In the last post we detailed critical mistakes we made with executive commitment that derailed over $300,000 of leadership development efforts. Now let’s take a look at the 3 lessons we’ve learned that have easily contributed to 2x those loses in new business and build executive commitment.


effective leadership developmentAs a leadership coach and trainer, I know that you probably have great services, great content, and the ability to effectively engage your audiences, whether you are coaching one executive or running a leadership development program with a group of leaders.

Unfortunately, that’s not enough.



That was the topic of our last post and the cause of a significant loss in revenues and credibility with a client. The missing component – the one piece above all that can and will derail great work – is executive commitment.


Executive Commitment isn’t Executive Support

Support implies words. Commitment, on the other hand, means action. When executives support a program they talk about it as “important.” But when they are committed, they prioritize it as high as a customer visit and make business decisions in favor of a program to outwardly demonstrate its importance. And they do it without apologies because they truly understand the correlation between strong leaders and business impact.

As I mentioned in our last post, we had support on a client engagement, but not true commitment. But like other resilient organizations, we’ve learned and evolved as a result of our mistakes and here is our new thinking, as least for the moment on how to build executive commitment on long term client engagements.


How to Build Executive Commitment

Engage your sponsor regularly:

Yes this seems obvious, but we now schedule all sponsor meetings in advance, even on six or 12-month engagements.  Of course when meetings are scheduled that far in advance they may need to be adjusted, but when our clients have time and see a commitment on their calendar, they rarely get changed. It also demonstrates our commitment to quality and connection.

What do we do in these meetings? It depends on the phase of the project. If we are early in the design of a leadership development project, we iteratively share updates and designs and seek feedback. Using an agile approach, it allows us to make changes in the program before getting too far down the design path. If we are in the delivery phase of an engagement, we seek feedback about how the program is progressing and we share our observations and recommendations. More on this at the end of the post. Bottom line, you have to be prepared to spend extra time with your executive sponsor to truly gain their commitment.


Schedule Executive Team Pulse Checks:

One of the mistakes we mentioned in our last post was building too narrow of a relationship set with just one or two executive team members. To branch out and broaden our executive relationships, we schedule regular check-ins with the entire executive team. This allows us to keep a pulse on when new executives come on board and to make personal introductions without calendars and assistants blocking the way. Executives are busy and it’s often hard to get their time so we’ve learned to leverage pre-existing executive team meetings and work ourselves in as a 15-minute or 30-minute agenda slot. What gets scheduled gets done.


Use a Repeatable Leadership Measurement Framework:

Early in the program, we assumptively show our clients our 4-level measurement methodology which is an adaptation of the work from the Kirkpatrick training evaluation model. In many leadership coaching and training organizations, it’s mostly window dressing. Part of what sets us apart is our ability to demonstrate behavior change in our leadership development models and programs. Of course, Coachmetrix, one of our leadership development tools, is the key to that. Here’s a quick snapshot of what we show as our measurement approach.

  • Level 1: Reaction – post workshop and coaching assessments that measure participant reactions to the program content and facilitator or coach.
  • Level 2: Application – self-assessment of change related to the participant’s leadership development action plan measured in Coachmetrix.
  • Level 3: Behavior change – others’ perspective of behavior change (e.g., do others see and experience the change?) measured in Coachmetrix.
  • Level 4: Organizational impact – data that measures the impact of the program to the overall organization. We’ll often measure retention of key participants, retention of employees that report into participants in the program, or ongoing comparisons with organizational engagement and satisfaction benchmarks.


Be a Trusted Leadership and Coaching Advisor:

Always add value. In our programs, we often learn more about the people within an organization than the leaders who run the business.  That’s why we believe it’s not enough to just deliver a great program. We also have to become trusted advisors who share critical observations, the impact on the business and recommendations. There’s some risk involved, but when executives stop seeing us as a commoditized trainer or coach, who charge an hourly or daily rate, or as an internal OD person making us do “HR stuff” – and shift to see us as trusted advisors, we’ll begin to make a significant difference in the business and be seen significantly different as a result.


Free Sample Summary Deck Download

Take a look at this summary deck that we use on our client engagements. Modify it and let us know how you made it better.


Executive Commitment is About Action, Not Words

The bottom line is that executive commitment is about action, not words. With it, your great services and products will likely be a success and impact a number of lives. Without it, your great services will be limited. To truly gain that commitment, we have to do more. We have to engage our executives regularly, show meaningful measurement on a consistent basis (Coachmetrix) and always add value. These are the components that have worked for us. Maybe some of the nuggets will work for you too. And, as always, we’d love your perspective. Together let’s make a difference one leader at a time to make the business world and the broader world a better place.

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