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If your expertise lies elsewhere, the language and processes of leadership development evaluation may sound like a foreign language to you. But it’s important that everyone — executives and managers, HR pros and training consultants — engage in the conversation of evaluation.

According to Claire Reinelt, an editor of The Handbook of Leadership Development Evaluation and the research and evaluation director for the Leadership Learning Community, designing leadership development evaluations is a complex process. No single leadership practitioner, evaluator, or funder can figure it out alone, she explains.

Asking good questions is an excellent way to unearth challenges, get to the heart of an issue, and clarify expectations and outcomes. Based on a discussion guide developed by the Leadership Learning Community’s evaluation learning circle, CCL offers a series of questions intended to strengthen leadership development evaluation efforts in your organization.

If you’re a manager sending people through a program or allocating funds for development, here are the questions you might ask to better understand the purpose and value of the effort:

  • How do we know that what we are doing will be effective?
  • How do we structure an evaluation?
  • How can we evaluate the benefit to a community?
  • What is the return on investment for individuals, and in turn, for the community?
  • Is the given program meeting a real need?
  • How do we create short-term evaluations with a long-term message?

If you’re involved in the design and evaluation of a leadership development program or initiative, you’ll want to clarify details and methodologies while also exploring the big-picture issues. Key questions for the group to discuss include:

  • How do we know that particular programs are making a difference for individuals, organizations and communities?
  • For whom are we doing evaluations, and how does that affect what questions we ask and the methods we use?
  • What are we afraid to ask because we don’t know what to do with the answers?
  • How do we manage the power relations that are inherent in evaluation?
  • Who is going to evaluate our evaluations?

For details of the discussion guide and more resources, visit the Evaluation Learning Pool at www.leadershiplearning.org. The Leadership Learning Community works to strengthen leadership development by sharing ideas, resources and innovative practices among evaluation professionals.

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