Tag Archives: developmental


By Scott Ormerod & Chuck McPherson





A couple of years ago, Alice was identified as a potential leader as part of the nonprofit succession plan. Alice was a program coordinator for the agency serving families. Besides knowing the job very well, Alice always volunteered for additional projects such as the strategic planning committee, the parent committee, or the development of a new program funded by the State. She demonstrated enthusiasm, was a learner, and was driven to serve the organization. When the Program Director, Linda, spoke with Alice about her personal development plan, she discovered that Alice had a lot of ambition and a desire to grow into a leadership role within the agency. What Linda discovered was that the organization had not developed or implemented a leadership development program. Succession planning was even new to the organization. They called Leap Solutions and asked for our help to identify the best practice options for a leadership development program.


As a business management consulting firm, we engage with clients about leadership, what it is, how it shows up within an organization’s culture, and how it is developed. Simply put, leadership is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. Leadership can also be defined by the ability of an individual or a group of people to influence and guide followers or members of an organization, society, or team. Leadership is an attribute tied to a person’s title, seniority, or ranking in a hierarchy (either perceived or real). But do these descriptors really identify what it really is? Absolutely not. How does one even get to be called a leader? Perhaps the perception is that he/she is “a natural born leader” or they develop into becoming a leader, one with high potential. Either way, leadership development is ongoing. Let’s explore these two concepts.



A natural-born leader emerges by seizing opportunities to develop and strengthen their leadership capabilities through challenges, experience, and learning as they engage, explore, and develop their leadership traits. They naturally have leadership capabilities, which they strengthen along their continuous journey. A high-potential, emerging leader builds their capabilities by seizing opportunities focused on self-learning, mentoring, coaching, and experiential leadership tools. While not naturally showing leadership capabilities, their journey continuously builds skills through knowledge, experience, and a willingness to make and learn from their mistakes.


If you desire to build and grow natural-born and high-potential leaders, what is available for this journey? First, identify the desired leadership skills and competencies within the organization and match the needs with identified natural or high-potential emerging leaders. Leadership growth can be achieved formally through training and specific development tools or informally through experiences such as project assignments that stretch their skills.



One of our clients engaged with us to create and implement a leadership development program. Together, we created a multi-year leadership program with an annual cohort of new leaders to participate in a program of coaching and leadership development. Their strategy is developing a deep field of both natural and high-potential emerging leaders. Participants benefit from past program participants while the whole organization benefits from a succession of leadership learners applying their skills. Essentially, the participants are earning their MBA in Leadership internally. The program results impact not only leadership but the bottom line through stronger client relationships, new business opportunities, and a growing network of potential clients. In reality, a small investment is yielding significant results.


To create a strong leadership program, participants benefit from formal and informal training and development activities achieved through various tools and experiences such as:

Mentorship – Internal mentors are critical for all team members as well as creating a leadership development environment. This allows for a multi-level approach to identify mentors at all levels of the organization. The mentor/mentee relationship can be formalized to ensure a meaningful and transformational experience. It supports learning from one another by understanding needed skills, core attributes, and experiences for planned growth. When focused on leadership development, the relationship can evolve around the type of leader the mentee aspires to emulate and what attributes they possess that makes them a leader to admire and understand.

Coaching – Formalizing the development process into a coaching relationship moves the experience from learning from others through relationships and observation to learning of one’s self and identifying development goals. Working with a coach to understand themselves, leads to real-life experiences and learning with a strong balance of introspection. Digging deep allows the coachee to grow and gain leadership skills. The key is setting development goals and holding the coachee accountable for reaching their goals.

Planning and Executing – Being conscious of development opportunities through planning creates the platform for executing. You have to know where you want to head in order to create a plan to get there. Making a conscious effort to plan, set goals, hold yourself accountable, and achieve plan execution sets the path for leadership development and success. A planning leader is able to clearly state the direction he/she is heading and bring others along to achieve the plan.

