Leaders want coaching, not training - we know because they told us
Summary: Our survey of 450 frontline leaders told us that they want development quite different to what many organisations offer.
Written by Alistair Gordon 01 Sep 2019

450 frontline leaders have told us that the most productive development for them is quite different from what many organisations offer. What they’re looking for is personalised coaching, specific to their job situation and that adds to their skill set.

This is a far cry from the ‘sheep dip’ approach of traditional workshops that cram in as many generalised topics as possible over a few days.

Here we share the top three design and delivery components that are important for frontline leaders as well as some tried and tested ways to foster more effective learning. We hope this might challenge your current approach – in a good way - to give frontline leaders the learning that works for them!

Also if super effective learning and sustained behaviour change is important to your organisation then there might be some news for you.

What Frontline Leaders Want

1. Small groups for open discussions

Frontline leaders value being enabled to speak freely, share experiences and meet peers from different areas of their organisations.

Traditional approach:

  • Workshops with 12 – 20 participants where it’s impossible to create sufficient air time for each participant.

What works is:

  • Small groups (3-4 maximum) with a suitably qualified coach - NOT trainer - is a great way of delivering high impact, just-in-time, personalised learning.

“We were all to contribute, good variety of experiences, and able to focus on our own questions and issues”

“I have done this type of training three times previously with up to 20 people involved. A small group of three and a facilitator works”

“I loved how it was confidential and a great way to talk openly about scenarios and gain advice. Also good to see how others approach situations and what different issues other”

2. Practical, hands on and relevant topics

They want ‘news they can use’ that’s going to have immediate impact. Replacing days of theory with a safe, personalised environment to practice scenarios gives frontline leaders the confidence to tackle their challenges on returning to the workplace.

Traditional approach:

  • Many models/frameworks make it challenging to know where to start.

  • Generic case studies or role plays may not have relevance for each frontline leader.

  • Insufficient time for everybody to practice and get sound feedback.What works is:

What works is:

  • 1 framework/checklist per topic to make it simple to put into action.

  • Coaching on real challenges and conversations frontline leaders have so each participant builds confidence, gets feedback and is ready to implement

“Influencing without authority is very relevant to my job and was useful in finding ways to motivate others without having direct authority”

“One of my key issues moving into a management role was passing on my workload and trusting my team to complete the work. There were a lot of skills I took from this subject (delegation) and have started to implement”

“Sharing ideas and practical scenarios meant we could learn from each other, not alone”

“Setting performance expectations was exactly what I needed when first beginning my role. It showed my direct reports that I was ready to lead them”

3. Episodic coaching sessions with time to reflect

Short, to the point sessions with ability to practise and reflect in between.

Traditional approach:

  • Several workshop days packed with many topics overload participants and cause stress from too much time away from the job.

  • Tricky to hold participants accountable for implementing actions, changes and improvements.

What works is:

  • 2–2.5 hour sessions focused on one topic, delivered monthly – frontline leaders can easily understand implications for them in their roles and what they need to do differently.

  • Accountability loops for implementing actions are checked at the start of each monthly session.

  • Reflection and practice time of 4 weeks keeps the learning momentum moving.

“The monthly session allows you to return to your team reinvigorated and ready to implement aspects of each topic in a practical way. Not trying to do too much at once is an important part of this course”

“The way it is set up facilitates very personalised and focused learning. The pre reading and post reflection and pods were very helpful to build the skills”

“Spreading it across multiple weeks allowed time to put in practice what we learnt before moving onto the next module.”

“I found it more effective than just a few focused days, which are hard to maintain on return. Time to reflect and discuss within the (coaching) pod specific areas of focus”

We trust this powerful feedback will help shape and challenge your thinking about how you design and deliver frontline leader development.

Data for coaching vs training

HFL’s most recent data - extracted from feedback given by 100 frontline leaders’ who participated in our FASTLEAD program achieved these results:

  • 95% increase in confidence as a leader

  • 94% improvement in leadership skills

  • 78% increase in team relationships

  • 64% improvement in the relationship with their manager.

HFL’s unique frontline leader program, FASTLEAD, has been implemented in 40 companies and is supporting the development of over 450 participants across the region.

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