A formula for building tomorrow's leaders today: 70-20-10
Before we dive into the meaning of the above title I want you to close your eyes. Go ahead - do it. Now think back over your career to when something happened where you had a great moment of learning. A moment that helped you become the good manager/leader you are today.What comes to me is when I was a manufacturing manager at a plant in Chicago. Herman James, an intense, black laminator operator walked into my office. I had just fired his friend for being drunk on the job (for the third time). Herman sat down in the chair in front of my desk, shook his head and said, "I know you did what you had to do here but I want to tell you, you don't know a damn thing about us [being black]." For the next 20 minutes he told me what it was like. I didn't say a word; I just listened. When he finished, he stood up and started to walk out. I didn't know what to say so I just said "Thank you Herman". He turned and said, "Don't thank me. Just be different, OK?" And I was after that - changed forever by those three words.
What was your moment? Chances are that moment of learning wasn't at university or anywhere near a classroom or from reading a book…or an article like this. In fact, research going back to the 1980s by Robert Eichinger and Michael Lombardo of The Centre for Creative Leadership found that when CEOs were asked what experiences got them to where they are today, 90 per cent of those experiences were either on the job or by being coached or mentored. The point? We spend so much time and money sending our managers to leadership development training when the research tells us that time represents only 10 per cent of the time and activities required to effectively develop a great leader. For the record, their recommendation for effectively building a great leader is:
• 70 per cent: Learning and developing through experience on the job. This might include leading a new committee or project, senior management presentations or increasing span of control or decision-making authority.
• 20 per cent: Learning and developing through others. Activities typically include coaching from their manager, seeking advice/feedback from others, 360-degree assessments or social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
• 10 per cent: Learning and development through structured courses and programmes. This is the typical focus of development efforts and includes courses, workshops, seminars and university education.
Building a great leader isn't done until that person you are developing is applying what they learned on the job and their function improves as a result of it. That won't happen if your focus is on the 10 per cent; you must have a clear and substantial plan to use the 70/20 parts in the development process. We don't have enough space in this article to go through exactly how to do that. AND, it is not easy, but hundreds of companies including Google, Reuters and HP have successfully adopted this approach to building their leaders' capabilities. It is integrated into their performance management and development systems. It is part of everyday work. It is about creating more of those moments and then stepping back to make sense of what happened and learn from it.
It is hard to get that level of insight or change in a classroom or from a book alone. Insight without action or change is meaningless. So, Thailand CEOs, CPOs and HR directors, find different ways to develop your leaders - every day. You don't have to get rid of training - it's still important. And it doesn't have to be 70-20-10. It can be 60-10-30 or 40-20-40. Listen to Herman James: just be different - for your company and for this country.
JAMES ENGEL is a senior executive director and the director of the new Centre of Excellence at the APM Group. You can contact him at email@example.com.