Make Time to Develop Your Leaders

As the speed of business increases, it’s easy to focus only on the immediate need and pay less attention to the systemic issues that ultimately drive long-term success. One of those significant areas is leadership development. That’s an issue, according to David Witt, a researcher with The Ken Blanchard Companies who studies employee engagement and the impact that leadership practices have on employee retention, well-being, and productivity.

“As a company, we’ve been looking at the connection between leadership practices, employee work passion, customer devotion, and an organization’s bottom line. What we’ve found is that there is a clear connection between the quality of an organization’s leadership practices—as perceived by employees—and subsequent intentions by employees to stay with an organization, perform at a high level, and apply discretionary effort.”

According to Witt, better leadership practices can improve an organization’s bottom line by hundreds of thousands—or even millions—of dollars, depending on the size of the organization and current gaps in management practices.

“Most organizations instinctively know that they could be doing a better job in developing leadership skills. The challenge is time. In the same way that individual leaders hope to find a little more time in the future to plan and prioritize their work, it’s the same with organizations,” explains Witt.

But putting off skill development has a cost, Witt says. In the same way that managing from deadline to deadline gets projects done and out the door, it’s usually not as well planned, productive, or efficient as it could be. Extra resources need to be brought in, people find themselves working extended hours, and well-being suffers.

“You can manage that successfully in the short-term, but it takes its toll long-term,” says Witt.

To get in front of the faster and faster cycle, Witt recommends that organizations take a step back and reflect on where they are with a couple of key measures—most importantly, employee engagement and productivity, because of their impact on customer satisfaction and revenue.

“It’s important to take a minute and consider where you are versus where you want to be in terms of employee retention and productivity. There is a fairly large gap in most organizations, according to the data people are sharing when they fill out our online calculator designed to measure the ROI of leadership development training.”

According to self-reported figures, respondents completing the three-step ROI questionnaire are identifying double-digit gaps between where they are and where they want to be in terms of customer satisfaction, employee retention, and employee productivity.

(You can identify your own gap by using the free ROI Calculator at the Blanchard web site.)

Getting Started

For businesses that are looking to take some first steps in addressing leadership skills in their organization, but are unsure where to start, Witt recommends testing a pilot program with an intact work team or department.

“Many of the organizations we work with start off with a pilot program to evaluate the impact that leadership development can have on an existing team or department. It’s a great way to see firsthand the impact that better leadership can have with people.” It requires time and effort, but the results are always very positive—and far outweigh the costs, says Witt. He points to client case studies that show

  • Improved store sales, increased productivity in lower performing stores, stronger teaming and relationships, and improved employee retention with pilot groups within a large coffee retailer
  • Significant increases in sales call activity and revenue with a temporary staffing services firm
  • Decreased employee turnover, an 18-point improvement in repeat customer business, and high marks for employee engagement and satisfaction in a global IT services firm

“In organizations large and small, we’ve found that when leaders set a clear vision and take the time to connect the dots for individual team members, they greatly increase alignment, purpose, and connection,” says Witt.

Breaking large goals down into individual tasks helps managers to identify competence and commitment levels on each task, which can vary greatly based on a team member’s past experience.

Most importantly, having a common language—like Situational Leadership® II—creates a fast, efficient way for employees to identify where they are at with a task and also to ask for what they need from a manager.

“It’s a form of shorthand that makes work conversations safe, fast, and effective,” explains Witt. “And because it is easier to have quick, quality conversations on a regular basis, people feel more connected, aligned, and purposeful in their work.”

Leadership Practices Matter

As Witt explains, “Previous research has established a strong correlation between employee satisfaction scores and subsequent customer satisfaction scores. In both cases these have been tied back to leadership practices. The bottom line is that leadership practices matter.”

Organizations that do not address leadership practices suffer a persistent drag on performance that keeps results down. In today’s fast-paced and always changing business environment, it's critically important that everyone perform at his or her best, especially in terms of creativity, innovation, and breakthrough thinking. Those are the types of outcomes that you only get from a highly engaged, highly passionate workforce.

When that occurs, you have an organization that is more focused, more efficient, and more effective in meeting customers’ needs. It's an environment that brings out the best in people, serves customers at a higher level, and translates into better bottom-line performance. It's a win-win-win that benefits everyone.


Would you like to learn more about improving leadership in your organization?

Then join us for a free webinar!

High Potential Leadership: Three Strategies to Boost Your Bottom Line

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
9:00–10:00 a.m. Pacific, 12:00–1:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00–5:00 p.m. GMT, 4:00–5:00 p.m. UK

Poor leadership practices cost companies millions of dollars each year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and overall employee productivity. In this webinar, Blanchard Program Director David Witt looks at the effect that leadership has in each of these areas and what you can do to improve performance.

Drawing on The Ken Blanchard Companies’ latest research, participants will learn which management techniques generate the best results and also look at some of the common cultural roadblocks that keep companies from implementing them.

You’ll learn:

  • How to create alignment throughout your team and department that gets everyone on the same page and heading in the right direction
  • The day-to-day management practices that keep people engaged and motivated about their work
  • A fast, effective way to create a management shorthand that allows you to provide direction and support when deadlines are tight and time is short
  • What you can do at an individual, manager, or senior-leader level to get started

Good leadership improves retention scores, engagement scores, and customer satisfaction scores. It also increases productivity in a way that enhances well-being in the work environment instead of detracting from it.

Learn how you can take your first steps in creating a work environment where people enjoy coming to work and performing at a high level. View On-Demand