What Really Works in “Leadership Development”?




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I recently learned about the 70/20/10 approach to developing a person’s skills in a great Blue Avocado interview with Kirk Kramer of the Bridgespan Group. According to Kramer, research indicates that a person’s job development comes 70% from their job assignments, 20% through mentoring, and 10% through some kind of training or study.

As someone that has frequently advanced in her career as a result of simply offering to do new and different things at work, the 70/20/10 rule rings very true for me. Of course we all learn best by doing, and second best by getting our lessons from a trusted person that has been there before. Training and formal study are the least effective because they most often entail applying lessons learned apart from the time at which we are learning them.

As common sense as the rule is, it is also worth noting that our strategies for 90% of employee leadership development should also be pretty common sense. If the vast majority of a person’s skill development happens through on-the-job experiences, why not be more focused on actively cultivating leadership through systems and opportunities already available like through employee goal setting and performance evaluations? If mentors are so important for skill mastery, why not add assigning a mentor to the check list for orienting new hires?

Greenlights is excited to unveil our report on Nonprofit Career Trends this spring, and what we learned about leadership development challenges and successes locally have led us to several simple, yet effective, recommendations for attracting and retaining great talent. If you are one of the 43% of nonprofits that reported planning to hire in 2013 or a nonprofit professional looking for a new position (and if you’ve been in your job for more than 3 years, you probably are!), then consider joining us for a new course we’ve developed on the subject.

It’s called Nonprofit Career Trends: Implications for 2013 and Beyond, it’s on April 4, and it’s all about real-life career trends and effective, easy-to-implement responses. And even if you get just 10% of your overall skill development from the training, we promise it’ll be worth it!

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