measuring the RIGHT business results. Furthermore, measure those results in the right ways; and institute correction mechanisms to help your clients respond quickly, resourcefully and effectively to the measurements. There are a lot of measurement systems; but one thing lacking in most I’ve encountered is leadership dynamics. For instance, leadership is motivational or it’s running around in the dark. The measurements used must have business dimension, of course, but they must also have a motivational dimension. In other words, those measurements must mean a great deal to the people who are getting the results. The measurements must not only reflect value (There is no value in business without measures.) and accomplish the other important things measurements do, but they must also marshal people’s ardent commitment. (5) Put yourself on the line. If participants in my course don't receive an ROI that is at least five to ten times greater than their aggregate investment in that program, I give them their money back. (See my $50,000 guarantee below.) And why not? If your clients can't get big increases in hard, measured results, it really hasn't helped them develop as leaders. (6) Make your programs EXPENSIVE. Being a results partner, you don't have to make your leadership programs inexpensive to protect them against cost cutters in bad times. Instead, you actually make them expensive in these good times -- expensive to the company if those programs are not instituted and supported. This is not a play on words. It goes right to the heart of your success and your company’s advancements. I submit that the most important determinant of organizational success is leadership. Organizations that fail to acquire, keep, and develop good leaders eventually pay dearly. They learn what is REALLY expensive. You make your leadership development programs expensive by not only tying your leadership methodologies to precise increases in hard measured results but by communicating those results throughout your organization. Here are just a few of the ways you can show the added value of your leadership programs. -–Results validation reports –-Financial certifica


07/2006© The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The author of 23 books, Brent Filson's recent books are, THE LEADERSHIP TALK: THE GREATEST LEADERSHIP TOOL and 101 WAYS TO GIVE GREAT LEADERSHIP TALKS. He is founder and president of The Filson Leadership Group, Inc. – Celebrating 25 years of helping leaders of top companies worldwide achieve outstanding results every day. Sign up for his free leadership e-zine and get his FREE report "7 Steps To Leadership Mastery"