Leadership Assessments – The world is full of leadership assessments that identify behavioral traits (the foundation of leadership skill identification and utilization), profile strengths (and opportunities), and leadership potential. Pick one or a few to paint the leadership picture. The assessments are valuable as a foundation of what exists and point out the potential and opportunities for leadership development. The more a leader understands themselves, the stronger they will understand others. If you can explore what it might be like to walk in another leader’s shoes, the greater opportunity to understand their profile and what you might want to incorporate or develop within your skill set.

Values and Attributes – Leadership values are anchors or foundations of what makes a leader tick. They create the platform that keeps the leader on point for what is important to them. Along with their key leadership attributes, team members actively understand how they show up, what they can count on, and how they will respond when problems need solutions. Their words and actions are in harmony, and the walk is the talk. Alignment provides consistency of leadership and the ability for others to follow.

Education – The formal aspect of learning has many paths for the developing leader. Masters programs in leadership, certification programs, seminars, and leadership development programs are all potential learning paths.

Informal leadership development happens each day in a growing, learning organization that fosters active participation in skills development through individual experience and experimental learning. A culture that supports informal leadership development encourages taking risks, learning from mistakes, and taking the initiative to grow. In other words, the culture embraces initiative and provides opportunities to match enthusiasm with potential.


We once had a team member who thanked us for allowing them to earn their MBA on the job. We created an environment of formal and informal leadership development that allowed the team member to identify their potential and attain their goal of strengthening their knowledge and actively applying it while serving our clients. It was a win-win strategy of leadership development.


The world is changing, but it still needs great leadership to survive and thrive. Each organization has its own inherent opportunities and can set the culture it desires to develop its leaders. If you are wondering if you have a culture of leadership development, reach out to us and let’s have a conversation.




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Leap Solutions is a diverse group of highly skilled management, organizational development, and human resources, and executive search and recruitment professionals who have spent decades doing what we feel passionate about helping you feel passionate about what you do. Our HR specialists can help you get a handle on the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, programs, and legislation that may impact you and your employees. We are available to work with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization’s immediate, near, and long-term needs.

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Employees want and need feedback. Regular feedback, when done proportionately with recognition and development discussions, can build relationships, establish trust, and improve performance.


In this issue of our newsletter

    • Introduction
    • Recognition Feedback
    • Developmental Feedback
    • Feedback in a Remote World


For the recipient, feedback can often be associated with criticism providing a negative connotation to the experience. No matter how you dress it up, no one wants to be criticized. More importantly, does criticism lead to improved performance? It might in the short term, but it erodes your relationship with an employee if not handled well. No wonder so many managers would rather ignore the behavior and hope it goes away rather than risk making things worse by talking with the employee.

Employees want and need feedback. It should be regular, and it should focus on what the employee is doing well and provide opportunities for improvement. Regular feedback builds relationships and establishes trust. Building trust allows the employee to accept the developmental feedback, especially if they feel you have their best interest at heart.

In the absence of feedback, employees fill in the blanks. Generally, employees think that they are doing a great job, which can be reflected in their self-appraisal. It often comes as a surprise, when during the annual appraisal meeting, the employee learns that they are not meeting expectations or need improvement in some area. If the feedback occurred prior to the review and with frequency, the discussion can focus on improving future performance rather than hashing out past performance which feels like criticism.

Many managers want to be able to talk with their employees, but they just don’t know-how. This struggle to give feedback is likely rooted in fear; fear that they will say it wrong; fear that they can’t effectively handle feedback resistance; fear that the person might retaliate or gossip to others in the work community. After all, managers are people too! So, where do we start? For purposes of this discussion, we will be referring to feedback as recognizing someone’s achievements (recognition) and improving their performance (development).


Recognition Feedback

When providing feedback, it is easy to examine what is not going well and start there. However, if all you can find is fault, it will be much harder for the employee to trust that you have their best interest at heart and even harder for them to want to change their behavior. Instead, look at what the employee is doing right and tell them. If they hear more recognition feedback than developmental feedback, they will more easily accept the developmental feedback. When an employee sees that you notice their positive behavior, it’s more likely that they will repeat those behaviors. The more positive behaviors you notice, the more likely the employee will strive for continual improvement.

