Leadership development and business simulations

Posted 18 October 2012 by
Effective leadership

Effective leaders are central to the success of an organisation – surely a premise no-one would wish to argue with. Anyone who hesitates only has to flip the coin over and ask themselves ‘Is an ineffective leader good for business?’

The development of these all-important lynchpins within an organisation delivers tangible benefits. Increased output and sales follow in the wake of good management, enhancing the success of the company. We’re talking boosted morale, bonuses and pay rises, perhaps a period of expansion and recruitment. The successful business is now an even bigger successful business, with all the revenue opportunities that situation implies.

Given this, you’d think all business-minded organisations would put considerable effort into developing managers. Surprisingly, around 50% of organisations do not address leadership development or possess an integrated talent management strategy. In these circumstances, high-calibre managers are likely to jump ship and join competitors, succession planning is non-existent, and the organisation’s morale takes a nose-dive.

If it is a question of not knowing where to start or where to go next, an organisation can bring in experts such as OPP. Our consultants develop talent management strategies in partnership with organisations, making effective, long-lasting and motivating personal development a permanent fixture in the structure of the business.

One of the most effective ways of identifying needs and kick-starting the whole process is through business simulations. These use role-playing to address real workplace issues and challenges, replicating relationships and decisions in a business environment to give ‘live’ information about interpersonal style, intellect and drive.

Participants are given a senior management role in a complex organisation. The setting is fictitious, but it mirrors real and relevant business challenges. The players are given information on day-to-day operational and strategic business challenges; and the fluid and dynamic operating environment of the simulation presents them with a number of opportunities, threats and problems to be resolved in ‘real time’, working alongside other delegates over the course of a day.

The fictitious organisation mimics genuine business demands, in terms of business model, strategy, culture, conflicts and other important issues. It is designed to coax out behaviours that reflect those the individual would characteristically display in a genuine work situation. The roles are generally placed at a management level several steps above the participant’s current position, and the sessions can identify and develop current or future leaders by helping to align individual skills and organisational needs. All the activities revolve around the same fictitious organisation, and the delegates remain ‘in character’ throughout the day. Method acting at its finest!

As to exactly how these simulations should be staged, that’s something the consultant and organisation can work out together. They can be either structured or free-flowing, the style used depending on the objectives and competencies that are to be measured.

A structured simulation is similar to a session in an assessment or development centre. Participants have a full timetable of group and individual activities and are observed while they carry out their tasks. These might include group meetings, in-tray exercises, one-to-one meetings, presentations and fist fights. Okay, I made up the fist fight bit, but you get the picture.

Free-flowing simulations lack this rigid structure, and delegates are allowed to arrange their time and activities as they see fit. They will still be expected to attend a few key activities, such as meetings and presentations, and attempts to leave the session whilst arguing that your character is the sort of person who spends two and half hours in the pub at lunchtime will not go down well. But exactly how these free-flowing role plays pan out is left up to the participants.

Within these scenarios, OPP consultants observe everything that’s going on and provide in-depth feedback when it’s all over. They incorporate evidence from key psychometric tools such as the MBTI and 16PF questionnaires, 360º questionnaires, peer feedback and self-evaluation. Feedback sessions are interactive and the multiple sources of information provide delegates with a greater understanding of their own skills and needs, helping them to plan their development. Candidates also receive in-depth reports, which they are encouraged to share with their managers.

Simulation leads to stimulation. The process forms the springboard for setting objectives, sorting out bespoke coaching and enabling individuals to move on to the next phase of their development as leaders in the organisation. Which probably leaves you wondering, like us, why 50% of companies still don’t seem to get it.

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