Over the years, we’ve both led and observed a fair share of leadership development training sessions in the UK and abroad. We’ve spoken to those who train, as well as those who are being trained, gathering feedback and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Based on this experience, we’ve put together our top call-outs for what we think should be included in every leadership development training session. Here we go:
1). Make sure the training is based on evidence, not theory.
There is no doubt that leadership is a complex topic to navigate, but jargon and theories won’t help. They may sound good, but the sad truth is that most leadership models and theories are from a bygone era, rehashed to make them sound more modern but still based on the same old thinking. In our eyes, today’s leaders deserve better. And there is better. Because leaders are also human beings, and all human beings are equipped with a phenomenal asset that gives them the capacity for brilliance – their brain. This is where the future of leadership development training lies. Why are we so sure of this at Synaptic Potential? Because the thinking behind what makes a great leader is grounded in evidence, not theory.
2) Makes sure it covers behavioural change.
Throughout our lives, we are constantly changing who we are. It usually happens so slowly that we don’t notice until we look back at where we were 5 or 10 years ago. But it happens. This gradual process of change results from all the incidental experiences that we face as we carry on our daily lives. Leadership development training is also all about change but compacted over a shorter timescale and so much harder to do. This is why having behaviour change as the core offering in any leadership development training, as we do at Synaptic Potential, is essential. Without it, all the knowledge will fail to stick, as your people won’t have the necessary skills to shift their behaviours and mindsets to new ways of thinking and working in the long term.
3) Think about the 60:40 ratio when it comes to including opportunities to reflect.
With time being a valuable asset in any workplace, it’s sometimes tempting to go for a time-efficient approach that ensures maximal content delivery within the time window allocated. But at Synaptic Potential, we don’t think this is the best approach. Why not? Because just like you need to give red wine a good time to rest, you also need to give your leaders a decent window to reflect on what they are hearing. The brain has two main modes – executive mode when it’s busy concentrating on what the trainer is saying and default mode when it is internally reflecting on what’s been said. Leadership development training needs to be built around both neural states. As a rule of thumb, we usually say a 60:40 ratio for delivery vs. reflection to allow for both states adequately.
4) Make sure it encourages self-awareness.
Building on the previous point, let’s take a moment to talk about self-awareness. It’s something that’s critical to being a great leader, but it’s also something that people are hesitant to spend time on. We’ve found over the years that people shy away from having a good, hard look at who they are, what they are like, and how other people might see them. Perhaps it’s out of fear, maybe they just don’t make the time. But in our minds, without this key ingredient, people just don’t make such good leaders. So there needs to be time during the leadership development training for people not only to reflect on the content, but also on themselves.
5) Has to create, not just hope for engagement.
Engagement is the holy grail of any organisation. You know as well as we do that an engaged employee is productive and satisfied. And that applies to leadership development training too. And we all know a captivating trainer when we see one. A trainer who emphasises the delivery, not just what’s being delivered. Who knows how to engage a brain through multisensory channels and hold their attention. How to capitalize on people’s innate curiosity and to leave them with that feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction that comes most prominently when they’ve experienced the immersion of mental flow. But not that many trainers come into the room with the objective of creating an environment for flow. Or to create a high-performing neural environment for maximal brain engagement. They hope it will happen, but they don’t make it happen.
6) Ensure it includes outcomes that are translatable outside the training room.
It’s one of our pet hates. Those training programs where your people have a great time, the content is fabulous, the trainer was engaging. It seems like one of those training sessions that you can tick off as a success. But then you notice that pretty much after a day or so, it’s back to the status quo. It’s as if nothing had changed. All that investment, for very little outcome. So what went wrong? There are many reasons, but one common one that we find is that there was nothing concrete to tie the training to the mental tasks that make up your leaders’ daily life and work. Yes, there were exercises to do, but they just weren’t practical or appliable to the real world, and so they were mentally left behind in the training room. At Synaptic Potential, our tried and tested training outcomes are designed to be translatable from the training room to workstation and beyond, making the investment 100% worthwhile.
7) And the final most important thing for every leadership development training session?
Your people. The very leaders you are training. Making sure they are in the right frame of mind, well-rested, aren’t hungry or thirsty and turn off their phones and emails so that they can give the session their full attention. Perhaps we’re biased because that’s the kind of audience that we would like to train. But there are countless studies that show how being in an optimal state of mind and body enhances mental functioning and aligns with the age-old adage, the more you put in, the more you get out.
At Synaptic Potential we pride ourselves in knowing what makes a great leadership development program. We believe that it starts with knowing how the human brain works. How it makes decisions. How it generates ideas. How it is acutely sensitive to the social signals around it. Our neuroscience-based leadership development programme is designed to tackle the skills, behaviours, and mindsets that a great leader needs, within a framework of behaviour change and habit formation.
Synaptic Potential offers science-based solutions and strategies that support, shape and align your people development initiatives, workspace design and organisational policies. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you unlock the Whole Brain Potential™ of your leaders or managers and teams then please get in touch to start a conversation.