Teaching Leaders: A Five-Step Approach

Many organizations use a "leaders teaching leaders" approach in their leadership development (LD). Just having senior leaders play this role speaks volumes about their commitment to improvement. But participation (making a presentation) and impact (facilitating a learning experience) are two different things. The goal is to have a highly engaging, didactic learning experience—not a boring, death by PowerPoint presentation. How can you optimize the participation of senior leaders so that less experienced leaders gain meaningful, applicable learnings?

Two factors influence the success of senior leaders as teachers: 1) having a simple framework that they can adapt to create breakthrough learning experiences; and 2) making them comfortable doing something that doesn’t come naturally—engaging people in their audience.

Provide senior leaders with a basic instructional framework that helps them transfer their wisdom and ensure that participants then act differently and more effectively in addressing challenges.


Instructional Design Lite

Executives already know how to present effectively. What they don’t know is how to create magical, motivational, and memorable learning experiences that are engaging, meaningful, and action-oriented. A lesson in the basics of instructional design helps them become more comfortable facilitating a learning experience. Such an instructional design "lite" process includes five steps:

Step 1: Content mapping. Be clear on what content (topics) to address. One model for mapping content is to decide if it is related to knowledge (information about a topic), skill (ability to demonstrate something about the topic), or attitude (beliefs needed). This enables leaders to create relevant, on-point presentations to convey the lessons they’ve learned from their experiences.

Step 2: Learning objectives. These describe the purpose, intent and expected outcomes of teaching experiences. Based on the content, these objectives address what the learner will be able to know, do and believe differently as a result of the experience.

Step 3: Instructional design. This refers to the teaching process used to achieve learning objectives. It takes into account the level and experience of the learners, audience size, context involved, and desired learning objectives. It encompasses the What, the mindset required to learn the content; the So What, the skillset required to apply the content; and the Now What, the toolset required to solve real challenges.

Step 4: Materials development. Create materials for the designed learning experiences. Match intended learning outcomes with the most effective learning activities for each. Once learning activities (cases, exercises, roles plays, assessments) are selected, the materials can be created in the form of readings, tools, workbooks, and teaching notes.

Step 5: Session delivery. Conduct a practice walk-through with colleagues who provide feedback on the teaching process and materials before the session. After the initial session, create a rollout approach by teaching learners how to deliver the session to direct reports, thus extending the Leaders Teaching Leaders approach.

This five-step approach combines the science of learning with helping executives facilitate a learning experience. Keep four things in mind:

1) while leaders can tell and sell, facilitating a learning experience is likely to be out of their comfort zone; 2) they need to be encouraged to use their own words, provide their own perspective, and articulate their own points of view; 3) they need to own their content and believe in what they are teaching in order to effectively model and influence other leaders; and 4) they will need support from learning professionals.

To leverage the experience of your senior leaders as teachers, apply this five-step approach. It provides a framework for creating impactful learning experiences that deliver real results.

This article was coauthored by Kevin Wilde, CLO and VP of Organizational Effectiveness for General Mills, and first appeared in Leadership Excellence www.leaderexcel.com 9/2010