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Is job shadowing effective for leadership development?

I'm mentoring a couple of graduate students from my alma mater and the university suggests doing job shadows as part of the mentor relationship. But after reflecting on what they would see me doing throughout the day, I don't think that's the best idea. I’m usually dealing with people that are upset or talking through some very technical topic.

Anonymous Author
I'm mentoring a couple of graduate students from my alma mater and the university suggests doing job shadows as part of the mentor relationship. But after reflecting on what they would see me doing throughout the day, I don't think that's the best idea. I’m usually dealing with people that are upset or talking through some very technical topic.
2 upvotes
Anonymous Author
In any organization that's hierarchical, you have to take advantage of that structure to help you do some of this dirty work. My deputy CIO comes to a lot of meetings with a specific agenda that he wants to cover and we always end up pivoting to either a philosophical question, a lesson learned or something else that you're not going to pick up from a textbook. And he’ll say, "This is why I love having these conversations with you, because I always learn something." Each of my direct reports is different, so if there's a meeting that they should join, I send them to it or let them come with me, and they can be the fly on the wall. The problem is that unless you're skip-leveling with everybody in your organization, you can't touch every leader that way. How do you make that learning happen another level down? How can you make that knowledge cascade through your organization?
2 upvotes
Anonymous Author
I've found that job shadowing, especially for me, is jumping from one fire to another and making quick decisions. People tend to get distracted and there's no continuity for them to focus on the subject matter. I do one-on-one debriefs of different situations instead. I am actively coaching a few leaders on my team and we focus on several topics, like messaging, influencing and reading the room. We usually do a prep meeting for the presentation and talk about the narrative we’ll sell. We're focusing on messaging: why you're sending that message and what you are actually doing. You're not just presenting. As a more senior leader, you're looking for physical cues and the sentiment of the room. I coach people on what to look for when interacting with other leaders or a large audience. I’ve found those situational prep and debrief exercises to be more effective than actual job shadowing.
1 upvotes
Anonymous Author
We do job shadowing, but I don't have someone shadowing me all day long. I'll identify certain areas where I think it makes sense. Every day, they will join my scrum call and they will attend the weekly management meetings if we think the individual should be exposed to that conversation. We pick areas that give them the exposure they need and they can shadow us just in those meetings, rather than be with me all day.
1 upvotes