Strategy + Leadership = Results

by David Parks |
Management consultants at McKinsey & Co. gave us The Seven-S Model as a framework for thinking about the successful deployment of strategy in organizations. It describes seven factors that leaders should take into account when implementing strategy: Shared Values, Strategy, Structure, Systems, Skills, Staff, and Style. Here at Bluepoint, we thought there was something missing so we added another S to the McKinsey model. We jokingly refer to this S as The Smile Test. This sophisticated test provides more insight into personal leadership style and impact than any other assessment tool we know. It’s an obvious one, Do People Smile When the Boss Enters or Exits the Room?
My point is that Strategy + Leadership are inexorably linked, especially when it comes to getting things done in organizations. It makes good sense, therefore that any leadership development activity is approached with the same strategic mindset of any other important business activity. The HR and training world is all too aware of the pressure to demonstrate ROI. Use whatever words you choose: outcomes, objectives, goals – but if there’s not a clear line of sight linking leadership development to business strategy, then you might want to question its value.
Wells Fargo exemplifies the power of linking business strategy to training and leadership development strategy. Year after year they post record results and they did it again In January. Naturally there are many contributors to this growth, but the overarching strategy in the words of CEO Dick Kovacevich is to “out local the nationals and out national the locals.” Linkages to training include the obvious training in cross selling and financial products. But overarching these tactical activities is high quality leadership and a commitment to Wells Fargo’s oft-stated Vision & Values that hold it all together. At Wells Fargo, the spirit of the mission, vision, and values are woven into the fabric of the organization and this is reflected in their leadership development.
Just as McKinsey’s Seven S Model provides a framework, my ten years of surveying the leadership development market has led me to arrive at my own framework for assessing the strategy or lack thereof when it comes to leadership development. This Four Level Model will help identify where your organization stands on leadership development and will provide some insight into the next level of sophistication.

Level One – All Over The Map ‘All over the map’ could be described as leadership development devoid of strategy. There is no consistent approach. Different department and divisions may have different vendors deploying markedly different models and solutions. Senior management does not support leadership development but relies on HR to offer training. Leadership development is considered an employee benefit, not a strategic development vehicle.

Level Two – The Sheep Dip System As the name suggests, employees are ‘dipped’ into some training activity and it is hoped that there will be some resulting action back in the workplace. This is often typified by organizations selecting the program du jour or buying a particular leadership solution off the shelf. Programs like Bluepoint’s Leadership Challenge or Blanchard’s Situational Leadership workshop are often sought as deployment models for this approach because they offer a solid competency-based model that is proven in the marketplace and enjoys a good brand reputation.

Level Three – Results Focused Development At this level the strategic reasons for leadership development are clear and leadership development becomes the vehicle to drive strategy. Different programs are offered at different levels of the organization that are customized or carefully selected so that they logically build upon each other. Senior management is actively involved, ensuring that the development is tied to strategy and that there is accountability for results after any learning event. In focused development workshops participants engage in Real Play (as opposed to role play) where exercises and experiential learning are geared around specific business issues. Invariably, succession planning becomes an integral part at this level of leadership development. Coaching is often employed as a follow up tool to ensure application back in the workplace.

Level Four – Strategic Development On Steroids To get an idea of leadership development on steroids, a good benchmark is GE’s John F. Welch Leadership Center at Crotonville. Investing about $1 billion annually on training and development, GE makes it a strategic priority to grow great business leaders around the globe.
Leadership development at GE and other benchmark companies such as Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and 3M look like this: • Senior leaders deliver many of the development experiences themselves. • Programs are targeted at career transition points to help leaders learn and prepare for next level leadership challenges. • Content and language used reflects the language used in the business • Leaders are expected to coach and grow people who work for them. Coaching and talent development is just part of the way leaders do their jobs.
Top companies for leadership development don’t rest on their laurels. They are continuously working to refine their programs, improve effectiveness, and adjust their leadership practices to match changes to their business strategy. They continually measure effectiveness and look for ways to do a better job of leadership development within their organization.
The last word on strategy and developing leaders goes to Mary Eckenrod, former Leadership Development Director at Cisco Systems and now with Kraft Foods. “Leaders need to grow their business. To do that, they need to grow their people. To do that, they need to grow themselves.” It’s a simple strategy that successful companies have put into action, and if results are any indication, it’s a strategy that works.

by David Parks
David Parksis Vice President of Bluepoint Leadership Development