4 Reasons Leadership Training Programs Fail and How to Ensure Yours Succeeds

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Every year, companies spend billions of dollars on leadership development. In developing my leadership development program, I spoke to hundreds of leaders. Either way, they state that developing new leaders is high on their list of priorities. But time and again they are disappointed with the results of their efforts. If you want a high-performing leadership program, you need to understand the following four points:

1. Organizations don’t measure results from the top down

I get it; Measuring leadership effectiveness can be challenging. There are complex variables and widely differing opinions on the program’s goals. The leadership team must state clearly and concisely what they expect from the training and management program. Once the leadership team has decided what they want to measure, it’s time to determine how the program’s effectiveness will be measured.

I think it’s wise to discuss why a company should start a leadership development program. The purpose of leadership is to direct change, to go somewhere we’ve never been. Therefore, the decision of what to measure and how to measure program effectiveness should align with the vision of where the organization is going.

See also: It’s time to evaluate your leadership development program

2. Organizations don’t measure leadership skills

It may seem counterintuitive not to reduce the program’s effectiveness to a number—say, a reduction in employee turnover or the number of unplanned callouts. These are easy to measure and monitor, but they don’t directly tell how well your leaders are applying the lessons learned during the various leadership improvement activities.

A leadership development program should teach, reinforce expected behaviors, and then hold leaders accountable for using the tools you provide. Would you invest capital in a device that has never been used? If you like, I have an old AMC Gremlin that needs a new transmission; do you want to buy it? No, you wouldn’t do that. You would probably buy the equipment for a specific function and capacity. You would measure the new skill by how well it meets your performance expectations. Why invest in leadership development without measuring if you’ve achieved the skill you want?

In my article 7 tasks that every manager must master, I outline seven core competencies that every manager must master. These tasks become core competencies that can be measured using various methods. Your imagination is the only limit to the usefulness of this assessment method.

3. Organizations do not integrate leadership development into operations

Leadership development is not a one-off program. When the coach or advisor has left the building, what then? There are four actions you can take to integrate your new feature into your daily operations:

  1. Create an annual leadership plan from scratch. Ask leaders at all levels to describe the conscious actions they will take to demonstrate their core competencies. Remember investing in capability? That’s the meat and the potatoes.

  2. Assign a peer mentor to new leaders. The role of the peer mentor is to show how we do things here. Mentors can help introduce new leaders to systems, team climate, and cultural expectations. Not only does this help your program run smoothly, but it also eases the anxiety of new leaders. These relationships have the added benefit of building mutual trust.

  3. Hire trainers. The role of a coach is to help all leaders overcome challenges and gain situational clarity and conciseness of action. This is a confidential relationship as it is a place for leaders to consider and develop strategies based on desired outcomes. Coaches should not reveal the coachee’s vulnerability. Coaches should keep the relationship purely goal-oriented.

  4. Add accountability for leadership competency performance. You know the saying “expect what you test”. Develop a way to regularly assess the effectiveness of your leaders in relation to their core competencies. This need not be a punitive consequence, but should highlight areas of need for improvement or task clarity.

See also: 8 steps to creating an effective leadership development program

4. Organizations don’t prepare leaders for change or create resilience

When changes hit an organization, fear comes along too. Fear is a consequence of insecurity. Will this change affect me and my position requirements, leadership status and pay? Does this fundamentally endanger me? The level of anxiety is directly proportional to the trust that the employee has in the organization and its leaders. There are basically two forms of belief. The first is duty trust. Can this company implement the change and come out the other end? Second is social trust. Will this change negatively affect the way my subordinates, colleagues, and managers think of me? With a high level of trust comes resilience. People who trust themselves to be safe and harmless will embrace change; they can begin to look forward to new challenges.

See also: Developing leadership within the organization: A strategic investment

If developing new leaders is high on your list of priorities, understanding and avoiding the four mistakes above will put you on the path to developing a powerful leadership program. There will no doubt be challenges, but these tips should get you off to a good start.

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