A colleague and I were having a conversation about the overall effectiveness of leadership training. Both of us have been coaching and developing leaders for more than twenty years and so comparing notes was both an enlightening and educational. While discussing some of the challenges we came to the conclusion that there are certain factors that create an environment that dilutes the learning and renders the overall effectiveness to be quite low. The list that follows is not about blaming, judging or condemning anyone, it is simply a list of the truths about what we have noticed about a large percentage of leadership development programs. This is Truth #2.
Leadership Development Programs: Truth #2 – Engineered to Serve the Masses
There are a number of reasons why leadership development programs are engineered to serve the masses. Whether it is the desire to train as many people as possible or the ill-perceived lack of value placed on developing leaders in an organization, there are forces that cause organizations to utilize programs that perpetuate this problem and render a high-percentage of leadership development programs ineffective.
7 Reasons Why Leadership Development Programs Are Engineered to Serve the Masses:
- In large organizations the Human Resources (HR) and Training & Development (TD) Departments are burdened with the enormous task to train as many people as possible and so the programs developed have to meet a very broad range of needs. Even though …
- There is typically a chasm of differences between the skill and experience level of the leaders attending these programs and so we train to the general need of the group and not the specific needs of the leaders.
- Training to the general needs of the group causes the programs to be homogenized, pasteurized, and diluted down so that it can be all-inclusive even though the level of effectiveness on an individual basis is quite low.
- There is a built in bias that says the higher up in an organization the leader rises the better their leadership skills. However, just because a leader is a Director it doesn’t mean they posses the skills to positively influence others, even though their title implies that it does. I once met the president of a company who vehemently argued that a 24% turnover ratio wasn’t impacting his bottom line. Why? Because as he said, “I don’t believe in that that crap!”
- The need to make the training data look good. As I mentioned in a previous post, the drive to make the training numbers look good (optics) blinds us from seeing the truth about the effectiveness of the leadership development programs we deliver. Reporting the the number of people who attended a training course does not measure the effectiveness of the training, it simply measures the number of folks who sat in the class.
- A lot of organizations who provide leadership development programs to companies are also driven by the numbers. The larger the groups of leaders they train, the more money they make. Many of them are in the business of creating situations that promote quantity versus quality because it benefits them not their customers.
- In smaller organizations where budgets are limited and where poor leadership seems to have an even bigger negative impact on the bottom line, leadership developments programs are either non-existent or the leaders are sent to public workshops. Here again, there is a wide range of skill level, needs, years of experiences where the programs must be designed to serve the masses. Many of these companies who offer training for $49.00 teach their people how to package and sell products not to educate leaders. You don’t make money selling a training course for $49.00, you make money when you sell $400.00 worth of products to the people attending the workshop.
6 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Leadership Development Program
- Start developing leaders at the top of your organization and educate them on how to develop more leaders. It can transform your organization. Developing leaders in the middle of your organization and excluding leaders at the top is a waste of time. Egos are a touchy thing and a lot of issues start at the top. However, if the upper level isn’t open to improving or developing themselves they will stone wall the next level down who is and nothing will change.
- Remember the cost that poor leadership has on an organization and make the necessary changes to correct it, sooner rather than later. Most leadership issues are not self-correcting, especially when they go unaddressed, ignoring them or pretending they aren’t there will not make them go away.
- Stop thinking that your leadership development program is a transactional process that is about the numbers and start thinking of it as a transformational experience that is about changing lives; the lives of the leaders and the lives of the people they lead.
- Stop thinking you need to train the masses and create a system of limited supply and focus on developing those who are hungry and have the desire to change. This is about seeing training as a privilege and not a commodity handed out to everyone. It is human nature to want something that is in limited supply. Your return on investment will increase exponentially.
- If you must train large numbers, add supplemental programs that focus on smaller groups of high potentials where they can get a more personal approach to their individual needs that also leverages the power of a smaller group. Here is just one example of a program designed specifically for this purpose.
- Stop thinking you can develop leaders by sending them to a $49.00 class on leadership that allows them to bring 10 of their people for free, developing your leaders cannot be done on the cheap. You are either willing to invest in your leaders or you are not.
Leadership development designed for the masses is just another obstacle that can prevent you or your organization from achieving extraordinary results.
As an organization, it is your responsibility to create a leadership culture that develops leaders that give your employees a reason to stay … not a reason to leave. Remember that people leave crappy managers, they rarely leave extraordinary leaders.
As a leader, you are ultimately responsibility for developing yourself and your skills so that you influence others to to do or to be their best. If you the can’t impact the organization positively or if your organization continues to allow poor leadership to negatively impact the culture it maybe time to find an organization that is more aligned with your values.