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Why Leadership Training Doesn’t Work! 4 Things You Can Do About It

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Leadership Development Training Seminars Leadership Class – Boring

Most leaders would agree leadership development is important. I would agree as well, but not the way most of it is trained.

Many times leadership training is nothing more than what I like to call “Pay, Spray and Pray.” The participant pays to show up. The trainer then sprays what they have to say. And then at the end of the course the instructor prays that each participant retains and applies what they learned – this of course assumes the instructor even cares. The result? Very little is retained and far less is ever transferred to the job of the leader.

Several years ago I wrote a post on this very topic. I would like to revisit four of the things every good leadership training program should have in place.

1. Full Circle Leadership Assessment (360). Before any type of training event occurs, leaders must be assessed. This helps leaders determine what strengths and gaps they have prior to the development event.

It would difficult to imagine a golf coach, for example, giving any type of instruction without assessing his or her students swing. Why is this important? Because it allows the coach to focus on the things that need to be improved, and to not change the things that don’t. Without seeing the students swing, this is impossible.

Full circle assessments allow the leader to get important competency feedback from peers, their leader, those they manage and themselves. This provides an important baseline going into the leadership development course.

After the training is complete another full circle assessment should be completed six to 12 months out to determine if gaps have been shortened or closed.

2. The Training Course or Event. With a full circle assessment in hand the developing leader now has an important point of competency reference that should allow greater focus and attention during the course or event.

Years ago during a leadership course I was facilitating, each of the participants were required to complete and bring with them their full circle assessments. One particular participant was frustrated his scores were so low. My advise to him was to ask questions of himself during the class of what he could improve upon as we covered certain areas he was low in. He was one of the best participants in the class and was able to create solid executable action plans as a result.

In addition, every good leadership course carefully considers the feedback on the full circle assessments and ensures there is focus on those areas where the participants scored low.

3. Accountability Tool or Process. The lack of  some type of accountability tool or process gets to the heart of why most leadership development fails in my opinion. Think about it, how much of what we learn do most of us apply? The answer is very little only because we never take the time to apply it.

The tool can be as simple as a weekly email the instructor sends out with standard questions participants reflect on after training. Questions revolve around the action goals the participant has set, how they are applying what they have learned, what plans they have for the coming week and any barriers they are encountering. It takes very little time, but has a huge impact on applying what was learned.

Another simple method is to pair up participants at the end of a training event. Have them agree to meet weekly and answer a set of questions similar to what was explained in the preceding paragraph. The goal is to have them hold each other accountable each week.

4. Coaching. Rarely does one golf lesson do the trick. Continual coaching is needed to direct, guide and encourage. If leaders are serious about development, they shouldn’t neglect the opportunities to coach those they lead after one of them has gone through training.

Instructors of leadership training should provide tools to help assist them in that process, including materials from the training as well as expectations of participants. I personally develop a coaches guides that I email to the leaders of those who have gone through my leadership development training. The guide includes my recommendations on what they can do to help their leaders succeed in applying what they have learned.

There is so much money spent on ineffective education. My personal philosophy is that if a leader and their leaders are not willing to invest in what I have outlined above, then most of the development will be a waste. Very little will be retained and used. And any course that doesn’t take into account assessment, accountability and coaching as part of its structure may not be worth your time.

If the above is not being considered in your own development and the development of those you lead, then you might be wise to spend your money in other places, because pay, spray and pray doesn’t really work all that well.

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