How to Guarantee Transfer of Leadership Skills | Fierce

In your own quest for leadership development, the road often feels like it’s uphill, especially when you’re trying to bring your management on board. Imagine a world where every employee not only contributes to today’s success but stands ready to lead tomorrow. The secret? Ensuring the transfer of leadership skills turns potential into reality.

Throughout this series, we’ve stressed gaining support from your bosses isn’t about presenting a wish list—it’s about aligning with the heartbeat of your organization. Organizations need leaders, maybe not today, but for growth and health to remain strong, a strong pipeline of leaders need to be ready to enter the game when called upon. Every organization should be concerned about perpetuation and the retention of institutional knowledge. This only happens when people are developed internally. Presenting these ideas provides another persuasive case for intentional leadership development.

The Challenge of Transfer of Learning

Recognize this scenario? A team undergoes leadership training, filled with new insights and inspiration. Yet, weeks later, back in the grind, those newfound skills seem locked in a vault, untapped and slowly fading. This gap, where learned skills don’t quite make the leap into daily operations, stands as a significant hurdle in leadership development.

It’s one reason many organizations give up on leadership training.

It’s not for lack of trying. The truth is, without a bridge connecting classroom learning to the reality of workplace challenges, even the most groundbreaking training risks becoming another forgotten seminar. The stats back this up, suggesting a startling disconnect between learning and doing.

One study from the Center for Creative Leadership demonstrated 70% of executive development came from on-the-job exercises.

When practical experience is missing leadership skills are not transferred throughout the organization.

Imagine a pilot trained in simulation but never setting foot in a cockpit. Without applying those skills in real flight, knowledge remains theoretical. Similarly, leadership skills need live testing grounds to take root and flourish.

This disconnect isn’t an educational oversight; it’s a missed opportunity for organizational growth and evolution. Recognizing this challenge is the first step toward crafting solutions not only to bridge the gap but also ensure today’s training shapes tomorrow’s leaders.

Making Learning Relevant

Enter the concept of “real-play,” a stark contrast to the often-theoretical role-play. Picture a leadership training session where instead of hypothetical scenarios, participants tackle real, pressing issues their team faces. This shift from imaginary to actual situations ensures the lessons learned aren’t just remembered; they’re felt and lived.

Fierce’s approach embodies this principle. By engaging participants in solving genuine organizational challenges during training, the leap from classroom to workplace shrinks. Suddenly, the skills aren’t theory; they’re tools in hand, ready for immediate application.

Consider a manager struggling with team alignment. Instead of discussing a fictional team in turmoil, they dive into their team’s current challenges, applying new communication strategies right there, in the training room. This direct application not only cements the learning but also begins the transformation before the session even ends.

Such relevance ensures learning sticks because it’s woven into the fabric of everyday challenges. Participants leave not with a notebook full of theories but with a plan of action tailored to their reality. This approach turns potential skill fade into lasting behavioral change, bridging the gap between knowing and doing.

Creating a Plan for Transfer of Learning

The journey from absorbing knowledge to applying it effectively hinges on a well-structured transfer of learning plan. This strategy isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s essential. It sets clear, attainable goals and outlines immediate steps for applying new skills on the job. Consider it a roadmap, guiding participants from the classroom back to their daily tasks, ensuring the journey continues seamlessly.

This plan begins with setting specific, measurable objectives. What should participants be able to do differently? How will these changes manifest in their work? Answering these questions creates a target, a finish line everyone is racing towards.

For example, after a leadership communication workshop, a participant might set a goal to resolve a long-standing conflict within their team using the new strategies learned. The plan would detail the steps, from initiating the conversation to navigating through the conflict resolution process, and set a timeline for these actions.

Collaboration is key in this phase. Managers play a pivotal role, not just as supporters but as active participants in the learning transfer process. They need to engage with their team members, discussing the training’s takeaways, and integrating them into the team’s objectives and routines.

By crafting a detailed plan for the transfer of learning, organizations ensure that leadership development transcends the classroom, embedding new skills into the DNA of their daily operations. This strategic approach turns potential into performance, making leadership growth a tangible asset to the organization.

Keeping Training Alive at the Organizational Level

For leadership development to transform an organization, it must extend beyond the confines of individual training sessions. It requires a culture that nurtures continuous learning and application. This is where the organization itself, particularly its leaders and HR professionals, steps in to ensure the longevity of training impacts.

Training is like planting a seed. For it to grow, it needs consistent care—water, sunlight, and protection. Similarly, the seeds of leadership skills sown during training flourish in an environment that encourages reflection, application, and reinforcement. This means not checking in immediately post-training but establishing a routine of follow-up and feedback that spans weeks, months, and even years.

Facilitators and managers become gardeners of this process, tasked with nurturing these skills. They might set up regular coaching sessions, create platforms for sharing successes and challenges, or integrate leadership development discussions into standard meetings. The idea is to keep the conversation going, ensuring the learnings remain front and center in everyone’s minds.

Moreover, an organization committed to keeping training alive invests in post-training resources. This could be access to ongoing learning materials, membership in professional development groups, or tools that assist in applying new skills. 

Such sustained support signals to everyone leadership development isn’t a checkbox activity but a core part of the organization’s DNA. It’s a commitment to growth not only benefiting the individual but also enhances the collective capability of the organization, preparing it for future challenges and opportunities.

Building a Culture of Continuous Development

It’s clear leadership development is more than a series of training sessions. It’s a journey that requires strategic planning, active engagement, and a commitment to fostering a culture where learning translates into meaningful action. This path isn’t always easy, especially when faced with resistance or skepticism about the value of such programs. Yet, the rewards— a resilient, agile, and capable leadership pipeline—far outweigh the challenges.

To the HR directors and dedicated employees championing this cause, remember: your efforts to bridge the gap between learning and application are laying the foundation for an organizational culture that prizes growth, embraces change, and values leadership at every level. Armed with the strategies outlined here, you’re not just advocating for training; you’re advocating for a future where your organization thrives, powered by leaders who are not only prepared for tomorrow’s challenges but are also capable of shaping the future.

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