Recognition feedback tips:

  1. Do it often. Regular conversations with employees about their performance strengthens your relationship and builds trust.
  2. Don’t be in a hurry when providing positive feedback. Give the person your full attention when you engage with them.


Developmental Feedback

The intent of developmental feedback is to correct the behavior, not to punish the employee. The less defensive someone feels, the more likely they will hear what you are saying and make the necessary change.

When giving developmental feedback, it should be:

  1. Timely
  2. Specific (use facts, not gossip or innuendo)
  3. The discussion centers around the needed behavior changes, not around the person (or their personality traits)

To help you with this conversation, a feedback model such as Situation, Behavior, Impact, Future (SBIF) can help you set the stage.

Situation  – Explain what the situation is that is causing the need for the discussion so that the context is clear.
Behavior – Specify the behavior that is causing or contributing to the situation.
Impact – Describe the impact the behavior has on the customer, client, team, department, organization.
Future – Discuss what behaviors should occur to avoid this situation in the future. You may offer suggestions, but it’s best to ask the employee for their thoughts first so that they can own the solution.


An Example Using the SBIF Model

This model can help you develop a conversation that is clear, non-judgmental, and empower the employee to take responsibility for their own development. Here is an example using the model.

Hi John
S – Everyone is expected to be at work on time every day so that we can meet our customer’s expectations of quality and on-time delivery. Yesterday, we really had to scramble to get our load out on time.
B – This was the day that you arrived to work 30 minutes late. This is the third time this month that you have been late, and I am concerned a pattern is developing.
I – When you arrive late, we have to rearrange the workload to cover for you and the team has to work faster to ensure that the loads leave on time. This places a burden on your teammates and can lead to morale issues when a pattern develops. It can also lead to a decrease in quality (loading mistakes increase) which causes customer dissatisfaction. Again, we all count on the team to accomplish our commitments to our customers.
F – Going forward, what are your commitments to ensure that we are meeting our customer’s expectations and the team is supported?

The feedback revolves around the person’s behavior and the impacts on the customer commitments and team expectations. The language with the employee is “you” focused to ensure they understand the responsibility and accountability of their position. The employee is asked for a solution to their issue rather than a mandate from the manager. This allows the employee to discuss their contributing factors which could be important for understanding and resolving the issue. This is not about blame as it is about problem-solving and behavior resolution.


Feedback in a Remote World

With the number of employees working remotely, you might wonder if feedback is different in this environment. Out of sight can feel like out of mind for remote employees, and additional actions to engage them might take a little more effort. Frequent check-ins can help you keep a pulse on what is going on for them. It is hard to appreciate the day-to-day struggles and accomplishments in a remote environment so a variety of feedback channels should be considered. In addition to communication channels like email, Zoom and phone, a chat app like Google chat gives you the ability to send instant messages. Conversations through Yammer where teammates can build connections and share what’s going on with them or their department can be helpful for staying in touch. Various software tools including Microsoft Teams provide communication options. However, in addition to the many electronic tools available, use face-to-face meetings, which allow for the reading of body language, tone, and strong listening skills. Frequent check-ins can have an effect of feeling micro-managed so asking the employee for their preferred format and timing of feedback can help them distinguish between support versus micro-management.


Feedback, when done proportionately with recognition and development discussions, can build relationships, establish trust, and improve performance.


Make 2022 the year of Feedback!




Are You Ready to Leap?



Leap Solutions is a diverse group of highly skilled management professionals serving our clients with their organizational development, human resources, and executive search and recruitment needs. We have spent decades doing what we feel passionate about helping you feel passionate about what you do. With the ever-changing COVID-19 response, our HR specialists can help you get a handle on the guidelines, programs, and legislation that may impact you and your employees. Through all of our services, we are available to work with you to develop practical solutions and smart planning decisions for your organization’s immediate, near, and long-term needs.

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