Leadership Training For Managers: 8 Activities And Ideas That Work
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From Zero To Hero: Leadership Training Ideas For Maximum Effect

What makes a good leader? What could people as outwardly different as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos―all unarguably great leaders―have in common?

While there's no single trick to turn someone into an expert leader magically, leadership training can help empower prospective managers and improve their leadership skills.

Discover 8 extremely useful leadership training activities and techniques that will boost your training program's effectiveness.

1) Encourage Mentorship

The best way to train the next generation of leaders at your company is to take advantage of your current leaders. Established team leaders will enrich your leadership training curriculum with their battle-tested expertise and valuable real-world experiences.

The personal touch that mentorship introduces will also serve as a great motivator for your employees, as they will feel privileged to have an established leader teach them his (or hers) secrets.

To avoid overloading your current leaders with coaching duties, you should probably limit such mentorship access to your most promising future leaders. You can use your LMS testing, progress tracking, and skills management features to help you find who those are.

2) Add Real-World Tests To Your Training...

While necessary in itself, theoretical leadership training for managers is a very different experience from actually being a leader.

To fix that, include real-world leadership experiences as part of your training. You can, for example, have prospective managers lead a small team tasked to deliver a real-world project. A mock project lets your learners practice their leadership skills in a realistic environment but without the stress that a wrong decision might hurt your actual business.

3) ...And Fake Ones Too

Law firms often run "mock trials"―imitations of actual trials (complete with fake judges and jurors) meant to help train new lawyers.

Adopting the same technique in your training—that is, having your team manage a mock project from start to finish—is one of the most engaging leadership training activities you could use. It gives trainees the opportunity to try their leadership skills in a realistic situation without the stress of negatively affecting your actual business.

This technique might appear at odds with our previous advice about testing prospective leaders in real-world tasks, but in actuality it's complimentary.

The main benefit of mock projects is that you can control their scope, deadline, and details, whereas a real-world test will always involve variable elements. This makes them an ideal training ground and a good way to compare the performance of different training teams without random variables getting in the way.

3) Surprise Them

Markets are full of surprises, and customers can be flaky. Real leaders should be prepared to handle the unexpected. Your leadership training should reflect this.

Instead of giving prospective managers exercises and tasks that they are already familiar with and know how to handle, try their management skills and judgment in handling unexpected situations.

To come up with these, you can draw from any unique challenges that your company faced in the past, or invent your own hypothetical scenarios. You could, for example, ask a leader in training what would they would do if they discovered that one of their team members is leaking company secrets to a competitor.

4) Don't Neglect Concrete Skills Training

While leadership skills are essential for employees in management roles, a great leader must also possess a fair number of hard skills. Those include the kind of hard skills associated with leadership roles (for example knowing how to use PowerPoint, or how to speak one or more foreign languages), and the more lowly skills, the ones that are usually delegated to lower-ranking employees.

Such skills are crucial for getting your future leaders to understand your company's operation end to end—that is, from both a high-level and a low-level perspective.

While a factory manager won't ever have to operate the assembly line themselves, for example, they would be more effective in directing assembly line workers if they know what their job involves.

Elon Musk is an excellent example of this hands-on approach [1]. He is known to study low-level details (down to rocket fuels and battery technologies) and using those skills to inform his strategic planning and managerial decisions.

5) Bring In External Experts

Earlier in our list of leadership training activities, we talked about encouraging a mentorship culture in your company.

To take that to the next level, you can go beyond your pool of senior managers, and bring in experienced industry figures and leadership consultants from outside the company to coach your employees.

Companies such as Google [2] and Facebook have long had such programs in place, where they host lectures by well-known external mentors (significant industry figures, prominent scientists, well-known educators, and so on).

By following their lead, you can give your future managers the chance to learn from accomplished leaders and prominent experts outside the company, and the opportunity to see things from perspectives that they wouldn’t have had access to otherwise.

6) Measure And Improve

The first step to improving anything, including the effectiveness of your leadership training activities, is to measure it.

Soft skills can be notoriously difficult to measure precisely, but you can have a pretty good idea by monitoring how well your prospective managers handle various leadership tasks and grading their performance.

It doesn't matter that it won't be exact—your goal here is to get a rough feeling of how effective your leadership training program is, and who among your employees shows the best potential.

To monitor the progress of the more conventional parts of your training, take advantage of the Reporting and Testing features available in online training software platforms, like TalentLMS.

7) Study The Past

“Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”—or so the saying goes.

Include the study of past blunders made by your company's previous management in your leadership training program, so that your new team leaders can avoid repeating them.

Give your trainees the full context behind past lousy management decisions, and make sure that they understand why they were bad, what their repercussions were, and how they could have been avoided.

To test their problem-solving skills, ask them to come up with several alternative ways to handle those situations.

8) Encourage Further Study

Learning doesn't (or, rather, shouldn't) end when your training program does.

During training, instill in your leaders the importance of continuous improvement and learning, and encourage them to study on their own, above and beyond what your leadership training program teaches them.

To point them in the right direction give them a list of leadership and soft-skills focused books to read, and of essential news sources and blogs that they should follow.

Get The Right Tools For The Job

The leadership training ideas that we described above will work for all kinds of leadership training for managers. However, it might be structured.

To deliver your leadership training courses faster and more effectively, though, you should consider investing in an online learning platform. A powerful LMS, like TalentLMS, will reduce your training costs, boost learner engagement, and help drive actual results and business growth.

References

1. How Elon Musk learns faster and better than everyone else

2. Talks at Google

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