The 5 golden rules: what we’ve learned about successfully delivering global leadership programmes

Leadership Blog

Mike Straw

Written by Mike Straw

The 5 golden rules: what we’ve learned about successfully delivering global leadership programmes

In our last blog, Mike Straw reflected on the risks and challenges associated with developing a global leadership programme, and why context is decisive when creating a programme that delivers both global reach and local relevance.

If you missed it, catch-up here: The challenges and risks of global leadership programmes and how to overcome them

In this blog, the second in our two-part series, Mike Straw reflects on what we’ve learned about delivering successful programmes that meet both global and regional business objectives.


Five golden rules. In our experience, they’re the essentials for overcoming the lack of local relevance, cynicism, competing priorities, and all the other challenges that global leadership programmes can too often encounter. The common thread running through all of these rules all is that fact that context is decisive.

As a global L&D expert, you need to understand the ambitions, strategies, constraints, cultures and timescales for each region and stakeholder. You need to meet them where they’re at before you can take them on a transformational journey that can shift mindsets, uplift capabilities, and transform your organisation.


#1: Relevance

Relevance is inherent in good programme design. Crucially, it helps to overcome cynicism from attendees who think they have more important things to be doing, and local L&D teams who worry that a programme might compete with, rather than complement, their own targets.

To ensure relevance, there needs to be something at stake for every single person attending, and a clear link to commercial impact for every department involved. And, to bring local teams along, any programme needs to be simple enough to scale globally, but with the capacity to be localised slightly in each different region. That’s how you win engagement and stop the pace from flagging.

Relevance can be reinforced if you send the message that attendance is non-negotiable. We’ve run programmes where a CEO has directly contacted non-attenders or early leavers to challenge why they weren’t treating the programme as their priority. Unsurprisingly, this strong investment and interest from the top-down works wonders for engagement and impact.

Failure to design a relevant programme creates a gap between your big ambitions and the disappointing reality. At Achieve Breakthrough, we see that often in poorly designed projects. We call it a collusion of hope.


#2: Commitment

 Even the greatest two-day programme in the world won’t be enough to bring about genuine transformation on its own. You need to ensure that people – your local L&D teams and your participants – are committed for the long term.

If you look at major behavioural programmes such as Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous, they have built-in support structures, regular meetings and weigh-ins and so on. But when it comes to leadership development programmes, too many companies still do one-and-dones: that is, two-three days of learning with no follow-up.

Again, it’s that collusion of hope: organisers think that if the programme is good enough, attendees will just take on the learning somehow. But there is so much evidence that habits aren’t built this way.

Instead, you have to build the muscle, and exercise it constantly. That means developing a sustainable programme with a support system, coaching and regular reviews. It’s all about commitment: from you, your regional teams, and the participants.


#3: Measurement

That brings us onto the next point: you’ve got to measure like absolute crazy! Your leadership programme needs to be relevant to your business strategy. You have to measure its deliverables in terms of business metrics, such as ENPS scores and leadership effectiveness scores. You must make follow-up and hitting its targets a key part of attendees’ performance reviews.

This keeps people committed over the long term. And once participants start seeing the results, they will drop any cynicism.


#4: Logistics

It sounds obvious, but the logistics must be like clockwork. Otherwise, the noise about your programme will be not about content and results, but logistics. That damages your brand, and allows cynicism to fester.

The key is to have really good programme managers who can think about every single risk and all the whys and wherefores. For example, they can make sure that the regions are using the right Learning Management System, and that the planned dates don’t clash with national holidays that global HQ might be unaware of. Did we mention that context is decisive!?

With the logistics under control, the global L&D team is freed up to focus on designing a highly relevant programme to shift mindsets and achieve business goals.


#5: Communications

Communication is absolutely key, but it’s often seriously lacking. All too often, the global L&D team gets sign-off for the programme, but then drops it on the local L&D team without really explaining what it actually is. The local team then has to enrol people, so just plonks a bunch of dates in their diaries without any context.

Don’t make the same mistake! Instead, build a partnership with the local team. Ask how much notice they need to sign people up. Pitch it to the team as an opportunity to amplify what they’re doing, rather than extra work.

Then begin the communications with participants as early as possible. The branding must be so good that it cuts through all cynicism, and lets people know the programme will be really experiential and fresh. Using stories from the regions showing how the programme had specific impacts on business metrics is a great way to cut through and keep people invested.

Received wisdom says that any given message must be repeated seven times before it’s absorbed, so you’ve got work to do!


Stop pedalling fast, start shifting gear with Achieve Breakthrough

As our name suggests, we’re all about breakthroughs. We know they happen when you abandon biases and judgements, and bring in commitment, vision and goals. They’re about mindset change wrapped around moments that matter to bring about capability uplift. Contact us today to discuss how working with us could shift the gears at your organisation.



The Coca-Cola story

Aim: Create a shift in culture to accelerate performance by mobilising the management community of 5,000 people in 12 months


  • 3-day culture shaping development focused on strategy, culture and common tools and language to accelerate performance against business strategy
  • 90 leaders developed to run workshops to 5,000 managers focused on belief, strategy, culture, tools and language to accelerate performance
  • Multiple leader-led events for 50-600 people

Success factors:

  • Use of common language and tools across the business resulting in a dramatic shift in culture, participation, honest conversation, open challenge, conversation shift to the future, can-do attitude, breaking down departmental silos.


  • 5,000 managers developed in 6 months, 92% programme impact
  • ROI 10:1 already after 3 months of the programme
  • Business performance return to growth of 4% from a historic 1% decline
  • 5,000 courageous commitments made and tied into the strategy
  • Internal capability to deliver the tools and learning


Published 18/06/2024

Subscribe by Email

Achieve more breakthroughs. Get expert leadership ideas, insights and advice straight to your inbox every Saturday, as well as the occasional bit of news on us, such as offers and invitations to participate in things like events, webinars and surveys. Read. Lead. Breakthrough.