Make sure your strategy is a success by getting management on board, say Diane Allsopp and Georgia McHardy

Your strategy is set. You have stretching goals and you want your managers to lead change and drive reform. How will you know if they have the “right stuff”? What support and development will they need along the way? Do they understand what will be expected of them and can they get there? Achieving measurable behavioural change is no mean feat.

Here we describe the model we used to successfully build momentum across four primary care trusts on Teesside.

Begin with the end in mind Visualise your leaders of the future. Will they need to think more strategically, search for more innovative solutions, and motivate and inspire their teams within tighter financial constraints? Generate discussion and capture the behaviours they will need in a clear and meaningful framework that describes “what good looks like”.

Get senior level endorsement for your development programme Without this, participants may fail to appreciate the value or misunderstand its importance. Having agreed who will go through it and having gained commitment from the executive team, involve a board level director or even your chief executive in making a statement of introduction either in person, via video or by letter.

Provide a baseline assessment for managers Examine their strengths and development gaps against your leadership framework. A tailored development centre will provide them with valuable feedback on where to concentrate their effort in the future.

Asking your most senior staff to go through an assessment process for development can be a daunting prospect, but not only will they gain a clearer picture of themselves against your framework, the organisation can also benefit from an analysis of common themes to inform succession plans and decision making on development budget spend.

Create a safe, constructive environment Providing participants with a stretching challenge with this protection will allow them to have frank and honest conversations about their leadership potential and style. They should emerge with a realistic, dynamic development plan and feel empowered to achieve it.

If you outsource the design and delivery of this part of the process, select a partner with a track record in senior level assessment and with experience across a number of sectors, not just the NHS.

They need to quickly understand the complexity of your organisation, win over cynical participants and create a programme to dovetail with other existing HR processes.

Secure line manager engagement Without this element, your aims and objectives may not be realised. At the outset, brief line managers on the purpose of the development centres and on what their direct reports will gain. Explain their role and responsibilities and make a follow-up meeting between participants and their managers’ part of the process. Encourage regular dialogue on progress and offer “refocusing sessions” to challenge participants to stay on track.

Communicate openly and honestly Prospective participants need to understand how the development centre relates to organisational strategy and how it will benefit them. Set the programme in context and explain how the development centre will work. Be upfront and totally honest about the boundaries of confidentiality and how the data generated by assessment will be used. There should be no hidden agendas.

As the numbers taking part and working on their development plans grow, behavioural change will reach a “tipping point” and momentum toward leadership that will deliver your strategy will be under way.

Case study: Teesside

Galvanised by a desire to achieve world class commissioning standards, Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees primary care trusts gave high priority to developing leadership.

They developed a new set of leadership and management attributes and commissioned a baseline assessment for assistant directors and senior managers against this new framework.

Participants were assured that data about individuals would not be shared with the organisation; only common themes would be reported. But participants agreed to share the details of their assessment with their managers.

Consultants met individuals one to one and took them through a mix of exercises and psychometric questionnaires. They received feedback and individual development reports to take back for discussion with their managers. In addition, key themes were summarised, which enabled the PCTs to focus attention on the specific issues that will have the most impact on the organisation as a whole.