Leadership development reimagined: Developing leaders in the flow of work

BYOC uses current business challenges as content for leader development

Posted by Wayne Robinson, Neil Alger, Kyle Sandell, Natalie Elghossain on Febuary 21, 2020.

“I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn,” said inventor Albert Einstein. As discussed in our first blog post in this series, in some cases, traditional leadership development programs are failing leaders by attempting to teach leadership divorced from the realities of their day-to-day work.1 Instead of focusing on teaching skills in an artificial environment, we argue for creating the conditions within the “flow of work” for effective problem-solving while developing problem-solving skills required to successfully lead in the future. We believe that problem-solving is the most critical leadership capability for leaders in a complex and ever-disruptive world. How do leaders develop those critical problem-solving skills The Bring Your Own Challenge (BYOC) methodology.

The BYOC approach is a powerful tool that can provide the right mix of experiences, expertise, and exposure required to help leaders at all levels become problem solvers.  BYOC is tailored to develop leaders because it is grounded in real-life business problems and relevant to the day-to-day organizational challenges leaders face. Using the BYOC approach, leaders apply the “6 P’s”:

  • Define a problem and develop a point of view describing the problem
  • Prototype and test assumptions
  • Pilot and plan their solutions while gaining feedback from stakeholders
  • Pitch the final idea and path forward to resource managers

Though the BYOC approach offers a practical framework for breaking down a problem and tackling it step-by-step, it is also developmental in that it acts as a skill-building exercise for leaders, allowing them to focus on the critical leadership skills organizations need moving forward. Embedding skill-building exercises into the everyday flow of work is a powerful, yet critically underutilized approach. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends Report, the need to improve learning and development emerged as the top-rated challenge.2 In fact, “eighty-six percent of respondents to the 2019 Human Capital Trends survey rated this issue important or very important, with only 10 percent of respondents feeling ‘very ready’ to address it.” Organizations need new solutions to address this pressing challenge, and we argue BYOC is the solution by building the skills leaders need in their flow of work.

What skills does BYOC build and how?

Leadership models and frameworks abound, but at the heart of most models are a set of capabilities that leaders need to be successful. Deloitte’s Leadership Framework (shown below) is differentiated from other models in that it was developed from 30 years of multi-geography, multisector, multifunction research and identifies the eight capabilities that are necessary for leader success:

The power of BYOC in building the above capabilities lies in the fact that leaders are learning through the identification and solving of an important business problem. In other words, learning and development are integrated tightly with each other in the flow of work, leading to faster development due to the experiential nature of the learning process. With each step of the BYOC process comes unique challenges, and as such, each step is uniquely responsible for building particular capabilities.

In the problem identification stage, leaders must dig into the details of the business problem to identify a well-defined problem statement that is grounded in root business issues. By identifying the “right” problem to address, leaders are developing the growing value capability because they must learn the business well enough to understand what changes would generate the most value. This foundational step orients the leader to the people, process, structure, and technology issues underlying the problem and acts as a launchpad to the subsequent steps.

Next, the leader must develop a point of view that brings together all the information collected into a compelling story that is future-focused. This step improves the leader’s innovating capability because the point of view developed is a rallying cry for exponential growth that will drive differentiation within the area identified.

The prototype stage is where the rubber meets the road. In this critical step, the leader transitions from ideation to solutioning, and it is also the step where the collaborating capability jumps to the forefront. It could very well be that a specific knowledge or skill needed to solve a problem is completely absent within the department in which the leader works. Rather than giving up, the leader must seek out the right person based on the project’s needs, so collaboration becomes key.

At this point in the BYOC process, the leader now enters the pilot stage, where his or her prototypes and solutions are refined through collecting feedback from others. In this stage, the leader is practicing the driving agility capability, focused on executing through others by leveraging their strengths. Piloting can be a fast-paced and chaotic process, but here is where the leader must slow down and become intentional in keeping the performance (and motivation) of others on track.

Based on the pilot feedback received, the leader must create an implementation plan to roll out and scale the solution. Here the leader begins to master creating purpose for the team, a skill that becomes more valuable as he or she rises in the organization. To create purpose, the leader must answer the “why” faced by all learners and teams. That is ultimately what motivates and engages them while simultaneously building their leadership capability to do the same for others. In this stage, the leader sets priorities and direction for the team, ensuring there is a shared purpose among a group that no doubt has diverse backgrounds, priorities, and motivations.

The final step in the BYOC process is to pitch the value proposition to key stakeholders and decision-makers. This final step is the culmination of a lengthy process and, as such, carries considerable weight, so it is no surprise that there are multiple capabilities the leader develops and relies upon during this phase. First, the leader must use executive presence to influence key decision-makers. The leader will gain experience identifying the right people to support the project and tailoring the message so that it speaks to the audience. Second, the leader will focus on inspiring the audience. Of course, when inspiring others, there is more than one way to “skin a cat”—but perhaps the most important characteristic for others to see is a consistent leadership brand that follows the leader throughout the BYOC process. Finally, the leader develops skills in building capability, and it is here that we see the potential for BYOC as an ongoing leader development journey. The leader must demonstrate a willingness to build a strong team that is capable of success. To do so, the leader should coach others, connect people to opportunities, fast-track high-potentials who can move the project forward, and start to think of the next generation of leaders in waiting. Thus, while moving through the BYOC process, the leader has identified and groomed the next generation of leaders who can identify critical business problems and follow through on tackling them.

Conclusion

With the BYOC 6 P’s approach embedded in the leader’s flow of work, the leader can experience the conditions for developing all eight leadership capabilities in Deloitte’s Leadership Framework while developing what we believe is the ultimate leadership capability—problem-solving skills. Fundamentally, it provides the learner with a clear “why” as the motivation that propels development beyond traditional classroom teaching. Given fast-changing organizational and market realities, the BYOC approach is designed to develop leaders that can take on those challenges and lead us into the future. In our next post in this BYOC series, we will explore practical applications of BYOC and its impact on leaders, organizations, and value creation.

Wayne Robinson is a senior manager in Deloitte Leadership & Learning, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP. Wayne has more than two decades of global problem-solving experience and is industry-agnostic.

Neil Alger is a senior manager in Deloitte Leadership & Learning, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Kyle Sandell is a senior consultant in Deloitte Workforce Strategies, part of Deloitte Consulting LLP. He has consulted and authored work in the areas of leadership assessment and development, performance management, organizational culture, learning and development, and employee engagement.

Natalie Elghossain is a senior consultant in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP. She currently consults for businesses undergoing large scale transformations, building on her years of experience in leadership development.

1https://capitalhblog.deloitte.com/2020/01/23/bring-your-own-problems-leader-development-reimagined/
2https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/5136_HC-Trends-2019/DI_HC-Trends-2019.pdf

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