How to make the most of your development budget


Visibility Co.

Well, somehow June has rolled around again. And before the year races away, it’s important to carve out a little time to think about how your career and leadership are tracking. And of course, if you manage a team, it’s the perfect time to think bigger-picture and ask your people about their goals and needs. 

Very few career trajectories just unfold naturally with no strategy, effort or purpose. Even those of us who don’t like five year (or one year!) plans have probably still thought about our dream role and inadvertently made decisions to get us closer to our end goal.

The busy EOFY time can also see us taking a wild stab in the dark, signing up for a program, or approving a budget spend for our teams, without giving too much thought to what we need and why. In fact, according to this McKinsey study, only 11% of executives believed their leadership development interventions achieved the desired results. That, in our view, is tragic. And completely avoidable.

This is an area where we can easily underthink and overspend. Here are our tips for getting the best outcomes for yourself, or your team, as June 30 looms.

1. Be strategic - build strong foundations

Before you walk through the door (or open the Zoom link), it’s important to take a moment to reflect on where you are now and where you want to go next. Sounds obvious, but this step is so commonly missed.

We see so many wasted opportunities when people invest in professional or technical skills development without being clear on their foundations - that is, their purpose, values and leadership vision. Skipping these parts is like embarking on a road-trip without a map or fuel/charge in your car. And yet, while many leaders we encounter have a felt-sense of where they want to go - or at the very least, of where they don’t want to go - very few we encounter have real, tangible clarity. Being clear on the foundations saves you so much time and energy, and contributes dramatically to overall wellbeing and efficacy. It also ensures you can get the most out of any additional training or skills-building programs.   

This is why every program we run, or consulting project we lead, starts with first principles: what’s your vision? What do you want to achieve with your own leadership, or with your team? It’s also why eliciting values, purpose and defining your or your organisation’s future impact are covered in most of our programs - no matter whether they’re on leadership, strategy, communications, influence-building or systems change. Even if you’ve done this kind of work before, we recommend revisiting it at least every six months – it’s amazing what new intentions arise.

2. Avoid one-size-fits-all programs 

So many programs fail to take into consideration their audience’s specific contexts. There’s nothing worse than sitting in a session realising you’ve spent thousands of dollars on content that is completely irrelevant to your personal circumstances, or that of your team. 

Different leaders require different approaches. When assessing programs, make sure the content is, or can be, tailored to your level of experience, industry context or the particular skills requirements of your role. And that the tools and takeaways will be relevant to you or your team. 

That’s why we include clear learning outcomes in our program overviews, as well as testimonials and case studies of previous participants - and we are always open to a conversation. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a program organiser to ask for more detail or clarity. 

We will always be honest if we don’t think a particular program isn’t right for you or your team - we want you to gain the biggest return on investment for you, your organisation and the people you’re investing in. Plus we get a huge thrill when we see our clients go on to achieve their visions! So it’s win-win.

3. Get off the sidelines 

After the past few years, none of us can be blamed for wanting to sit back with the mute button on. But at the end of the day, you’ll only get out what you’re willing to put in - even in the most cutting-edge programs.

If you’re only going to do a couple of PD programs each year, make sure you arrive ready to put some skin in the game. Look for programs or courses that will inspire you, give you access to people and networks you might not normally connect with, and motivate you to take meaningful action with measurable results.

And that’s just for when you’re in the program. It’s just as important to be intentional before you arrive. Make sure you ask for the support you need from your team or family to put your out-of-office on and be really present for the sessions. 

We encourage our program participants to treat our online sessions like a retreat - to get good rest beforehand, have delicious snacks at the ready and to make the learning environment comfortable (Ugg boots definitely allowed!).

A good online program should involve plenty of time away from the screen, interactive activities to ‘get the doing done’, and opportunities to connect directly with facilitators and other participants – we know from experience that these factors go a long way to us receiving consistent rating of 9 or 10/10 for our programs.

And for our in-person sessions, we work with clients to make it feel like a special experience for them or their teams: with time in nature, nourishing food, and a good mix of connection, creativity and reflection time.

Remember, effective leadership is not a static skill. Regularly investing time into refining and enhancing your capabilities, and encouraging your teams to do the same, is imperative. A little bit of short-term planning can lead to vast long-term gains.

If you want to know more about how to make the most of your development budget, and how to strategically invest in your team, start a conversation with us at 

Our two public sector programs are on sale now, with early bird tickets available until 30 June. 

Building Visibility and Influence 

A two-day masterclass for women in the public sector. 14 + 21 July.

Head here for tickets and more info. 

Playing Bigger

Acclaimed program for senior public sector leaders of all genders to elevate their influence & impact. From 3 August. 

Head here for tickets and more info. 

About Visibility Co.

Working at the intersection of leadership, strategy and visibility, we seek to be strategic provocateurs and catalysts of systemic change, supporting you to unleash the potential within so you can create a better world from wherever you are.

While we’re not big on labels, we’re often referred to as social impact and communications strategists, or strategic leadership advisors, or visibility experts.

Fancy words for a business, led by Julia May and Sarah Anderson, that brings together purposeful leadership, strategy and communications in truly integrative and innovative ways.

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