If you are leading an effort to develop a leadership training program for your organization and have gathered and analyzed information about the learning needs desired by the top executives of the business, it can also be helpful to conduct one or more focus groups with some of the planned participants in the training.  You can benefit in a few ways from doing this.  First of all, most people prefer to have a say in any program or activities they are going to be participating in.  This is simply a matter of individuals being more motivated by autonomy than by being told what to do with no say in the matter.  Second, when participants have the opportunity to contribute to the planning of the leadership development program, they feel more valued, trusted, and therefore will be more committed to completing the program. Finally, there are times when the participants may have some ideas about what type of growth and development they need, and perhaps this is something that was not thought about by the executives who were originally involved in brainstorming or percolating the ideas for the program.

Here’s an example of the above. Last year I was working with a corporate client to help them put together a leadership development institute for their supervisors and managers.  Using a solid planning process I worked with a small team of organizational leaders to determine what content to include in the program.  I then designed a draft version of a 12-class training and development program.  This draft program was shared in two different focus groups made up of a variety of the future potential participants in the program.  Based on the concerns and needs expressed by the focus group members a few of the planned courses were modified and three new topics were added.  These related to real challenges being faced by the participants that had not been considered by the small team originally involved in the design team.  When the final program was unveiled and included the changes and suggestions from the focus groups, many participants were not only appreciative but also said they felt the program would be much more valuable to them.