Why Leadership Training Fails: Part 2

Susan S Freeman Blog

leadership trainingLast week we looked at why leadership training investments are often ineffective.  In the October 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review, “ Why Leadership Training Fails and What to Do About It,” the authors explore the fundamentals that block systemic changes needed for effective training and development.

They advocate the following approach to talent development:

  1. The senior team clearly defines values and an inspiring strategic direction.
  2. After gathering candid, anonymous observations and insights from managers and employees, the team diagnoses barriers to strategy execution and learning. It then redesigns the organization’s roles, responsibilities, and relationships to overcome those barriers and motivate change.
  3. Day-to-day coaching and process consultation help people become more effective in that new design.
  4. The organization adds training where needed.
  5. Success in changing behavior is gauged using new metrics for individual and organizational performance.
  6. Systems for selecting, evaluating, developing, and promoting talent are adjusted to reflect and sustain the changes in organizational behavior.

Note that problems are diagnosed from the ground up. Those confidential employee interviews are critical for exposing the silent killers, including deficiencies in capabilities and talent management, because leaders often lack the objectivity to spot glitches in systems they have created. By addressing management practices and leadership behavior that shape the system before training individual employees, leaders create a favorable context for applying learning. The systemic changes encourage—even require—the desired behaviors.”

Leadership training
Teamwork Sculpture-Taylor Woodrow

One of the companies studied, MEPD, showed a  “remarkable change in leadership and teamwork. Performance had improved as well. MEPD had developed nine new products in those two years, compared with five over the previous four years. Revenue and profits had increased significantly. The same organization that had not responded to a massive investment in individual training transformed itself by redesigning its roles, responsibilities, and relationships; learning how to live into them with the help of coaches and advisers; and then using targeted classroom training to pick up new methods and tools.”

In the work I do with leaders and their teams, we address all the 6 issues mentioned above with a comprehensive process Leaders who invest in themselves and their teams in this way have seen enjoyed improved employee performance and morale, increased trust and collaboration, and increased profitability.

Classroom training may sound convincing, but as with any new purchase, it’s helpful to look beyond the hype.  Organizational change is a process of continuous examination, requiring investment of time and money.  Make sure the soil is fertile for planting is critical.  Then ensure you are planting the right seeds, and optimizing the nutrients for them to thrive.

We invite you to post your comments here.  To learn more about how you invest in training that produces the desired results, please contact me.

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