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Senior Leaders' Development is Different

Senior leaders' development in organisations is like an obstacle course that nobody has ever passed. It is a failure after failure and there is no solution in sight.

First, organisations stumble because they think senior leaders' development is the same as others. In-house workshops and programs, assigned online courses, maybe a retreat because why not spend resources on a short break when you can spend them on something useful? And that's that.

Second, leaders themselves stumble by thinking they don't need to learn and develop anymore because "I have been doing this for 25 years." However, we force them to complete the assigned training or workshop and they dislike every moment because they think "There is nothing I can learn from these people."

I had a COO starting a 3-day program with "I am telling you, just out of honesty, that it is a waste of time." Surprisingly, I had questions he couldn't answer... You would say it is the ego, right? Not that simple! During 1:1s these guys (including this guy) are receptive and they listen. They admit their shortcomings and ask for advice. They are totally different people! So why is that?

Senior leaders need privacy during their development.

They have reached a certain level and no matter what we say about opening up, being transparent, and being vulnerable that will never be the case. They do not want to look stupid or less knowledgeable in front of their colleagues and I fully respect that. So instead of forcing the agenda of "It's ok not to know everything" why don't we respect them enough and give them an environment where they can look or feel stupid privately but grow?

Senior leaders need coaches and I would make it mandatory for them. We know the burnout stats. These guys have nobody to talk to and are under immense pressure. Coaching provides an environment where they can play with ideas and ask difficult questions about themselves. They can self-reflect, think and find solutions to their challenges.

As for workshops and stuff, they want courses, programs or workshops run by reputable institutions that match their title and ego and where there are no colleagues so they can be the worst in class but not feel inadequate or humiliated.

That's just how it is and I choose to respect that instead of pushing the vulnerability agenda.

So, for 2024, I hope that you have budgeted at least once a month for mandatory coaching for all your senior leaders. Let's help these guys by supporting them the way they need to be supported.

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