Marcus Buckingham on “How to Give Every Employee Customized Leadership Advice”

Here is an excerpt from an article written by  Marcus Buckingham for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, and sign up for a subscription to HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Virtually every corporate and academic leadership development program is founded on the same model — we call it the formulaic model. It tries to collect all the various approaches to leadership, shaves off the weird outliers, and packages the rest into a formula. The notion behind all this is simple: The right way to lead is out there. A best-practice model exists. Once we discover it and turn it into a formula, development is just a matter of bringing you in line with that formula.

We need a new model — one that is scalable but accommodates the uniqueness of each leader’s techniques; one that is stable enough to permit the training of hundreds of leaders at once but dynamic enough to incorporate and distribute new practices and other innovations in real time.

But is that possible? The answer is yes. Over the past couple of years, many organizations have begun doing just that. The effort at Hilton Worldwide’s focused-service brands — Hampton, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and Home2 Suites — is a good example. My company worked with Phil Cordell, the head of those brands, to create an algorithmic model of leadership development and an app that sustains personalized learning.

We started by creating a tool for identifying each person’s leadership type. That type then became the filter through which some, though not all, leadership development content is delivered. We designed an algorithm within StandOut, our online strengths-assessment tool. StandOut is a situational judgment test, meaning that people indicate their likeliest response to a series of situations. By focusing on behaviors, this type of test captures how people come across to others better than assessments that ask respondents to rate themselves on a variety of traits.

Then, we gave the assessment to the company’s best leaders. Our analysis showed that the range of behaviors seen across those thousands of people could be divided into nine categories, which we call strength roles. These represent the most common ways specific strengths cluster and combine in individual leaders. Next, we interviewed a cross section of leaders to discover their leadership techniques.

This is where the algorithm comes in. You can use an algorithm to target techniques to the right people. Companies should assess all developing leaders and feed each one practices derived from excellent leaders who have the same leadership type.

Our algorithm draws on a constantly growing database of concepts, innovations, and practices and pushes them out to leaders as a series of techniques they might try. Because the suggestions reflect only what has worked for others who “look like” the recipients, they accelerate creativity without eroding authenticity.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

To check out the wealth of resources at Marcus’s website, please click here.

Marcus Buckingham is the founder of TMBC, a company that builds strengths-based tools and training for managers. He is the author of several WSJ and NYT bestsellers, including his latest book and accompanying strengths assessment, StandOut Find your Edge, Win at Work.


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