Though the shift to a dispersed workforce is one that most companies have become comfortable with, the long-term impact of managing remote teams is far from done revealing itself. It can be hard enough for managers to understand how to manage their people on a day-to-day basis without the line of sight provided by an office. But throw in long-term leadership development? All bets are off. That’s why it’s more important than ever to revamp and rethink your leadership development plan. 

The good news is that it’s possible to come up with plans that work for your office employees as well as your remote executive teams. The challenge, however, is that if in the past you have allowed these plans to unfold organically, you may need to be more intentional in your approach to include remote workers. 

Leadership development plans are critical to developing internal talent and keeping your top performers engaged and excited about work today and well into the future. These activities will also help prepare leaders to deal with remote workers.

What Is a Leadership Development Plan?

A leadership development plan is both a strategic framework and a process. It defines the goals and activities needed to help employees develop the skills to lead successfully and to achieve specific organizational goals. A great leadership development plan starts with the company’s strategic goals, its desired culture, and an understanding of the leadership competencies required. 

Strategic Goals

Company leaders must have a clear vision of where the company is headed in the next few years. Historically, strategic planning takes a long-range view, generally ten years out or more. This type of planning seems to have gone the way of VHS movies. Despite the recent shell-shock of an overnight pandemic, don’t completely discard your long-term strategic planning. Short-term focus can lead to myopic thinking. You will need leaders who can deliver you into the future.

Bill Gates once said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” Granted, Bill Gates uttered these words before the pandemic. But it’s timeless advice. Long-term thinking is how companies manage risk and drive long-term sustainability and actually differentiate themselves in the marketplace. When you understand where you’re going, you’ll know the type of leaders you’ll need.

Desired Culture

Culture is an important consideration as long as the things you consider actually matter. It’s not so important to have everyone be the same. Rather, culture shapes your leadership development goals and it is expressed through values and beliefs. When people share assumptions and group norms, they share a common culture. 

Diversity in your leadership team drives better decisions. Innovation comes from teams that don’t always agree. You won’t necessarily see cultural fit on a résumé. The traits that will propel your company forward are found in more than just one demographic. That should be exciting news when it comes to finding leaders who are a cultural fit. Creative, action-oriented, intellectually curious, culturally aware…these are all traits that define a culture that is also inclusive

Required Leadership Competencies

Once your company has refined its goals and defined the essential cultural attributes, the required leadership traits will become apparent. There are certain qualities that you may determine all leaders need — for example, collaborator, empathizer, relationship-builder and strong communicator. Interpersonal skills are critically important. In fact, the lack of strong interpersonal skills might be considered a fatal flaw. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right feedback, interventions and development activities in place, researchers have found that 60% of leaders can make incremental positive changes that make a big difference in how they are perceived. 

How to Create a Leadership Development Plan

So far, we’ve discussed the groundwork for establishing leadership development plans. The actual individual plans, however, require the input and the buy-in of the leaders you wish to develop. Executives must take ownership of the plans in order for the effort to be successful. They need to make their voices heard and be active participants in the process.

Determine Possible Career Paths

Make sure you are clear about the roles that will be needed in the future. Define the roles first, and then determine possible career paths. Of course, the path may change depending on individual capabilities, but creating paths can help you determine your needs. Solicit input about the roles from your leadership team. This may provide fresh perspectives and additional insights. 

Assess Your Current Leadership Capabilities

Understand who your current leaders are and what skills they possess. A 360 evaluation tool is one way to do this, or you can bring in a leadership development consultant to do an assessment.

Define the Leaders Needed

Using your analysis of company goals, culture and required leadership competencies, determine the skills that will be most important in the future. Align these skills for each of your business unit objectives. Also, identify potential leaders among your existing workforce.

Mind the Gap

Meet with executives and potential leaders one-on-one to better understand their future goals vis-à-vis their capabilities and the company’s needs. If there is alignment, determine the gap between the skills your employees currently have and where they want to be in the future. If there is no alignment, you’ll need to determine whether the working relationship should continue.

Create a Plan

Together with each executive, put together a development plan with specific action steps. These actions may include a combination of personal and organizational objectives. For example, the company might sponsor a formal leadership development program for the most promising next-generation leaders or an Executive MBA program for executives. Establish a performance framework with clear expectations and metrics for success outcomes. Development may also include classroom or online training, reading, special project assignments, coaching and more. 

Execute the Plan

Once the plan is in place, it’s time for the executive to start working on the goals. 

  • Ensure that the goals are measurable.
  • Regularly review progress at pre-established milestones. 
  • Solicit feedback. 

At regular intervals, adjust the plan, making course corrections as needed.

How to Adapt Leadership Development for Remote Workers

Remote workers have a challenge when it comes to leadership development. Out of sight, out of mind. These workers are more than half as likely to be passed over when it comes to promotions than those who work from the office. The leadership development plan, however, will include many of the same activities as those for in-office executives. 

Nonetheless, you’ll need to interact more in the daily work environment so that remote workers get the exposure they need. There are specific steps managers can take to create an overall working environment that will help ensure that their leaders have equal opportunity access to advancement opportunities.

Avoid Incomplete Communication

There should be no ambiguity for any of your employees. But this is particularly true for those executives who work from home. Together, you should clearly detail the scope of the work and how success looks, always with an eye on developing self-directed accountability. 

Hold a Weekly Status Call

Check in weekly at a minimum and encourage remote executives to request an extra meeting, if needed. Review progress against their development goals more frequently than with office workers. Remember, however, that trust and transparency are key. Status calls are not about control; rather, they are an opportunity to support and engage your remote leaders.  

Schedule Social Time

Remote workers also need to feel connected to the team, and not just through Zoom business meetings. Virtual social interactions can help them connect with other team members and allow them to hone their interpersonal skills. 

Encourage Mentoring and Coaching Relationships

As part of the leadership development plan, include coaches and mentors. Encourage a mentoring relationship with someone who is well connected companywide and will provide visible and vocal support for the remote worker. 

Ask Good Questions

Working from home will have its ups and downs, even for those who are fully committed to it. It never hurts to ask what you can do to provide support. You may or may not be able to do anything, but a little empathy can go a long way toward helping remote executives recognize their vulnerabilities and move beyond their struggles.

Getting Started on Your Leadership Development Plans

Leadership development plans are a crucial part of your company’s future viability. Further, they encourage executives to take responsibility for their own growth by ensuring they have access to the necessary training, coaching, or mentoring they need to succeed, even when they work remotely. 

Are you looking for future leaders in your company? We have a proven methodology to help you find the right people. Contact YScouts today.