Leadership Development: What Makes A Great Learning Manager?

June 27, 2016


Learning Manager. Talent Development Director. Human Resources Manager. No matter what your job title, it’s safe to say your responsibilities—and perhaps your stresses—are growing.

The importance of investing in human capital, especially those at the top, is becoming more and more evident in recent years.

The Great Places to Work Guide to Greatness, an annual report that analyzes the FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For, affirms this by noting the 100 Best Companies are committed to employee development as a top strategic priority.On average, these top companies devote on average of 73 hours toward developing salaried employees each year and 58 hours for hourly workers’ development. Those charged with ensuring this is done effectively and efficiently have a lot of influence on the ways in which leadership development takes place and its outcomes. If you are in this group, it’s just as important to pay attention to your own development as that of your leaders and high-potential employees.

Here are a few of the essential qualities that will be key to success.

Communication and Negotiation Skills

We often talk about the importance of making the business case for leadership development and the challenges to implementing it.

As a learning manager, this is likely one of your biggest frustrations. In order to overcome this, you’ll need strong communication and negotiation skills. Simply listing facts and hoping for the best is not enough. You need to be able to package the facts into a compelling argument for the chief decision makers at your company. You also need to put yourself in their shoes and anticipate the first round of questions and concerns.

Be prepared with answers and talking points that will help you make your case.

Only then will you be able to successfully negotiate on behalf of your employees and their future development.

Results Driven

In order to monitor and report on the progress of all the great initiatives you have in mind, you will need significant attention to detail. Leadership and learning development is an art and a science. If you are going to effectively tie development program progress back to tangible ROI metrics, you’ll need to keep tabs on multiple aspects of the company’s performance. We don’t have to tell you how difficult it can be to show hard numbers gained from investing in soft skills, but there are some well-established frameworks for measuring the ROI of leadership development. You will need to document both individual performance improvements as well as larger company goals, then be able to speak intelligently on how they all relate. You’ll need broad knowledge on far more areas of the company than many other employees.


Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer self-guided online learning, while others do better in group sessions. For this reason, sometimes the best approach is a blended learning program that combines the best of both worlds.

Aside from selecting the best format, you also need to find creative ways to keep employees engaged throughout the training sessions. There is no right answer or one-size-fits-all solution to doing this, so find a way to make it personal and fun for yourself and your successes will be that much easier. Further insight into the importance of creativity in business and leadership can be found in this Harvard Business Review article.

Inspiring and Motivating

Hopefully by now you have the knowledge, support, and ideas you need to put together a great development plan for your employees. You are prepared to make an impact and help your employees make an impact. But staying the course requires perseverance. You will need to stay motivated and motivate others. You will need to supplement the programs and courses you bring into the company with your own wisdom and enthusiasm for daily progress. Individual employees may come to you with a particular weakness or problem. Supervisors or division leaders may come to you with larger scale issues.

You will be required to help them think through the challenges they are facing then decide if the solutions can be handled internally with coaching and monitoring from you, or if you will need to bring in additional external solutions.

One of the biggest challenges you’re bound to face is making the business case for implementing leadership development programs to prepare your team’s future for success.


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