The Four-Phase Big IDEA for Leadership Training

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We can identify leaders, but we must have programs and a plan in place to develop them. What are some specific characteristics we should include in our leadership development plans? We are so glad you asked. Leadership expert John Maxwell created the “IDEA” plan for training leaders. Alongside management’s strong leadership identification capability, his four-phase “IDEA” process builds positive relationships with team members as they train for more influential leadership roles. Follow these guidelines to grow your leaders (and your business) the healthy way!

Phase One: “I” is for Instruction
  • Identify your new leader’s existing strengths plus areas they can work on and apply in their new role. Doing so will lay the overall development plan framework and establish specific items to be taught teamwide.
  • Establish revised standard operating procedures and routines. Often, we function in a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality and, thus, become stuck on “autopilot” even though the status quo is not producing desired results. Consider positive changes you can make and document them so you can teach them.
  • Begin with the end in mind toward the ultimate development goal. “Download the DNA” of your organization into your new leader so they can better understand the overarching purpose behind their position.
Phase Two: “D” is for Demonstration
  • Model expectations. Phase two is a great time to align your actions with your instructions. Have the new leader observe, take notes, and ask questions while you actively demonstrate the behaviors you desire from leadership and all team members. This will gear them towards the leadership development they need.
  • Explain the “why” behind the “what.” When you communicate the exact reason you expect specific behaviors, your leaders are more likely to “buy into” your cause and act as instructed. Directly sharing your vision teaches others that they are an essential part of the organization’s culture.
  • Practice good communication habits. Clear and decisive communication lays the foundation for how your newly-minted leader will communicate to others once they fully take over. Explain, repeat, follow-up, cast vision, close loops in conversation threads, and practice courtesy. For instance, a simple “thank you” lets others know you have paid attention to them.
Phase Three: “E” is for Experience
  • Delegate more tasks or projects for the leader to do on their own. Make it a gradual process where they take small chunks of responsibilities to practice until they are confident and demonstrate they are ready to take on more. Slow and steady increases in accountability will prevent overwhelm and intimidation. Managing new duties at a workable pace will empower them as they gain more confidence in taking on their new role.
  • Observe the new leader in action. This important because you can’t give feedback about what you do not see. Observation lets you see where your training could improve and what is most effective in leadership development.
  • Develop skills and discover passions. During this phase, you will see the leader “come into their own.” Pay attention when you observe new skills they are doing well; encourage them to continue, and don’t spend time trying to teach in areas where they are already excelling. It is very likely that the areas in which they excel reveal what they feel passionate about — nurture those passions!
Phase Four: “A” is for Assessment
  • Debrief experiences to assess growth and to give more direction. Assessments should encourage open communication and build trust.
  • Give feedback. Good coaches listen, ask open-ended questions, offer support, and encourage others to push for alternative solutions. Feedback is vital for any growth because we can’t improve what we don’t know needs work. In the same vein, we must learn what we are doing well and should therefore continue doing.
  • Illuminate a pathway. Help leaders envision their future by assessing their personal and professional goals. Assist them in weighing the pros and cons of remaining on their current path. Will their pathway help them arrive at their leadership destination?

You are training people to become leaders. See yourself as a coach or mentor rather than a boss or trainee. That means not just teaching the job or role but also transparently revealing things you wish you would have known when you were in their shoes. Pay it forward: encourage them to teach others as they gain leadership confidence. Be a leader of leadership!