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Most Leadership Development/Training is “Stupid.” Four things you can do now to help avoid stupidity.

Dunce cap Managers, companies and trainers continue to deliver training and send employees to workshops without an important concept in mind – accountability. Without it leadership development is stupid. Why the word stupid. Because stupid according to Merriam-Webster means given to unintelligent decisions or acts; acting in an unintelligent or careless manner. Frankly I couldn’t think of a better word for most of the leadership development I have seen.

Often time’s leadership development is nothing more than “pay, spray and pray.” You see it with seminar companies all the time. The participant pays and shows up to the seminar. Then the trainer sprays what he or she has to say. Finally, as the class leaves the seminar, the trainer prays everyone is able to apply what they learned; this is assuming the trainer cares, of course. As a result, very little of the learning is retained and far less transfers to the job. What is the result? There is a lot of wasted money and time on the participant’s part.

Four things need to be in place for learning to transfer. Accountability is the thread through it all.

1) Full Circle Leadership Assessment (360). Before a training event occurs, leaders must be assessed. Assessments help determine where the gaps and strengths are. It would be difficult to imagine a golf instructor teaching an experienced golfer how to become better without observing them hitting a few balls first. Why? Because the experienced golfer already does some things right, and the golf instructor doesn’t want to change those things. Instead, he or she wants to change the things that aren’t being done well and build upon those that are.

Full circle assessments should give the leader feedback from peers, their manager, those they manage and themselves on competencies specific to the training course/process. Once an assessment has been completed, the training participant now has a baseline and reference point for the course.

It is important to note that another full circle assessment should be administered 6 –12 months after the initial one to mark whether gaps have been closed and improvement has been made.

2) Training Event or Course. Now that the participant has a baseline, the competencies can be taught and will result in a more focused and meaningful training event. I once trained a course in which a participant, after having a full circle assessment administered became worried due to some of the low scores he received. He stated that the assessment was a little hard to accept. However, during the class when we covered a concept he didn’t score so well on he was able to focus better on what would help him close the gap.

3) Accountability Tool. At the heart of accountability during the training process should be an accountability tool. The accountability tool is simply an electronic journal with reflective type questions the participant answers each week. The questions revolve around goals the participant has set, how the participant is applying what they learned, what the participant plans on applying the next week, barriers the participant is encountering and so forth and so on. The accountability tool should only take about 10 minutes a week for the participant to fill out.

The trainer of the course should be able to access the tool and provide comments each week to the participant. A “study buddy” can be assigned that also has access to the participant’s comments and should be encouraged to leave comments each week as well. All along the participant is provided encouraging feedback and is held accountable to answering the reflection based questions.

4) Coaching. Either individual coaching or small group coaching is effective for two reasons. 1) It helps with learner accountability because the participant knows he or she will have to demonstrate how they are applying what is being learned. And 2) it allows for continual training and learning as concepts are applied. If we go back to the golf instructor example, rarely does one lesson make a dramatic change in someone’s golf game. What does make a difference is consistent practice with a coach; someone who can guide and remind.

It is crazy to think of the money spent on ineffective training. My thought and philosophy as both a trainer and participant is that if I am not willing to invest in the above process, then I am only going to retain and apply very little of what I have learned. The reality is, without assessment, accountability and coaching, you might as well fall to your knees at the same time your trainer does and offer a prayer because pay, spray and pray really doesn’t work all that well.


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Mike Rogers