Reaching the upper echelons of leadership and attaining a senior managerial position probably feels like the pinnacle of your career. After all, you've come a long way — and clearly mastered so many different skills in the course of your journey from entry-level employee to organizational leader.
Unfortunately, that's not the whole story. To make that more clear, let's look at two of the more compelling reasons why continuing to acquire new management skills is a wise investment for senior leaders, then turn to three actionable tips to help you start reaping the rewards.
the learning imperative for senior leaders
Most organizations these days are big on learning and development (L&D) initiatives to upskill team members, which keeps employees engaged while helping them grow in their careers and contribute more value to the business. While senior-level leaders are often the first to champion these L&D initiatives, they don't always avail themselves of them in the same way. But that's a mistake, as the following reasons should make clear.
1. the dangers of stagnation
Think it's safe to be complacent at the top? Think again — this large-scale study on the keys to success in the post-digital workplace from Randstad reveals effective digital leaders of the future to be anything but. Instead, these executives:
- keep people connected and engaged
- are agile and digitally savvy
- evangelize a culture of innovation, learning and continuous improvement
- excel at strategic risk-taking
All of which foreground the need for leaders today to keep their management skills fresh and be willing to embrace new ideas — the opposite of closed books. Consider the rapid pace of technological change, especially in the wake of COVID-19, as more and more companies were forced to embrace remote working models. This paradigm shift has accelerated the transformation that was already taking place, with new tools, new software and management systems and new protocols around cybersecurity and information management emerging constantly.
COVID-19 has accelerated much of the digital transformation that was already underway.
For senior leaders to be successful going forward, clearly, all of these things will need to be on their radars, and that means a personal commitment to ongoing learning and development is key.
2. leadership that's out of step
At most successful companies today, data is a critical driver of business decision-making — which is also to say that the old practice of leading "from the gut," or based on instinct, is well on its way to extinction. But for leaders who aren't actively invested in their own learning and development, there may be a dangerous tendency toward these outmoded leadership models. Disinclined to take in new information, they may often make decisions based on their own internal compass, with little awareness of potential blind spots. Worse, even when their decisions are cloaked in number-crunching, seemingly careful deliberation, and in-depth consultations with subject matter experts and the like, these leaders are prone to making decisions simply based on what they think they know, rather than what's actually right.
leaders unwilling to learn risk falling behind in the ever-evolving world of work.
Especially with the increasing popularity of agile workflows, design thinking and other collaborative approaches to organizational decision-making, leaders who remain rooted in outmoded approaches will surely face a hard path ahead. But the good news is that there's a solution, and we'll turn to that next.
unlocking learning and development for senior leaders
Ready to jump-start your learning and development journey and become a more effective leader along the way? Here are three approaches with proven results.
1. executive coaching
Coaching can be a great, value-added offering for all team members — it's also the kind of thing that might differentiate your company from competitors, attract higher-caliber talent and improve your employer brand. But for executives, there are unique benefits as well. Most notably, executive coaches can give organizational leaders greater insights into how they're perceived by others, which in turn often opens the door to more effective management practices, better communication and improved collaboration. It's also a way for leaders, who sometimes seem inoculated from criticism on account of their office, to receive candid feedback (and criticism, if merited) in ways that aren't built into day-to-day business operations.
2. leadership training
This is similar to executive coaching, but where the former is usually conducted in a one-on-one setting, leadership training programs tend to gather the executive team en masse to cover topics on everything ranging from improving project management skills to brainstorming new approaches to people management. In terms of format, these can be one-off sessions, weekend retreats, part of an ongoing training curriculum or even held online. Our learning partner, Udemy, has a variety of leadership training courses that you and your team can even take from home. With so many resources today, the sky really is the limit. There may not be a limit, on the other hand, when it comes to the positive impact these training programs can have on the bottom line: Organizations that provide this type of training to C-suite executives can experience as much as 22 percent more revenue growth and 34 percent growth in profitability when compared to organizations that do not, according to one study.
c-suite executive training can lead to 22% more revenue growth and a 34% increase in profitability.
3. skip-level meetings
So-called "skip-level meetings" are opportunities for senior-level leaders to engage with team members who are more than one step down the chain of command in the organizational chart. When regularly scheduled, these meetings can be a boon — not only in terms of ongoing learning and development on the part of senior leaders, but for the organization as a whole. Why? For one, they help bubble up great ideas from the people who are most actively engaged with your products or services.
Beyond that, it's a strategic way for senior leaders to stay closely connected to what's really happening on the ground level, day in and day out, at your organization. What's more, regularly meeting and interacting with more junior staff members, recent hires and others can create informal opportunities for mentorship — and, not for nothing, studies have shown that mentorship can yield ROI in the ballpark of 1,000 percent. Plus, for the majority of employees, according to one study, access to mentorship opportunities can have a determining influence on their decision to stay with their employers. So think of improved retention as an ancillary benefit.
For organizational leaders, there's a clear mandate to prioritize lifelong learning and development — not only for staff and team members, but for themselves as well. In fact, such a commitment is probably going to be table stakes as the pace of technological change continues to accelerate. Those who fail to adapt may be headed for early retirement.
Of course, it's never too late to embark on your own learning and development journey. But the sooner, the better. Start with the three approaches outlined in this article and you should be well positioned for ongoing success.
For more information on how you can improve your management skills and continue to grow as a professional, visit our Upskilling Resource Center.