Five principles for successful enrolment on leadership programmes

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Johnny Lympus

Written by Johnny Lympus

Five principles for successful enrolment on leadership programmes

So you’re running a leadership programme and it’s time to enrol participants. How do you get people eager to sign up and in the right frame of mind to boost business outcomes? Here, Johnny Lympus explains Achieve Breakthrough’s top five key points for getting participants on board and raring to go!

Your business doesn’t want mere continuous improvement. It wants transformation. And that requires leadership. But too often, staff go on leadership development programmes only out of duty. Neither they nor their line managers or sponsors have high hopes.

At Achieve Breakthrough, we are determined to deliver business results that last. So here are the key principles we’ve developed over the years to ensure that prospective participants know that enrolment is an opportunity, not just an obligation.


  1. 1. Show relevance

The programme has to be relevant to the concerns of the organisation and participants, and the direction the business is going in. If not, why would anyone want to go on it? You want people knocking the door down to be on this programme!

Often, the design of leadership programmes begins with business need, but then looks at people and builds the programme around their capabilities. Suddenly, there’s a disconnect from business need.

Instead, it’s key to maintain altitude and ensure that capabilities are developed to serve the business. So consider: what are the business problems that need addressing – and the solutions? Why is this programme absolutely essential, now and in the future?

You should measure attendance, but above all, you need to have business results and ROI on your mind. Only by demonstrating the real-world business impact and relevance to participants’ day-to-day will you gain real buy-in.


2. Make engagement as easy as possible

There’s nothing worse that participants finding that a leadership programme has been dropped into their diary, and their questions about it are going unanswered. Information needs to be readily accessible.

Plus, the programme itself must be accessible: it has to fit within the cultural constraints of the business. It may not be easy for participants to squeeze it into their schedule, but it must be logistically possible.

Participants should be provided with the right tools, a manageable amount of data to absorb, virtual learning opportunities – whatever it takes to enable them to attend and learn.

Sometimes, people start a programme with great enthusiasm, but find it difficult to navigate attendance alongside their other work commitments. Line managers, sponsors or the transformation team need to help with that crucial navigation.


  1. 3. Design a high-value programme with follow-up

Prospective participants should think: yes, this leadership programme will really look after me, it will work, so it’s worth my making the investment. Take WeightWatchers: you expect to be a stone lighter in two months. You know you’ll be weighed, given meal plans, and post-programme support. It makes sense!

Leadership programmes must also make participants feel special before they’ve even begun. They should feel they’ve been personally selected for something important, exclusive and challenging, rather than just sheep-dipped.

A highly visceral element – a moment where you feel it in your gut – is a huge boost. So we set up the programme as an emotional journey with ‘a-ha’ moments designed in. When we’ve worked with jewellery retailer Pandora, we’ve had big kick-offs with a party atmosphere, and celebration sessions at the end where people have been in tears!


  1. 4. Develop branding that tells a story

Even the most brilliantly designed programme will fall flat if nobody knows about it. To raise awareness, you need a sticky, contagious message. A brand with a strong narrative that cuts through and feels fresh.

L&D teams tend not to have great branding. Even if they understand the importance, they struggle to get resources. So internal programmes rarely look sexy. We have used our own designers in the past to shape the look of the programme and tell its story through pictures, words and videos. It grabs the attention and creates excitement.


  1. 5. Get line managers and sponsors on-board

Too often, line managers and sponsors are informed about L&D programmes, but don’t engage with them. At Achieve Breakthrough, we’re determined to win their active participation – they should really want our programme! We invest in them so they understand what to expect from their direct reports.

Ultimately, you want them to say to their teams: invest in yourselves, this is a priority, and you should be selfish about your development. They must help participants avoid letting day-to-day business challenges get in the way of their participation. They should build the programme into their direct reports’ reviews.

At Coca-Cola, one participant wanted to leave the programme a day early. However, the CEO stepped in and told them that this was their top business priority; unless something had happened at home, they needed to stay.

Coca Cola stats


Achieve Breakthrough: your leadership programme partner

At Achieve Breakthrough, we know that context is decisive. Relevance is crucial. So we design business programmes in which people happen to get developed – and which deliver results.

We are committed to breakthroughs for your business: paradigm shifts that will set your organisation up for the coming years. Contact us today to discuss working together.



Published 02/07/2024

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