Leadership workshops are one of the primary tools you’ll run into trying to develop your own leadership. Training professionals heavily market leadership workshops; they make sense conventionally, and they align with our what we expect from a commitment to training.
But you should think about whether the training will accomplish the goal.
If you are leading the training for others, there are some design considerations you can apply for better outcomes.
If you are trying to find the workshop for yourself, you can use some careful planning to make sure you are investing your time and money well.
This primer will help you on both counts—since the two goals overlap in a lot of places.
What is a leadership workshop?
A leadership workshop is a training event meant to provide skills or perspective on leadership.
These sessions are typically in depth and focus on targeted outcomes.
Workshops are an investment of both time and money, requiring a considerable effort. This is true not only of the organizers and presenters but also the attendees. Because of that investment, focusing on important outcomes and really thinking through them critically is always worthwhile.
Workshop structures are unique, of course, but many focus on a combination of content and interactivity/exercises. The content should provide the baseline information, and the exercises reinforce them.
Think of a good workshop as creating a space for learning in both time and environment, and then filling that space with the knowledge you need. Once you’ve got that knowledge at hand, the workshop should take steps to reinforce the learning through active engagement.
Practicing leadership in a training environment is not intuitive, so the setup should focus on deconstructing skills into activities you can practice, so you can translate them into the larger discipline of leadership when you’re finished with the workshop.
Designing Outcomes for your leadership Workshop
Designing outcomes for your leadership workshop is the most important thing to do in order to make it a success. It’s also the hardest part of designing an effective workshop. You can’t just let people walk in and walk out without knowing what they accomplished or how to use the skills they learned.
There are many ways to design outcomes for your leadership workshops, but you need to have an idea about what you want from your attendees before moving forward with any decision on your part.
Think of your motives when you started looking into a workshop. Was it drive by aspirations of improvement, or trying to fix an existing problem?
Knowing the goal, you can reverse engineer your outcomes based on that. If your team is struggling to work cohesively, then improved communication might be a target outcome.
With that in mind, you can assess your workshops based on their likely outcomes to addressing that need for better communication skills.
Already know that you’re going to lead your own workshop? Check out our guides on designing and leading a leadership workshop.
Planning your leadership workshop
You know your outcomes, now you need to design the content and activities that will help you get there. Working through a few questions will simplify your design process.
- How will the workshop deliver content so that it will stick? Passive learning isn’t a great way to learn applied skills, especially something more abstract, like leadership skills. Is the delivery engaging enough to make the content stick, while being interactive enough to allow application in the workshop?
- How will you practice the content that is delivered? Once attendees understand the content, they need to practice, ideally in the session. Practice should continue after the workshop ends, so providing resources and guidance on how to practice later is very beneficial.
- How will the learner reinforce lessons over weeks and month so progress endures? Following on theme of practice is reinforcement. Are there strong connections between the skills learned and triggers to apply them? This is how habits form. It can help learners when the workshop facilitators make connections between the skills and the opportunities to apply them.
Realistic expectations help in designing workshops. You can’t expect your audience to learn and internalize everything about a topic. It’s best to have simple goals, and mostly be about implementing knowledge or behaviors the team is already capable of.
Here, you are reminding them of the behaviors critical to success and giving them tools to boost their performance in these areas. Remember, change in this form has to be driven by the audience’s desire to change. People aren’t machines you can load new firmware on: they make a conscious decision to act. Your workshop should plan around that and provide them all the tools needed to make that shift.
Deciding whether to buy or facilitate your own leadership workshop
You won’t have to look far to find people providing services for leadership workshops. It’s a sizeable industry.
Depending on your goals, it might be something that you facilitate yourself. This is especially true if you are targeting issues specific to your work or environment (e.g., working towards how to facilitate a project your team is working on)
Common leadership Workshop Formats
- Educational: The broadest format, educational workshops are built to provide new knowledge or guidance, educating on a skill and then trying to reinforce it through practical exercises
- Inspirational: Inspirational workshops are less about providing new skills or grounding existing skills through exercises, and instead use inspiration to bolster morale, or encourage attendees to use the skills they already have, or encourage them to pursue growth
- Psychometric: Built around personality testing and conversation, debrief on how to use the results to better understand team dynamics
- Communications Focused: Emphasis on communication skills and establishing channels between participants
- Event Focused: Some workshops are built around an even that is already happening, and bolster the net benefit of that foundational event
- Team Building: These formats are built around shared experience and reflection meant to strengthen the working relationship and intra-team communication
Leadership workshops are one of the many tools in the leadership development toolbox. You might look to join one yourself, or design and facilitate one for your team.
If carefully designed and considered, they can help develop your leaders skills. Just be sure to set your expectations and put in the work beforehand so they fit.
If you’re interested in designing and leading your own leadership workshop for your team, check out our more detailed post on doing just that