Best practices

How to build a successful executive training program

Why and how to deliver executive training

It’s no secret that employee training offers big advantages for your organization. Continued employee development significantly increases satisfaction, productivity, and profitability. Plus, upskilling your high-potential employees prepares them to be the leaders of tomorrow.

But what about the leaders of today?

Top-level leaders benefit as much as anyone from training. Executive training can significantly increase professional motivation and performance. And that can have a direct impact on overall company success.

Why you should offer executive training

Senior leaders have a disproportionate influence on shaping your organization’s growth. They are the driving force behind strategy, agility, and decision-making. And, according to Gallup research, leaders also play a big role in determining employee engagement. Yet that same research shows that only 1 in 10 people have the talent required to manage.

Promotion doesn’t automatically prepare executives for all their new responsibilities. Training your C-suite leaders will boost their success and your organization’s well-being.

Leadership training differs somewhat from typical employee training in both content and delivery. Executives are busy juggling competing priorities. If you want your program to engage them and equip them to guide your organization, you need a custom approach.

Teaching the right skills

Good executive leadership requires a specific set of skills. These can include strategy planning, change leadership, relationship development, and mentoring. By and large, these aren’t taught extensively in most business schools, and it’s up to you to fill in the gaps.

Training for executives should, of course, focus on the needs of your specific organization. You can poll your workforce to discover the distinct performance or engagement issues they’re facing.

But, there are also general patterns to the skills senior management training courses teach. According to one survey, the five most common skills addressed in senior executive training are:

  1. Communication skills
  2. Developing and coaching others
  3. Team leadership
  4. Strategy development and alignment
  5. Change leaderships

You may have some variation in your specific needs. But these five skills address the core challenges today’s leaders face. They’re a good starting point as you research your executive training program.

6 ways to build an effective executive training program

Designing executive training that works

Whether you’re building your own curriculum or using an existing program, there are steps you can take to guarantee success. Consider the following six tips for building effective leadership training.

Define your goals upfront

Any training is only as good as the results it achieves. It’s important to set specific learning objectives for your program from the start.

Are you looking to increase productivity? Expand mentorship within the organization? Increase clear communication across departments? Maybe you want to zero in on a more focused strategy.

Understanding the needs will help you find the right content. Try polling senior leaders to find specific pain points or gaps in knowledge. Ask about areas they feel they’re struggling with or obstacles they face. Also, take into consideration organizational goals for growth or change.

As you clarify what you want to achieve, remember the value of SMART goals. Make sure your objectives are specific, meaningful, and measurable.

Keep your training bite-sized

Executives are busy, and your training will be competing with a lot of priorities. Present a program that keeps leaders’ attention and makes good use of their time.

Offer training in small, digestible segments that cut out the fluff and make an impact.

For example, don’t take executives away from the job for a full two-day seminar. The more time they spend in a classroom worrying about what’s happening back at the office, the less engaged they’ll be with the content. Instead, break training courses up into shorter sessions spread across several days or weeks.

Also, consider self-paced learning options. The flexibility of online and virtual learning has revolutionized the training game. A robust Learning Management System (LMS) allows learners to log in and engage with training anytime, anywhere. Offer brief, to-the-point online modules that work around busy schedules. This gives learners the space they need to digest major learning points.

Put training in a context

Most senior leaders have years of business and leadership experience. They don’t necessarily want primers on skills, methods, and models. What they need is learning that prepares them to address organization-specific concerns.

Provide training that applies concepts directly to learners’ own experience. Try incorporating real-world scenarios for discussion. Run surveys or polls and use examples from participants in your training material.

Practice, practice, practice

A hands-on approach to training makes skills more memorable and creates lasting behavior change. Give your program an edge by incorporating real-world practice opportunities. This can mean including games, quizzes, and real-life examples in the course.

It can also mean transitioning skills directly to the workplace. Ask your learners to practice using actual workplace scenarios. Prompt them to address real-life challenges with peers. This allows them to see the skills in action as well as learn from their mistakes.

Make learning social

Learning doesn’t only come from instructors. Mentorship is incredibly valuable — especially at the executive level. As mentioned, leaders in the C-suite generally have years of experience and wisdom to bring to the table. Create opportunities for participants to interact throughout their training.

Give leaders the chance to mentor one another. Consider using LMS chat features or forums. Include collaborative practices or assignments that provide opportunities for peer review and feedback. You may even want to schedule live events dedicated to Q&A or strategy-planning based on training.

Measure results

Just as you should start the program with clear objectives, you should have some way of measuring whether you’ve met those objectives.

Use your LMS features to track engagement. You can measure whether participants are successfully taking the tests that come with a course. It’s also useful to see how many people are completing training courses, and how and when they’re engaging with the material.

Another way to measure success when delivering training for executives is to check in with leaders and employees directly. What are they seeing and experiencing after training? Consider conducting interviews, surveys, or 360 assessments to find out.

Finally, keep track of your training metrics. Look at reports to see progress toward organizational goals and objectives. Understanding whether and how the course impacts your organization ensures you’re getting the most out of it. When you find gaps in engagement or results, it’s time to regroup and look for areas for improvement.


A good executive training program prepares leaders to win the trust, confidence, and commitment of their team. It helps them manage change and step up to and resolve challenges effectively.

Your executive leadership team holds your company in its hands. Offering continued leadership development is key to supporting and ensuring their success. An investment in quality executive training is an investment in your organization’s future.

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