The Four Key Elements Behind Any Successful Women’s Leadership Program

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Slow down to speed up.  We’ve all heard this cliché a thousand times.  Unfortunately, we tend to say yeah yeah, brush it aside, and move on with our day.

Here’s where this becomes a non-negotiable: When organizations are ready to implement or re-evaluate women’s leadership initiatives.  The only way to ensure success is to stop, evaluate what is and isn’t working, and strategically map out a plan of action.

Many of the organizations that we work with at Women Igniting Change have the best of intentions.  They want to implement strategies that help women in their company feel valued and engaged.  They want to provide the education necessary to ensure they have a pipeline of high-potential women ready to take on additional responsibilities and move into senior leadership positions.

Unfortunately, the Corporate culture is 95% reactive and 5% proactive.  Leaders are so busy putting out fires that there isn’t time dedicated to proactively thinking through how something should be designed and implemented.

Many organizations like Intuitive Surgical, one of the organizations we serve, now have some version of a women’s employee resource group. Intuitive is way ahead of the curve.  But what we often see are organizations that – despite doing their best to offer programming that offers real value –  aren’t offering streamlined programming that connects to the bigger picture.

They hire multiple outside vendors to come in and do “one-off” programming, hope the value sticks, and move on to the next one.

So how do you ensure that you’re adding solid value to the women in your organization WHILE surpassing your organization’s goals in the process?

By creating a framework.

Here are four key elements behind any successful women’s leadership program:

1 – A Comprehensive Strategic Plan

In order to have the impact that most organizations desire, they MUST take the time to implement a comprehensive, strategic women’s leadership development plan.

First – it’s imperative to determine what the overall objective of the program is.

  • What is it you’re trying to accomplish?
  • How does this program align with other key corporate initiatives?

Second – who should be in charge of the program? The most effective programs have key stakeholders from across the organization working together in a consistent, structured manner.

2 – Ensure a Strategic Alignment with your Corporate Growth Strategy

Implementing a women’s leadership initiative without tying it back to the corporate growth strategy is simply checking a box.

What is the 3-5 year plan/strategy for gender diversity?  The best way to achieve those goals is to look at every facet of the strategy and then reverse engineer a plan of action that begins with the women’s leadership initiative.

3 – Measure Program Effectiveness

Too many programs exist without an effective measurement and ROI calculation.

Establishing key performance indicators (KPI’s) that measure effectiveness and offer the opportunity for course correction is critical to success.

  • What are the elements that need to be measured?
  • How often should check-ins occur?
  • How should the information be communicated and to whom?
  • How is the learning being applied back to their roles?  How is that being quantified?

4 – Create a Sustainability Plan

Without sustainable benchmarks, the whole thing was just a really nice idea.  Once you have a plan that works, how will you not only sustain it but help it evolve and grow?

Many initiatives can fall flat if they are done the same way year after year.  So, it’s essential to map out how your organization will sustain and grow your women’s initiatives.

Tweet: The only way to ensure success is to stop, evaluate what is and isn’t working, and strategically map out a plan of action.

Of course, there are multiple layers underneath each one of these categories that are essential to ensure success, but starting with these four as a benchmark will guide you in the right direction.

Many of our clients spend time between September and the end of the year to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their women’s leadership initiatives.  Because looking at these programs objectively is difficult to do internally, many prefer getting the expertise of an outside firm.  If you’d like to speak with a Women Igniting Change strategic solutions partner, we’d be happy to share some of our best practices for creating a comprehensive plan for 2017 that attracts, retains, and engages the women in your organization.

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